The new clippers are really good. Nice to hold, sharp and not too heavy. Peter caught the little white lamb this afternoon, her hoofs were in pretty good shape so I just clipped the tips and a small amount of the outer wall.
I also managed to catch #200 which is a HUGE brown lamb with a white face. We also gave her rear-end a wash as she seems to have some digestive problems. We are keeping an eye on her but it is almost impossible for us to isolate individuals and give them a different diet.
#258 also had a wash, she is one of the smallest lambs and most tame. She seemed to enjoy being made a fuss of.
#256, one of the black ewes has worked out how to get under the fence (but not how to get back inside). Then in the evening while we were making hay we found two of them in the main field. So, I have now piled birch branches against the fence to stop the sheep from crawling underneath. Once they've figured out an escape route, they don't forget it. It's very unlikely that they would wander off, but they get upset and noisy) when they can't get back in with the others.
Today was a sunny day and the forecast is bad so we decided, rather hesitantly, to make hay. We have all we need: tractor, tools, the hayrake, long grass, sunshine, help (Tom and Stef), poles, pitchforks etc
Ideally, we would mow the field and then leave it for a day or two before raking and stacking the hay. The weather this year has messed up our system and, according to the forecasts, we are not going to have any rain-free days next week but we can't wait too much longer before we release the sheep into the big field.
Today the field is warm and dry and there has been some breezy weather so the grass is actually quite dry and the grasses are just right for haymaking (e.g. not too "stalky"). Peter and Stefan took turns mowing with the tractor but one of us had to walk ahead looking for rocks, branches, dog bones and anything else that could damage the machine.
Later on, Peter and Thomas used the new raker to make "windows" (long mounds of piled up hay) ready for stacking. It works brillantly: a great (second-hand) buy.
In the evening, just before the boys were due to leave, we set up the poles and started stacking the hay. By midnight we had stacked about half the field but then we ran out of poles. We have 10 small haystacks but enough hay to make as many again.
Here is a nice list of wild plants, herbs and some cultivated crops that are toxic to sheep and, lower down, there is a list of plants that they loooove. We have some of both around our field. Lupins are in bloom at the moment so we need to make sure they don't spread into the sheep's field and I think I will move the philodendron that I planted near the sauna a couple of years ago. It's surrounded by chicken wire to keep the sheep off but I might just as well put it up near the cabin where we enjoy the smell. Buckthorn are also toxic to sheep but we have a fence around ours and they seem to be dying anyway - not sure why but it could be due to the weed situation which is difficult to manage when there is chicken wire everywhere!
The Burgeon and Ball footrot shears have arrived. All set now to get through the rest of the flock. I can tell just by holding these that they will make hoof trimming easier. They are lighter than the secateurs and the blades are longer, sharper and thinner. Plus there's a proper grip.
My lamb hoof-clippers haven't arrived from the UK yet so I decided to get started using the secateurs. Last year I used the Fiskars model but this year I tried the blue and orange Gardena secateurs and they are a bit better, probably because the blades are thinnner.
Every lamb has different shaped hoofs (I'll try and take some photos) and some are easier to clip than others. Given the wet weather, it's really important to keep their hoofs trimmed so that muck doesn't get stuck under overgrown nail (abaxial wall in the photo) and leave to bacteria infections and inflamation.
I've used this guide from the Three Gables Farm in Canada which is easy to follow and very comprehensive. Clipping will be easier when I get the proper tools but on the whole the sheep seem to quite enjoy the attention and will happily sit while I give them the pedicure. The black sheep are the hardest to deal with as the soft sole is not so distinguishable from the heel and the wall. Some lambs have really tiny hoofs and they are more fiddly.
I think I've done about 8 or 9 lambs so far. I should've kept notes but catching them is an opportunist affair. I just grab one when it least expects it for example when they are eating something like fresh willow. Most will happily keep munching while I trim away.
I'm having problems with #210 (my "Friend") who was, incidentally, the first to volunteer for hoof trimming. She gets jealous when I'm clipping the other ewes and on Saturday she started head-butting me and another ewe while I was in the middle of a trimming session!
Talking of food, Peter read that sheep enjoy eating fresh spruce and pine shoots which provide extra nutients. So we collected some fresh pine and spruce growth and sure enough they took to it straight away. They are quite picky though and only ate the young shoots at the tips of the branches, leaving the rest.
So, on Saturday we drove to Perniö and bought a second-hand haymaker from an arable farmer who has about 40 hectares of wheat fields. He hasn't used it for years so we were glad to take it off his hands. It's Danish, probably about 40-50 years old but in good working order, just needs a couple of new tyres. We want to try and get two lots of hay from the front field this summer which will only be possible if it stops raining for more than 24h. The grass is packed with rich nutrients at this time of year so it's important to store the hay for the autumn when the grass is not so nutritious and in short supply. And, the sheep seem to prefer nibbling on freshly mown grass, rather than eat the long grass which is presumably harder work.
Once the hay has been mown, the hayraker lifts it up and piles it into a row (called a window) ready for baling. We won't be baling ours though, we pile the hay onto poles in the old-fashioned way. I'll try and film some of it.
