On Saturday, Jules helped deliver a beautiful heifer calf. The birth was textbook and we were so happy after last year’s sadness with Dimple having a still born bull calf. Unfortunately Dimple did not let her calf suckle, so we have separated them and are bottle feeding the calf. This was never the intention and we were very surprised that Dimple did not even seem to call or look for the calf. The silver lining is that we love bottle feeding our latest new addition, even if it is yet another job! It took quite a lot of patience and encouragement to get her to take the bottle, but we got there in the end. Luckily milking has been much easier this time round and as soon as all the colostrum has finished, we will be making butter, cheese and yoghurt again! We are still trying to come up with a name for the little calf- so let us know if you have any suggestions.
We have been trying to breed Brecon Buff geese. Unfortunately it has turned out a little harder than we had hoped and we only hatched one lonely little gosling. He imprinted on us and was very sad anytime he wasn’t physically in contact with us. Luckily we managed to find another smallholder who had had the exact same experience and let us take her lonely gosling home. Now we have two little goslings that follow us everywhere. Here are the latest photos…
We’re full swing into a bumper harvest season, with LOTS of apples to process, jams & chutneys to make and veg to store, not to mention some pretty big DIY projects in the house, so we don’t have much time for updates. So here are some highlights of the summer just passed (and there’s a new baby album in the photo gallery for those who are interested). Happy autumn to you all!
Summer is always hectic on a smallholding, but it reached something of a fever pitch after Dimple calved. With the heatwave meaning we had to water the garden every day (and an acre of kitchen garden takes a while to water), Jules being in the middle of ripping out our hot water so being pretty hectic with plumbing, Melinka not sleeping, ditch digging, piglets arriving and learning to milk, I have to admit that I got a little overwhelmed.
We had always approached milking with a little trepidation, particularly as neither we, nor Dimple, had done it before. It is a long and boring story (so I’ll spare the details) but despite starting out well, milking got harder and harder. We even bought an expensive milking machine in the hope that might solve the problem but (as you may have guessed) it didn’t. The whole situation became totally untenable when we were spending a fortune paying for grain to feed her in order to keep her still while we milked her, it was taking over two hours every day and it was becoming totally demoralising and depressing as the whole experience slowly became more and more unpleasant, culminating in a hoof to the nose. We were on the verge of admitting defeat and getting rid of Dimple when one of our neighbours (a retired dairy farmer) happened to drive by and saved us. He came round every day at milking time for a week and got Dimple used to the portable milking machine. There is no substitute for the personal guidance of a pro – we owe him a lot! We had read all the books and all the forums, but within 5 minutes he had taught me more than I had learnt in the last year of “preparation” for milking. So now life is just about manageable again, milking is done in a
few minutes and I have even managed to do it with my one year old strapped to my back. It isn’t the romantic hand-milking I had hoped for, but I don’t feel close to a nervous breakdown anymore! It still takes a while to process the milk and clean the equipment but, as we only milk once a day, it is do-able.
The seven cute little Oxford Sandy & Black piglets were born in early July. Our sow (Barbara) farrowed right at the start of the heatwave. Jules had to tend her with wet towels to keep her cool and we had to move the pig ark into the shade the day after the piglets were born. They all survived that very hot first week, Barbara being a totally lovely mother. They are super cute and growing at a stonking rate. We have sold 3 so far and are selling another 3. They will be weaned at the beginning of September.
Sadly, we lost our best hens to a fox on Melinka’s first birthday – we never expected him to turn up in the middle of the one day we were all out. To add insult to injury, this loss was quickly followed by a buzzard attack on our growing chicks, which thankfully only resulted in one casualty but has made us realise we might have to succumb to the pressure and actually fence the chickens. Free ranging completely seems to be just too hazardous. We’re just not sure where we can squeeze this into the jobs list…..
It is such a relief to have some decent weather. The late spring and glorious summer has resulted in a bumper strawberry season (which partners beautifully with our Jersey cream). Now we’re in full squash glut and can see we’re going to have a ridiculous number of apples – are there any volunteers to help with cider making in October?!
The rain has returned, but it’s nice to have a break from watering, and the memory of that glorious heatwave, a week off with visitors and Melinka’s first birthday party in the sun will sustain me for a good while.
Happy summer everyone!
Last Sunday was probably the most emotional day yet here at Penybanc. We got up in the morning and found that our lovely Jersey cow, Dimple, was in labour. We were super excited as we’ve waited 9 months for this and we were pretty sure it was stage two by this point so there should only have been an hour or two before the calf arrived, but after two hours there was no sign and we asked our friend/neighbour/local dairy farmer if he would mind taking a look. He was lovely and checked her and said the calf was in the birth canal and should pop out any second. Sadly, the calf was stuck there and in the end Alwyn had to attach ropes around the calf’s feet and head and pull him out with a calf jack. The beautiful little bull calf was still born and there was no reviving him. I must admit that I shed quite a few tears.
Our next worry was that Dimple wouldn’t get up after that. She suffered some paralysis in one of her legs as a result of the calf being in the birth canal too long and damaging a nerve. Thankfully we finally managed to get her standing just when we were getting desperate and we managed to support her for long enough to get her circulation going again.
Poor Dimple must have been in labour for longer than we realised and I tortured myself for a while about whether we could have saved the calf if we had not been such beginners. The very kindly man who sold her to us re-assured me that it was unlikely we could have saved the calf. The fact that the afterbirth came out with the calf probably means that when he turned into position, most likely about 24 hours beforehand, the placenta had detached and he wouldn’t have had much of a chance after that. Apparently it sometimes happens when heifers are having their first calf and hopefully it shouldn’t happen next time round.
The silver liningis that all our worries about milk sharing with a calf and how to manage that have fallen away – although it is a hell of a lot of milkwithout a calf to share it with! We are just getting used to our new milking routine and Dimple is pretty relaxed at milking time despite all of us being new to this. We milk at 7.30am and 7.30pm every day. After 2 days of colostrum,we are now getting about 5 litres (10 pints roughly) or so at each milking of delicious creamy jersey milk…. and apparently her milk won’t be completely in yet and Dimple could yield yet more! Jules is churning butter at this very moment. Our fridge is full to bursting and Barbara the pig is pretty darn happy about the excess. This is a big step towards self-sufficiency. WE LOVE YOU DIMPLE!!