I never expected the paparazzi

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Until lately, I have in a very small scale, experienced what it might be like to be persecuted by adoring fans or the paparazzi. It has calmed down a bit, but I am still conscious of what door I use to exit my house.

No, I have not overnight become a media star, my blog is not that famous and it is much simpler than that, although almost equally ridiculous and unexpected. It all has to do with the abundant TLC I give our animals on the farm. I still have many of my city girl sensibilities left, they have not yet been erased by the harsh reality of farming (see Farming reality slapped me in the face post).

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“The kind one”, our most placid ewe checking me out and looking for a treat

So it is no surprise really, with the level of coddling I give my animals, that they watch me and often follow me wherever I go. Our farm is small and many of the fields are facing the house. Depending on what door I exit, I am constantly greeted by one group of animals or other.

Now that that the pasture is plentiful their attention has lessened, but when I fed them animal nuts daily up to late spring, I could hardly leave the house without having hearing intense baaing from the sheep until they’d lose sight of me.

If I by chance am carrying any type of bucket, even now, there is literally a stampede to get at me. The sheep are bad enough, as the larger ones could easily knock you over; or as it also happened, they would run in between my legs and lift me off the ground. No, I do not relish riding an ewe and particularly not ones with wet wool.

At times, even without a bucket, they decide I am somehow feeding them and follow me around the field until I get to a gate. They then proceeded to stare at me and continue baaing, which clearly means “Feed me! Feed me now” in sheep.

The cows and calves are calmer, but once they spot the bucket I would imagine myself the middle of a rugby field with the ball in my hand and the other team coming against me. It makes me laugh to see them run at full speed towards me, but quite scary as well as I wonder if they will stop in time before they maul me. After being shoved and pushed around a few times when I was trying to empty the bucket in front of them, I quickly learned to be a good bit more imposing with my normally very calm cows. Lack of respect from their side would end in me being trampled.

 

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The cow rugby team coming against me. Scary!

Thankfully the cows are lazier than the sheep, and they will not follow me for long. On very hot or rainy days, they won’t even bother to look my way.

The ducks are smaller and easier to handle, but no less loud when they see me and know it is time to fill their buckets. They run towards me like a feathered cloud giving their cute quacks. I feel bad at times passing their pen, without any treats to give them as they follow me in their loud and cloudlike fashion.

At times I had to consider what I was up to and which would be the best door to leave the house from. While very cute at times, having 20 sheep baaing every time they see you definitely gets on your nerves after a while. I would take the roundabout way, just to avoid their demanding attention.

The positive of all this attention is that it is very easy to round up the animals. I can get both the sheep, cows and ducks into almost any pen or shed, with a little patience. As long as I am carrying a bucket they don’t care where I’m going or where I bring them. It is very handy at times.

 

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I need better shoes, I have had enough of being stepped on by sheep looking for a treat.

 

Kevin no.2 asked me a couple of weeks ago if I spoke some secret sheep language, as they followed me without any problem at all; this after he and Kevin had spent some time trying to chase them into a pen. I guess that is the upside of being a celebrity on this farm.

In all this paparazzi-type of attention I have forgotten to mention my most celebrity-like accessory, my very own body guard. Our dog Bella seldom leaves my side when I am working around the house, farm or polytunnel. Even when I write my blog she lies beside me, perking up the minute I make for a door. Undemanding and constant, my own unobtrusive and constant shadow.

Ah! The life of celebrity, but in a farm-like way.

 

Ducklings are a blast

I never liked chickens, or to be precise, I have always been afraid of them. There is something about their beady eyes and the sharpness of their beak that puts me off. I doesn’t help that I was chased by them as a child.

I am not too keen about birds either, so it was a great surprise to me how I have taken to my ducklings, literally like a duck to water (if you can excuse the weak pun).

Ducklings fitted snugly into a small crate.

The ducklings came as a little bit of a surprise and was as usual not the most organised or planned activity. I always had in mind that ducks would be ideal for the natural pond and turlough Kevin has been cleaning out in the last year, but as the chicken coop is in production on site, I figured ducks were a project for later.

But around here things fall naturally into our laps and we tend to go with the flow when opportunities appear. One of our neighbours had a large selection of ducklings for sale and it was just a matter of going and picking up the breeds we wanted. As ducks where my interest and I had done the most research, I was sent to pick up “about ten, I guess”, said Kevin, from our very entrepreneurial neighbour Fergal.

Now, let me tell you about my neighbour Fergal, who also sold us our cows. A lovely fellow, into about everything you can think of related to farming. Very down to earth and helpful,
but a salesman through and through.

“I’ll take ten, Fergal. A mix of laying ducks and ducks for the table”, I said.
“Did you say thirty? I know you have the space for it. There’s as much work in feeding ten as feeding thirty”, says he.
“Fine, I’ll take fifteen”, says I.
“I’ll give you a few for free, just for you”, says he.

Today I am the proud owner of 22 ducklings, which I bought at a week old. There are seven Aylsbury, table ducks, two mallards (which Fergal assured me wouldn’t fly off, fingers crossed), two unusual Cayuga, a couple Indian Runners and Khaki Cambells.

 

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Aylesbury duckling wondering if I have more worms to hand out.

My lovelies started off residing in a long cardboard box in my utility room. While I could have put them in the shed, I was afraid they might be killed by rats. During the sunny days we have been having, they have been out on the lawn in a temporary pen.

 

The ducklings are so much fun! I can spend ages looking at their antics and listening to their funny little quacky squeeks.

 

As they cannot swim yet, they don’t have feathers only down, I made up a shallow pool (compliments from Pinterest) for them. It is simply a large plastic painting tray, that with water looks like a miniature children’s pool. They just loooove the water and as the days are warm and sunny they don’t get cold.

With the dry mealworms I got in the pet shop, I am slowly taming them and when they see me they stand attention to see if I have any treats for them. I also fill their pool with chopped up weeds, herbs and lettuce, and you would be hard pressed to find happier ducklings when they dive after their treats.

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The ducklings just love the mealworm treats.

Now here is another strange development, I now scour my polytunnel for weeds such as the previously hated bitter cress and check my lawns for dandelion leaves, all used as treats for my ducklings who simply love them. I caught myself today, thinking that I might leave the cress to grow a bit more around my tomatoes, just to have more to give my ducks. I had to pinch my arm, just to make sure I copped on to myself.

They grow at an alarming rate and grew out of their box in no time. The ducklings, not so small any more, now reside in a handy pen in the shed. They still get the chopped weeds, but have now grown onto the grower feed.

The best thing of all; this is the first time I have lost my fear of fowl. Ducks are fun, they leave a mess and are extremely dirty, but will put a smile on anyone. They might lose their duckling cuteness as they get bigger, but somehow I doubt the funny quacks or the waddle gait will dampen their charm.

Will I be able to eat them? Yes. I love duck meat. Also, not all are meant for the table, most are actually meant to keep for eggs. Although a few of those might go, depending if they are ducks or drakes (females or males).

The golden rule in this house is “don’t name anything you are planning on eating”. With the farm animals as with the garden, what I grow is to be eaten, has an additional benefit or uses. This is why we have very few decorative plants and only one pet, our dog Bella. Even these earn their keep; the plants by attracting bees and other useful bugs, and our dog Bella is a great companion and watchdog. Useless with the sheep though.