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April 2019: We Have Owls!

Goat update

Goat Update:

Up on the hill we are still waiting on the pregnant goat to kid. (Dandelion), Nettles was too shy to get pregnant, that attitude would serve a woman well if she was not ready for the commitment, but her being a goat, it is a little wearisome, especially as it means that she won’t be milking this year and I’ll still have to feed her. She does provide companionship to Dandelion though, typical siblings, they seem to love and hate each other in equal measure. Anyway, we built a new goat enclosure into the barn, complete with hay rack, goat ingress and egress point and a pallet for sleeping on. This structure is still waiting on a roof as the rain blows in. So they have not yet been moved into their enclosure, and they still have the run of the barn. I have also mostly finished a milking station and have been reading a lot of goat books lately, and I worryingly find that I am becoming a hypochondriac for my goats; I read about the benefits of extra vitamin C in their diets, especially to boost immune function, important now that the ticks are around, so now I am on the lookout for cheap vitamin C. Seemingly apple cider vinegar provides them with phosphorous in a healthy, buffered way, now I am trying to figure out how to feed that to them. Apparently copper seems to keep away all sorts of maladies, such as worms and stuff and impossible to overdose on if they get enough dolomite. I can’t find dolomite, and I suspect the info I am reading pertains more strongly to Australia where the soil has significant mineral deficiencies. I guess my best bet will be to get a soil and/or blood test and see whether there are indeed any deficiencies in goat or soil. For now they look happy, well as happy as a pregnant goat and her scrawny sister can look. One hears stories to the effect that it is impossible to tell if a goat is pregnant or not. I guess this may be true especially in the case of older more experienced goats, not first time mamas, but it became evident early on in this pregnancy that she was indeed pregnant, her teats descended, her udder is starting to fill out and she looks as though she is pregnant with two huge watermelons. I am preparing myself for a very steep learning curve once the kids arrive. Castration, disbudding (horn removal), milking, herd management, cheesemaking…. Here are a couple of fun facts about goats. Goats don’t eat everything, they are fussy, Dandelion has been removing the apple butts from her bowl of scraps. Also they like ivy and all the plants you are particularly attached to. Goats are fussy, they will not eat hay once it has fallen on the ground, but they are happy to raid the bird seed from the feeder and eat birdseed from the ground. Goats have double standards when it comes to food.

Tree planting thanks to the Trees on the Land initiative

Enough about the goats, we managed to plant over 600 bare root trees on the slope in early February, (a big thank you to all who came over to help us that day). I have been systematically trying to mulch these so that the grass does not swamp them out. I have perhaps 15% of them done. We have also planted a number of willow truncheons in to a sally bed and as a screen, I am also in the process of mulching these. It is likely that these days you will find me down the field mulching trees.

Long eared owls

The best news I have reserved for last. WE HAVE OWLS! Long eared owls, Asio otus. Anyone who has chatted with me about animals for 10 minutes will know that I am nuts about owls, I could have perhaps been described as obsessed with seeing one. Anyway, on the 20th of April, I was sitting in the yard during twilight after getting a bit of tree mulching done, when I looked up and saw a bird flying, it had a blunt face. We followed it’s trajectory and were rewarded with an owl show that included wing claps, flight, weird noises like a mostly empty bagpipes being squeezed out at 8 second intervals; whwhwr whwhwhr whwhwhr. The one that was wing-clapping was also hooting/cooing very gently. Hoo hoo hoo, this sound gets drowned out or camouflaged by the cattle lowing so it is difficult to hear, but not impossible. We have deduced that the female is the whingy gas-bag and the male is the clapping cooer. I am pretty sure they have just moved in and and have appropriated an old rooks nest in one of the pine trees close by to our field. I have been heading out each evening around 9pm this week to watch the owl show, I have not been disappointed, they have shown up, made noises and done some flying each evening this week. I feel as though all my Christmasses have come at once. I had not realised that one of my ambitions was to become intimately familiar with a pair of owls, I guess I never imagined it would happen to me, but, we have owls and I can watch them, hear them and get to know them and their behaviours somewhat. I feel like this is what has been absent in my life all along. Tonight’s owl show was cancelled thanks to Storm Hannah. Please God the owls stay safe and continue to hang about.

Ok, till next time, keep doing the things that make you feel like you are honoring yourself, for me that is Pilates, walks in woods and eating seaweed.

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