Sheep chores

Sheep Shearing Jun 17

There has lately been a lot of practical farming being done. Kevin 1 and Kevin 2 (my husband and a friend of his), have been fencing a bit around the fields. It is a hated and heavy chore, definitely not made any easier by the amount of rock around the place (read Stony Gardening and you will understand). You can be assured that any time you try to push down a stake, you will hit a rock.

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The two Kevins, No. 1 in the back, preparing the sheep for shearing.

Another task, coming into the summer, is the sheep’s yearly hairdressing appointment, the shearing. As Kevin’s back has at him and he’s been walking around like an old man for weeks, we were very lucky to have the other Kevin’s help. I wasn’t looking forward to handling and turning the heavy ewes on my own.

 

I almost missed the shearing and the very taciturn shearer was in the middle of it when I got back from town with the kids. The sheep had been all penned in the shed, Kevin 2 grabbed one at the time as and handled it over to be sheared in rapid succession with an electrical shearer.

Grabbing the sheep was probably the most difficult task, once the shearer had it on its back the sheep went limp and let him get on with his job. Quick, quick, quick and done in no time. Next!

It is a real pity that the wool is pretty much worthless; a “waste product” the shearer said. I will bring it up to a mill and what I get will probably just about cover the cost of the shearing, which is fine I guess. I will probably keep one fleece, as I have a friend that has offered me how to spin with a hand spindle. It will hardly be a project for an Aran sweater, but it would be fun to try it out. Felting is probably an easier project, but I just love learning anything.

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Checking that all sheep had been marked. Each one got a de-worming dose.

 

The sheep we have are of meat or milk stock, and their fleece is primarily used for carpets or maybe house insulation. They are by no mean bred for their wool. As I understand it the finer sheep for good wool not only have a fine fleece, but also have a longer hair which facilitates the spinning.

 

Once they were sheared the sheep looked relieved and happy. To the rest of us they looked very skinny and bare, but in the weather we have had lately, it is really the best for them. The lambs, which were not sheared, look huge in comparison. In fairness, they are pretty big lambs, which will be a good return for us.

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The last one to be dosed. A quick squirt of a syringe down the throat.

A few days after it was time to deworm them. I noticed, and was quite disgusted, red slug-like worms in the faeces of one of the ewes. A clear indication of parasites in their bowels. So again, they were penned and an oral dose was given to each of them. Kevin pushed it down their throats with a large syringe, giving each of them a few seconds of discomfort.

 

Apart from these few chores, plus keeping a check on them every so often, there is little less that needs to be done with the sheep these days. I check them every few days, to make sure to note any worms, maggots, foot rot, or other discomforts they may have. They are thriving in the fresh grass and feel a lot more comfortable in the strange summer heat we are having.

It is just as well they require less attention, as my focus has been on other new animals here at Casa Ceoil. You might have seen a sneak peek on our Facebook or Instagram pages, a fluffy yellow duckling. That story though is for another blog post.

I did my gardening best

My gardening best

I promised I tried my best, I promised myself that I would not have an overflow of seedlings this year, I restrained my hand as much as possible while planting seeds, I have generously given away as many as I could, I even had seedling funerals and ate many of them in micro-vegetable state. And still, I am being drowned by them.

There are tomatoes galore, enough kale to plant a forest, cabbage for all, more celery than I ever wished for and so many flowers. My green fingers worked against me, as even the oldest seed sprouted into vigorous life. Who knew.

My sheep were kind enough to thin out many of my brassicas and kale seedlings, both planted in the beds and in the pots, when they ventured into the polytunnel a few times. At least they mind the plastic, unlike my bullock frenemies, and left my precious tomatoes alone.

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This cauliflower is begging to be planted, but I already have so many!

 

 

I have given away as many seedlings as I can. One friend commented that it was like going to a garden centre, as I loaded her with stuff.

Almost all my tomatoes have been planted, but I have a few tough and thriving ones in pots begging me to find space for them. I have cherry tomatoes, yellow ones, oval ones and I am very excited about the blue ones.

There are also peppers, both sweet and spicy. I never truly realised that Habaneros (very very spicy chillies) are from tropical climes, really needs a lot of heat. It is growing extremely slowly. Fingers crossed.

I never thought I would have success with artichoke seed I came across, now I’m wondering where I will have the space to plant these very large plants. A few years ago, I bought three seedlings that turned out to be Cardoons and not globe Artichokes. They are hardy, easy to maintain, tough and come back year after year in the outdoor garden, without me so much as looking in their direction. I didn’t even realise you could eat them until recently. Does anyone have any Cardoon recipes?

This year I thought I’d make everything that little bit prettier and I will end up having to create a flower border of some kind. I literally have a sea of flowers waiting for their forever home. It will look lovely though, I just don’t know how I will have the time to weed and maintain a flowerbed. It will probably look spectacular for a couple of months, and very sad for the rest of the year.

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A suprise crop of Globe Artichokes. I never thought they’d be so easy to grow.

I have tried making use of the flowers by interplanting them between the veg and in every pot I can find, and it looks very pretty. I always plant marigold between my tomato plants. This year, as in my plant plan, I also planted Calendula flowers to make hand cream. As a novice in flower gardening, just like vegetable novices, I did not realise how large those plants can get inside the tunnel. You learn something every year when gardening.

Again, the sheep have been kind enough to de-head most of my planted flowers. They will be taking a trip in the trailer to the butcher or the mart if that type of kindness continues.

Next year I will have to revise my gardening plan again, be stricter and harder. I was so proud that I had only planted the six cucumber seeds I needed for six plants. No more, no less. The sheep unbalanced the scale when they bit the top of two of the planted cucumbers. I’m sure I will find something to fill that gap, but six just looked so right in the spot.

My climbing rolet squash will do the trick. I have too many of those anyway, or maybe it is time for another polytunnel?

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RTE show, Nationwide with Anne Cassin, being filmed at the Irish Seedsavers’ plant swap day.

 

One bit of saving grace was the Irish Seedsavers’ plant swap day a couple of weeks ago. I happily brought my babies and gave them away to other loving homes where they will be appreciated. Thankfully we arrived quite late and there were not many seedlings to bring home; I did of course manage to grab a few odd ones…just for the craic of it. RTE was there that day filming a sequence for Nationwide with Anne Cassin, something that made my kids very exited.

The Irish Seedsavers have lovely gardens that have a wild touch to them. They are not like the tidy and perfect castle or walled gardens, but free, large and a great place for an outing in East Clare. The Seedsavers are specialised in native fruit trees and bushes, there is a lovely coffee shop and they also have a great array of workshops of all kinds, from beekeeping, gardening, beermaking and more.

A friend of mine has also given me a load of raspberry plants, which I hope will thrive by our back wall. There may be no jam this year, but I am sure these hardy plants will thrive.

Apart from a few stragglers of all kinds, it is only the celery and ginger that are giving me a bad conscience. There is a bit much of them and they are waiting to be planted. I am waiting for an overcast day to get them and my sweetcorn into the ground.

The tunnel is thriving and there are still hopes that this year will be the best year ever.

The bees love the flowered Pak Choi, I don’t have the hearty to pull it out yet.