Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Thank you

In all my ramblings yesterday I forgot one of the most important things I wanted to say, which was a big THANK YOU to everyone who posted a comment to my entry about Pig Pen. I can't tell you how much they helped. I tend not to talk about the goats at work - they already think I'm bonkers enough, what with the knitting and all - and Eddie and I just went round in "What if.." circles when we talked about it, so to be able to unload here was very cathartic.

Pig Pen has a little brother, Smiley Miley (does anyone else remember him from the Radio 1 roadshow days?). He started life being called "Smiley, smiley Carol Smilie" (Dead Ringers), but clearly he coudn't go through life called that! Anyway, for the first couple of days, he seemed to be looking for his brother all the time, it was quite sad. But he seems to have readjusted now, and he's fine, as you can see....

Can you see why we call him Smiley Miley? By the way, he's not in some awful prison in this shot, he's behind the creep feeder, which is his favourite place to snuggle up and go to sleep. I actually had to wake him up to take this photo!

Smiley Miley will be his "stable" name, but he will have something much posher when I register him. Our flock prefix is "Tolcarne", after the farm in Cornwall where we started our livestock enterprise. Each year I choose a theme for naming the goats. Past themes have been flowers and plants, trees, and Shakespeare characters. So far I have managed to resist Eddie's annual suggestion to use cars as a theme :(. This year I want to name all the kids after Greek or Roman gods and goddesses. Any suggestions for Smiley Miley (and any of the other kids - there are 15 to name in total) will be gratefully received. I need to do some research on this subject as I'd like to try and avoid the obvious "Tolcarne Thor" or "Tolcarne Venus" etc.

Blimey, two posts in two days - aren't I the cat's whiskers ;)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A week off

I have a week off, so finally got some time to post. I now subscribe to 15 blog feeds through bloglines, and you all put me to shame! Some of you blog several times A DAY!! I'm a BAD blogger.

Lots to report now though. First and foremost, I got my first package from my SP!!

Lots of goodies! Rebecca magazine, which I have always wanted to have a look at but couldn't bring myself to shell out for - loads of lovely patterns. CHOCOLATE - my favourite white chocolate, and with nuts! A sock pattern - for toe up socks, something I've been thinking about doing. This will galvanise me into action! 2 balls of Garn Studio alpaca in a beautiful purple. This yarn is so soft! I just want to pet it for a while. It's got to end up as something worn next to the skin - a seafoam stitch scarf perhaps...? And finally a CD which my SP made for me. Really interesting music. I think it must be local folk music from FINLAND - yes my SP is in Finland!

The package arrived on Saturday when we were in the middle of moving all the goats around as we're putting the bucks with the does for 6 weeks of naughtiness / doing their job. We have 3 breeding groups. We're putting all of our adult does in kid this year - that's 23 does, which means we'll probably have about 40 kids come next March! The most we've had before is 17, so there's some fun ahead there!

Anyway, Eddie went to collect the post from our lovely postie Jill, and came back and said "You've got a parcel from Finland". Woo hoo! But I managed to contain my excitement until we'd finished work, and finally at 7.30 p.m., extremely tired, achey and smelly, I opened my package. What a fabulous end to the day! Thank you so much SP, I love everything you sent.

Now, the fact that she is in Finland narrows it down A LOT. I think I know who she is, but does she want me to guess, or does she want to remain secret? Let me know SP!!

The other day, Sam suddenly started barking frantically out in the garden. Eddie went to investigate, and came back with this:

What the heck is it? A mutant caterpillar?? Look at the size of this thing:

No, I was informed, it's a Hawk Moth caterpillar. I have no idea how Eddie knew this, but he did. After taking photos Eddie put it back where he found it. I hope it hasn't been eaten :(

And now, an FO! Socks #2:

These were knit in 100% botany wool I bought on eBay. Lovely and soft. Knit on 3mm needles (using 5 instead of 4 DPNs this time), and I used a combination of Socks 101 from Knitty, the Sock Calculator linked to in that article, and the Universal Sock Pattern.

