Sunday, 19 September 2010

Almost our first birthday....and a very special guest contributor....

It is coming up for one year since we started farming here at Little Wittenham. Sometimes it feels like a year and sometimes it feels like yesterday we started! What an amazing year it has been in so many ways. From getting married, taking on a farm tenancy and setting up our business and having a baby due on New Years Eve!

As ever, there has been lots happening on the farm these past few weeks. The ewes have been a priority in our grazing so that they are in good condition to meet the boys in a few weeks time. It is incredible to think that only a few weeks ago lack of grass was a major issue and now we feel so fortunate to have a choice of where they can graze.

We have been busy promoting our being a 'shepherd for the day' opportunity at all the farmers markets the last few weeks. We are so excited about it as it is a brilliant birthday present for husbands, wives, partners, friends or the whole family as a day out in Oxfordshire! We think it is a great way to see the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside and learn a bit about being a sheep farmer too!

We thought it was time that we let someone else tell us a little a bit about what it is like being a part of Camilla and Roly's daily routine with sheep checking and their view of the countryside, so we have a special treat....whilst we were away on a few days holiday in Cornwall, the sheep and Bel were kindly looked after by John and Julia Sargent and Bel kept a blog while we were away! so we knew exactly what she had been up to when we got back...happy reading, we think she had a great time and I'm sure there will be more from her soon and we wonder what Boris might have to say soon.....!

Sunday 5th September - 5.30pm

I knew something was up when C and R made such a fuss about leaving me (and they were loading up the car, back and forth, back and forth and Boris went!) They left me! they told me I would be looked after....but by who?

I heard them coming...lots of 'Hello Bel...good girl Bel...', I hadn't done anything! They came and found me and encouraged me and then....PUT ME ON A LEAD!! and I had to walk with them. We went through the wildflower meadow and I was STILL on a LEAD, I was not allowed to round up the lambs. They told me that I needed to be able to walk through any field without working. They kept on about 'social skills', what's that all about? No doubt I will find out. We walked right up past Paradise Wood. They let me stop and have a sniff, very interesting, and I had lots of pees and a poo! They told me about rabbits, moles, elderberries, blackberries, red kites and butterflies...I want to know more! They took me back and gave me some food...some comment about 'how boring' I wonder if she gets any treats?

Monday 6th September - 7.30am

They came again, LEAD again but took me up the road to their house. Not bad, large garden, lots of smells but he tied me up on a long way! I pulled and pulled and then he let me off and told me to explore the garden. I did...I recognised some smells and cats, I had a look at the fences, they had put up a couple of barriers for me (to stop me getting out I presume...) but someone had left one open, ha ha! Freedom at last! I high tailed it back home! About 20 minutes later, I heard a very breathless 'Bel, Bel, Belly (Belly - who's that?!), oh there you are, good girl' (she really thought, 'you rotten little so and so...'). 'Come here, its OK', so back on the LEAD of joys, he came with the Disco (big truck!) and I went in the back! So off we went for the 10 mile round trip to all the flock. I could get out, but he made me wait! I was told I couldn't round the pregnant ewes because he thought they needed to be kept calm. Lots of praise so I must be good. Back to my shed, and a few bits of dried food...where are the treats they keep talking about?

Monday evening


but...when I got back, I found out about TREATS...marrowbone, Markies...hmmm, wasn't sure but I think I will get used to them!

Tuesday 7th September

Very early start, LEAD AGAIN, but he came with the Disco and off we went again, said I was doing well, walking close and waiting until all was quiet, tried to make me go slower but I just coudn't! Back to my shed, a couple more biscuits, not bad!

Tuesday evening - believe it or not...LEAD again, Wildflower meadow, more 'good girl', no chance of a round up! Back, they aren't too bad, they seem to like me and give me lots of little pats and cuddles.

Wednesday 8th September - very early...6.30am, its still night time!

Straight off in the Disco (are they getting soft?) All around the flock again. Plenty of exercise and again lots of praise. They said I should learn to steady (what does that mean?), also they keep saying SIT! I'm getting used to it.

Wednesday evening - Luckily she wasn't feeling too physical, so I only went a little way around the wildflower meadow, but, still on a LEAD! Will they ever let me off? Doubt it, as 'social skills' are still being mentioned. They are still on about blackberries, plums, apples, I'm really not that interested! I do like having time to have sniffs though....

Thursday 9th September

He took me out this morning, straight into the Disco and off on the rounds. Discovered that the new Hartline ram was limping, but he couldn't catch it. He wasn't sure about letting me in the field with the rams, I had been in with them before but I couldn't tell him that. Apparently he had found the limping ram on Tuesday but hadn't told me...

I'm getting used to the lead now and enjoy my walks and getting to know a bit more about the countryside. They chat to me and I'm picking up local gossip from their conversations, very interesting.

Thursday evening - She came, but couldn't find a lead! So I thought, great, I can do what I like! But no, she found a bit of old rope, half buried outside, so off I went to their house, inside! Only for a while to say hello, not bad, bit messy. Then I met the neighbours, lots of patting from her! Off to pick plums, strange, its not so bad being on the lead, I'm safe on the road, lots of busy and fast cars. We saw Andrew and Jo and we went to pick plums. No, I really didn't want one. We went back to the shed and a couple of treats. Not bad really, will I get a dinner that she mentioned? I think I'm learning the 'social skills' they keep on about.

Friday 10th September

Only one out with me today, joy of joys. Straight into the back of the Disco, none of this 'good girl, stay back nonsense'. I was allowed in all the fields except the pregnant girls and I was put in with the rams, so that we could check the young ones feet. I wasn't bothered at all and the 'boys' kept away from me. A bit of staring, but nothing serious. Back to my shed and a couple of treats.

Evening - I heard them coming down the lane, slower than usual and a bit of huffing and puffing, I think they are tired, I think it must have been a hard day, they seem to be doing lots to their house. I lept out to greet them (this pleases them) and then of course...the LEAD, but I'm good now and walk close and at their steady speed. I was off on the lane and did a bit more investigation but got totally spooked when a lady came round the corner in the gloom. They said I was a bit 'nervy' and I need to get out more! Back again to snuggle down, all this walking is tiring!

Saturday 11th September

Only one again today and straight into the Disco and around everyone including a quick detour around the water meadows to see the grass but also an excuse for some blackberry picking, didn't get offered the chance to get out! All well, looking good, they keep saying - "They look good don't they" - "its better to have a walk around them sometimes" - "very even batch" and things like that - they are a bit concerned the grass will not hold until C & R get back - did you tell me when you'll be back? You are coming back aren't you.

They showed me the postcard with a sheep on it, strange thing - but now i am back to the shed - could i have a blanket for the cold nights do you think - they muttered something about it - but they mutter a lot!

Sunday 12th September

A bit later than usual and guess what - no lead!! Straight in the disco and off!! - I was told i was "impressive" - good old me!!! - All sheep look well and all will need a move tomorrow - i guess they are glad they held out all this week! Back to their place and i had a small treat - some brown bread with a little smiggin of butter on it - YUMMY! Saw the neighbour (vetinary nurse) she asked if i'd been wormed recently as i am abit thin, have i? Great day lying in the sun -occassional patting, occassional calling -do i detect a hint of panic if they can't see me? Not a bad place - maybe they'll ask me to come again?

Welcome home C & R, looking forward to lots of work tomorrow - don't forget that thing - THE LEAD

Love Bel