Minttu gave birth to two lambs this evening. We had prepared a lambing shed earlier that day, just in time! We kept out of the way and everything went really well. They were up and about fairly quickly afterwards, suckling and eventually exploring the pen. They will stay here for a few days and then we will let them into the fields. Minttu has a healthy appetite and is doing a great job taking care of them. One is completely black and the other is dark brown with a hint of a white star on her forehead.
So we start the summer with three sheep that we kept through the winter at a neighbour's farm, there were all originally from Jaana's farm. All three are pregnant and will be lambing soon. For Minttu (258) this is her third summer at Rosendal and she knows us well. I suspect she is carrying more than two lambs as she is very large (but I'm guessing - I have no idea). 283 is a large black ewe that I've decided to call Nigella (in the theme of herbs, Nigella is black cumin) and then there is a brown sheep, same age as 283. We don't usually name the sheep but make an exception for the ones we keep through the winter!
We also have three ewes from another farm where the owners needed extra space for their horses. These three are very tame and friendly: Lumi and her lamb Sabrina, and Sisu (an odd ball with white splodges on her face).
And.... it ain't over yet. We have a small flock of spring lambs coming over from a farm further west. They will be joining our girls at the end of this week
OK, maybe Fred has a point, the gates are a bit complicated. He left the main gate on the road up to Rosendal open because he thought they couldn't get out of the main field. He was wrong because the gate down by the sauna was open and they can walk up along the stream into the clover field... and along the road.
So they had a day out. When Peter and Fred arrived on Saturday morning, half of them were in the polytunnel eating hay and the others were down by the cabin eating rosehips from the shrub roses.
So, Peter and Fred decided to move the gates so they have free access into the hay supply in the polytunnel. There is nothing else in there anymore since we harvested all the pumpkins and squash. They will be able to sit in there when it rains if they want a change from their shed. I'd rather keep them off the roses though (and the rockery which has taken me years to nurture!)
rhe last few days have been nerve racking. I was in the UK and Peter was in Germany and... the pack was in Pojo. We had a call early in the week to say a wolf had been seen on our back road. We called the local hunting group and they confirmed they were getting wolves on their game cameras which are dotted around the forest in our area.
So we sent our resident shepherd - Fred - out to Pojo to watch the flock.
What to do? These are a protected species and shooting a wolf is not only illegal it also carries a heavy fine of several thousand euros.
The answer is.... think outside the box. Solar powered LED lamps with motion detectors (Lidl does them) are easy to install
and cheap to buy. Iskelma radio is even cheaper (though I hope we don't infringe copyright by playing music in an open field). Our neighbour has the radio on full blast nighttime. Fred said it was kind of surreal listening to the weather forecast at 5am in the middle of the sheep field.
So far, so good. There are so many deer (white-tails) in the forest, I can't believe the pack would come close to homes and buildings to look for sheep. Maybe they will fill up on venison and leave the lambs alone.
What is more of a worry is the long-term situation. This is a young pack that are instinctively afraid of humans. But if no one hunts them they will soon adapt to a human presence and learn that we pose no threat. That will complicate the situation.
The Lohja abattoir seems to have closed down (rumor says it's a family feud) and so there is a huge bottleneck in Raseborg now. The earliest date we could get for taking our flock is 9 December and that's in Kemitö which is about as far as we would go with the trailer. Bad news - we will have the added expense of feeding the flock through November and we will probably have to extend the sheep shed so they have a bigger area to sleep in (though they seem to prefer sleeping in the field at the moment). Let's hope the wolf pack keeps away - there were three more sheep killed out towards Perniö a few days ago.
Raseborg desperately needs a new abattoir - where are all the entrepreneurs when you need them?
We opened up the gate over to Rosendal so the sheep could walk up the road and graze on what's left of the willow along the ditches. They were more interested in exploring than eating and quickly found the huge pile of compost and peat that we have been building up all summer... and of course, they all took turns to climb to the top.
They are incredibly noisy now and start baa-baaing as soon as they see us or the neighbour. I think it is partly greed - they came running over when I picked an apple and all 24 stood there watching me eat it. One apple core doesn't go far with a flock of sheep. We collected more oats from Ronny but the carrot seller was closed so I gave them a few from the garden. They are also nibbling on some of the pumpkins that were previously nibbled by mice. Nothing gets thrown away!
We've moved the hay into the polytunnel because it is easier to keep it dry in there. We doubled the size of the hay feeder so there is plenty of room for them all to eat when they can't be bothered to graze or fancy something sweeter.
...but... a few days ago, thirteen sheep were killed by a 10-pack of wolves a few kilometres from us, here in Raasepori. We are really worried but what can we do? The fence around our field will only stop the sheep escaping - it won't stop the wolves getting in. The unfortunate outcome is that the wolves might drive the sheep into the lake and they would drown. What a dreadful thought. We are in a (relatively) built-up area - we have neighbours - but the wolves are not afraid of humans. A few months ago they caught two roe deer near here and people gathered to watch them devouring their prey, the wolves were not perturbed by all the attention. It is illegal to hunt them - they are a protected species and the locals wouldn't risk losing their rifles and their hunting licences (and a heavy fine) to save a few sheep.
The only hope it that they don't come this far south and they stick to venison rather than fresh lamb.
We've trained the sheep to graze in a row, for maximum grass trimming efficiency. Very effective. We must patent this idea!
Zelda likes to go diving and fishing on her own. She would spend the whole day in the lake if we let her. The sheep are intrigued. Here she had a captivated audience!
They are in better spirits after a couple of days of sunshine.
We are now planning to build a new hay feeder as the grass won't be nutritious enough to feed them right through the autumn. For the time being there is plenty of clover and grass. Elisa spotted me pulling some carrots in the vegetable garden and got very interested... She must remember from last year. I always feed the carrot tops to the sheep: they absolutely love them.
In between showers we gave Elisa a pedicure and I trimmed some of the wool around her neck which was felted and didn't look so elegant! She's so patient, hardly complains at all - in fact I think she enjoys the attention. It was a wet and windy day so we didn't see much of them in the fields.
So, we were sitting eating breakfast on the deck this morning and who should wobble over the field...
Awww... cute or what!
They were headed over to the pond but encountered the sheep fence on the way which the little ones could not negotiate. They eventually found a place where the sheep had flattened the fence (they often jump up to reach willow leaves and land on the fence on their way down) and ambled over it into the stream. They didn't like the look of the pond so wandered along the stream into the reed beds on the lake shore where I lost sight of them (but could still hear them).
These are Whooper swans. The national bird of Finland that appears on the Finnish 1€ coin. It is quite unusual for them to nest this far south, though we spotted a pair briefly a couple of years ago who decided not to hang around in the area. They prefer quiet lakes: ours in not particularly quiet since it is surrounded by farms, summer cabins and Finland's largest plant nursery! In fact, we feel quite honoured that they chose our spot to make their home. The young won't be flying anywhere for a few more weeks, so I'm sure we'll be seeing more of them over the summer.