You might notice that the sock on the right is a better fit (well altogether a better sock) than the one on the left. I knit this one second, and as with my first pair, I knit the second sock much tighter than the first. By the time I finished the second sock I felt I had mastered:

Avoiding ladders
Avoiding holes where the stitches are picked up

In fact, I think I've finally cracked this sock knitting! Knitting this pair using basically a template rather than an actual pattern made me realise that I knit my first pair blind. I just simply followed the pattern, without the faintest idea of what I was actually doing. With this pair I felt I actually learned the construction of a sock, and it has given me a lot of confidence. So much so, I'm going to knit my next pair in the lovely cashmere sock yarn I got from Hip Knits, as I feel I can use it safe in the knowledge I won't cock it up! I think if I start them pretty soon I can also avoid the "loose first sock" syndrome - I do think this was just down to not being used to the DPNs, only having used them once before.

Klaralund is also coming on well. I'm on the last sleeve. The colours of the Noro Silk Garden are beautiful, but as ever when I'm knitting a garment like this I'm getting to that anxious stage. The "Will I cock it up when I put it all together?" stage. The "Is it going to just be a huge disappointment?" stage. I'm going to have my first go at seaming using mattress stitch, I'm going to do it when I've got plenty of time and can really concentrate on it, and am really going to do my best to make a good job of it. I hope it fits(!)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Sometimes farming is really hard

Warning - this is not a happy post and has no knitting content.

A few days ago, Iris left a comment on here asking about our smallholding, and in my reply comment I mentioned that the more animals you have, the greater the chances that things will occasionally go wrong.

Well, ain't that the truth. This time of year is always slightly worrying for us, because the kids born in Feb / March have their first shearing at the beginning of August, and as the act of shearing brings the bucks into rut, the buck kids become sexually mature at this point and so have to be weaned and separated from the does. The combined stresses of shearing and weaning can sometimes result in the kids developing oedemas, which is basically fluid retention, and generally displays itself under the belly or between the front legs. It's a difficult condition in that there's no hugely effective treatment and not much is really known about it by vets (who generally don't learn much about goats during the 7 years they study anyway). The standard treatments are basically either diuretics, antibiotics or steroids, but most often it either clears up by itself or it doesn't.

Most goat breeders, at least in the angora world, generally say "they either live or they die, regardless of the treatment".

We have had oedemas before and thankfully the kids have always made a full recovery. About 10 days ago one of our buck kids, Pig Pen, showed the first signs of having an oedema. The weird thing is that they don't behave as though they are ill. He continued to be his usual perky, cute self, and was eating very well. We don't like to routinely use antibiotics, and as they are not a proven treatment of oedema we decided to just treat him with diuretics.

Yesterday evening I got home, and Eddie told me he'd had to call the vet out and have him put to sleep. While he'd been perfectly perky at bedtime on Thursday evening, when Eddie went out on Friday morning he was hunched, and obviously in pain. The vet came straightaway and took him back to the surgery for tests. She found urine in the fluid in the oedema, which means that the oedema was not the only thing wrong with him - somwhere there was a rupture which had caused the urine to leak into his body. Unfortunately, surgery didn't offer a cure, and the kindest option was to have him put down.

Thankfully, this has happened to us very rarely, but you always feel as though you've failed in some way. You can't help wondering if you could have done something differently. It hits Eddie hardest because he sees himself as the "primary carer", and he is always the one who is "on the ground" and has to make the decision.

Some people might find it weird that we feel this way, since we do raise some of our animals purely for meat, and we do cull out each year because this is a commercial enterprise, and we can't keep everything we breed. Animals which either don't make the grade, and therefore are not good enough to breed from, or those we can't sell, have to go for meat.

I'm confident that all our animals have the best possible life they could, and I don't feel guilty about those that go for meat. We care for them from start to finish, even down to only using local family abbatoirs where they are treated with respect and dispatched quickly and humanely. I know meat doesn't come conveniently wrapped in little packages - and I feel no guilt in eating meat I've been prepared to raise and care for from birth to death. I'm not saying it's easy to load a bunch of lambs into the trailer knowing they're going to their death, but it's a fact of life if you're a meat eater - animals have to die to give us the meat we eat.

But somehow it's not the same at all when you have to have an animal put to sleep. Oh, it's so hard when an animal dies before its time. And he was such a beautiful kid too. He was really looking promising - showing great potential as a breeding buck. That's the other sodding thing about farming. It's never the poor quality animals that you lose like this.

Our only consolation is that we gave him the very best life we could, short though it was.

I hope we never lose that compassion for our animals, and never come to see them simply as units of production. Somehow, I don't think we ever will.

Goodbye Pig Pen. We'll miss you.

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