Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Ups and downs

Well, we always knew it was never going to be all “hullo birds, hullo sky” (as Fotherington-Thomas would say).

Long time readers may remember Smiley, our beautiful little buck who did so well for us when we showed him as a yearling last year, culminating with him winning Supreme Champion at The Royal Show. Sadly, ten days ago Smiley contracted tetanus and died.

I tell you, the guilt hits you like a hard punch to the stomach. I felt so responsible for his death – my train of thought being if we hadn’t brought the animals to France he wouldn’t have died. Rationally, there’s no point thinking like that, but it’s hard not to at the time. Tetanus was something that just wasn’t even on our radar in the UK – it just wasn’t something our animals were ever likely to contract. When we called the vet out I asked him if tetanus was a problem in the area. He said it wasn’t and that farmers here don’t routinely vaccinate sheep and goats against it. Horses and donkeys are vaccinated, but they are much more susceptible to it. The vet said they had the odd case from time to time in a sheep or goat but it isn’t very common.

So, it seems it’s just a case of bad luck, plus I think the fact that our goats don’t necessarily have the right level of resistance to what they’re going to face here. It wasn’t something I thought about before the move, but I guess it makes sense – after all, humans are affected by moving, and can pick up bugs etc so why should animals be any different? Thank goodness for the internet. Via a forum for people living in (and wanting to live in) France I’ve made contact with a number of people who have brought animals over, and one lady in particular who brought over angora goats. It seems we should expect them to pick up bacterial infections more easily, simply because the strains of bacteria here are slightly different and they have no resistance to them. I think that we are going to have to keep a careful eye on them, and vaccinate against things that we wouldn’t have vaccinated against in the UK. The new born kids will be especially vulnerable, until we have bred several generations on the farm and resistance has been built up by the mothers.

Still, things could be a lot worse. At least we aren’t staring foot and mouth or blue tongue in the face. Having gone through the 2001 F&M epidemic my heart really goes out to farmers in the UK at the moment. Life is generally tough enough for them without this being thrown into the mix.

In other news, my parents have been with us for the last two weeks which has caused stress of a different sort. Ideally, Eddie & I would have liked to have put off their first visit until next spring, for a number of reasons: having taken August off and now being in a very busy period for the firm I knew there was no way I would be able to take more time off before Christmas; we didn’t have a spare room fit for habitation, and with so much else to do Eddie could really have done without having to get that room renovated enough for us to be able to sleep people in it; since Eddie had to devote a lot of time at the outset to getting the house basically habitable for us, there is a huge amount of work still to do outside – chiefly fencing, since the only fence we had when we moved in was the boundary fence around the perimeter, so he is mad busy as well.

All in all not the ideal scenario for visiting relatives, and we really could have done with a bit of a breather, and not had any guests before next spring. However, as she had been going on and ON for months before we moved about coming over I knew that if I suggested that to my mum she would have been devastated. So, guilt well and truly piled on, we agreed for them to come over now.

Putting aside the awful oscillations between feeling guilty that I couldn’t spend more time with them, and anger that I was feeling guilty (ah the vicious circle of emotions the grown up “child” can go through!), two weeks was just too long. Not only because we actually live in a region that is pretty much 100% agriculture and nothing else and in French terms is geographically the middle of nowhere and there is NOTHING to do (and no matter how much I told my parents that they WOULD NOT believe me – until a few days after they arrived when they realised they had two weeks of BOREDOM ahead of them), but also because the week before they came over with me I was in the UK, and now I’m back in the UK for a week, so I feel like by the time I get home again on Friday I won’t have seen Eddie properly for a MONTH!

So, the last two weeks have been a bit pants, one way or another.

But what about the ups? Well, the glorious weather for one. Warm sunny days where that fierce heat of summer has given way to a more mellow warmth which still tops the high 70s during the day, coupled with balmy nights when the tree frogs serenade us as we sit on our covered terrace after the parents have gone to bed, snatching a precious hour or so together.

If we were still in the UK the goats would have been in for the winter for a couple of weeks by now, so every day they continue to be out is a bonus for us. We still have plenty of grass after the unusually wet summer, and whilst the warmth continues it will keep growing. Goats out = far less work, so that’s a definite up.

Horse riding – something I haven’t done since I had my own pony in my teens. Now I go riding with Fran on a Friday. Ambling round the lanes and over the fields for a couple of hours is just wonderful.

And last but not least, who could stay down for long when this is the view from their back garden that greets them in the morning??


Blogger Caroline M said...

I'm sorry to hear about Smiley, I remember him well (fine fleece...) Did he leave any little Smileys behind or was he too young for that?

We have a week in a cottage on the top NW corner of Scotland where there is zip to do apart from watch the tide go in and out. There is no tv reception and, up until recently, no mobile reception. We go prepared with books, games and knitting and it's wonderful.

Weren't decorating and fencing options for keeping guests amused? I just have to suggest tidying up as a pass time and my son can immediately stop being bored and find something to do.

10:35 am  
Anonymous cathy said...

I'm sorry to hear about Smiley. :(

8:11 pm  
Blogger Queen of the froggers said...

So sorry to hear about smiley. I hope you get to spend more time with each other soon. The views are lovely.

8:24 pm  
Blogger cpurl17 said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Smiley. And the ups & down involved with trying to settle down in your new place!

That view really does help, doesn't it?

8:42 pm  
Blogger clarabelle said...

Sorry to hear about Smiley, Carolyn (and he really does look smiley in the photo) - what a worry, but glad things seem to be ok healthwise with your animals.

And also sorry to hear about the parental nightmare visit. It's such a pity when their visit really ought to be something enjoyable for both parties... and it's so difficult to say anything!

Still you've got a fantastic place there, and you get to be able to write your address as 'Gascony, France'! You can't beat it....

12:58 pm  
Blogger clarabelle said...

Meant also to ask how is Cosmo?

7:27 pm  
Blogger Fair isle faerie said...

Dont you blame yourself ! You sought out the local know how from the vet, he stated minimal risks, in that position pretty near everyone would have done the same.

We're watching the blue tongue closely & crossing our fingers it just doesnt start to come north, the shetland have suffered enough due to foot & mouth, the are about to cull well over 40,000 lambs within the shetland isle's as the grass is now pretty much gone & no one can afford to over winter lambs, livelyhoods have been lost & im pretty sure im far from the only crofter up here who has decided to pull out of sheep altogether for the next few years (apart from 3 kept for fleeces next year), im going to buy in 4 heifers instead of just 2 next year.

Winter now, yay !! I can finaly settle down free from the demands of cruise boats & guest house and get some of the projects I planned for myself done, push through a few moduals of city & guilds study & work towards an exhibition of structural textile art which I have been invited to be part of.


9:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so sorry to hear smiley is no longer with us.

I have not read blogs for so long, was surprised to see you had relocated - hope all goes well.


12:45 am  

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