Here's a YouTube video showing something similar (ours is not a John Deere but the mechanism is fairly similar)
Here is another hayraking video - a bit noisier than the previous one and using slightly older machinery but the idea is the same.
Some rakers use a pinwheel system and sometimes these run at the side of the tractor rather than behind it.
I went in to count the sheep this morning and take some photos. I had given them some willow to chew on, they love it.
While I was kneeling down to take some photos #210 came and sat next to me.
Elisa gets a bit jealous and will sometimes butt in and push the lambs out of the way if she wants a cuddle and some attention.
I mowed the grass along the fence in an effort to stop them pushing their heads through to The Other Side (where the grass is always greener...)
#279 has a nickname: Poopy. She had such a messy, poopy rear end that we decided she had to have a scrub down. If sheep are left with poopy rear ends, they attract flies that may even lay their eggs in the poopy bits and then when the eggs hatch the sheep become infested with maggots - disgusting. So to avoid the horror of de-maggoting a sheep's arse we decided to use a hose, bucket, scrubbing brush and lots of elbow grease to clear up the mess.
The ewes are so tame there is no need to chase them around the field to catch them. I had just cut down some fresh willow branches from the ditch so all the ewes were busy mashing leaves. I picked #279 up in my arms (they are not heavy at all) and carried her out of the field where Peter was waiting with all the gear. He washed her down while I tickled her under the chin and fed her with bits of stale baguette. She was as happy as Larry. Sorry, no photos, as we kind of had our hands full!
It was pouring with rain this morning but I found all the lambs grazing near their food place except for three that seemed a little worried about negotiating the drainage ditch which had filled with water.
I counted them all and then left them in the rain.
I made a quick video of the lambs this afternoon.
They all seem to be happy. Some of them follow Elisa around whereas a few keep themselves in a separate group. But they are usually all in the same part of the field. This afternoon when I went over to take some pictures, they were down by the lake. I think they have found some willow on the shoreline.
I gave them some bread and tried them on carrots but only Elisa was interested. The babies are very happy eating grass (and willow).
This afternoon #258 came and sat down by my feet. She acts like a dog, really likes human contact. When I sat down in the grass with her she cuddled up next to me and even put her head on my shoulder at one point. When I left the field she started bleeting, and Elisa had to wander over to take her back to the rest of the flock.
I wandered over to see the sheep this morning and found them with Elisa down by the lake. Judging from the the way the long grass had been flattened down I am pretty sure they spent the night in the sheep shed which is great news because it means they are following Elisa around AND they are able to negotiate the ditch that separates the neighbour's garden (where they have their food place) and our field (where they can sleep).
They were really really pleased to see me and came running over. #210 is definitely my Best Friend and - I'm guessing - she must've been bottle fed (some of them were) because she always heads straight for my hands and will try to lick my fingers. There are at least three (a brown one #258 and also #259) who are extremely tame.
I gave them some stale bread - I will gradually get them used to the blue bucket so that if (when) some decide to escape I can use it to coax them back into the field.
I popped in again in the afternoon, just to check they were all OK, it was a bit breezy so I found most of them sitting in the shed, and Elisa was close by. #210 came over straight away and so did the tiny brown one. They are much less skittish than the flock we had last year: only the white one walks away when I approach.
I noticed one had a "runny tummy" so the fresh grass seems to be taking its toll. Unfortunately there is not much we can do to slow them down. Locking them in over night is not really an option.
It's a long journey to Isojoki and back but an easy ride, the roads are good and the weather was fine. We left Espoo at 5am arrived at the farm just before 10 am and we were back here in Pojo at about 3pm, stopping for a sandwich at the deliciously peculiar swimming pool diner in Kiika - the same stopover as last year - a super friendly café where you won't find any matching plates, cutlery, chairs etc as everything looks like it came from flea markets. The food is really good but unfortunately we only had time for a sandwich. We did buy bread, fresh free-range eggs and some buns to takeaway.
Anyway... the little girls were very well behaved. At first they didn't want to leave the trailer, even when Elisa came running over to greet them. We left them alone and gradually the braver ones stepped out but it probably took almost an hour for them to settle in the field. Our neighbour took them over to their ruokapaikka (food-place) and they were all very hungry, immediately gorging themselves on oats, bread and drinking water. The fresh grass is a bit strange to them as they have mostly been eating hay rather than grass. They might be a bit "gassy" tomorrow!
Elisa is interested but a bit stand-offish. I think a couple of them tried to suckle, but she wasn't having any of that! There was a lot of bleating but they eventually settled down, near the food place. I assume they will either let Elisa take the lead or it's possible they will democratically elect their own leader: one of the bigger lambs, black with a white forehead, seems to be the bravest of the flock.
We have 20 lambs all born between 8th and 23rd March 2014. They are suomenlammas (Finnish traditional breed): we have black ones, brown ones, a grey one and YES! even one little white one! They are very very tame and quite happy to be picked up, cuddled, stroked. Of course, I already have some favourites! The grey one (I'm holding her in the photo) is so cute, and #210 (a black one) is very clingy!
Some pics... Elisa greeting the new crowd (you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them).
More pics of the flock...
4 x 21 = 84 and that's how many hoofs need clipping. It's going to be a busy weekend!