Sunday, 18 January 2015

Benbecula and Bramble

 The latest addition to the Croft. Here is Bramble, just 2 hours old...:

Saturday, 17 January 2015

We hate to boast...

...but we couldn't resist:

We keep Ripollesa sheep, so we are members of the breeders association, ANCRI. As part of their improvement programme we keep records of lamb births, weights and ages. ANCRI compile all of this data - from 48 farms around Catalonia - so that each of us gets a picture of how well, or not, we are doing.

The 2013 data has just arrived...and the Croft is the most productive Ripollesa farm in Catalona. Yes! Un-B-Leavable!

The numbers: Our "Numerical Productivity" (the numbers of lambs that went to slaughter, divided by the number of ewes) was 1.8 in 2013. The average across the 48 member farms was 1.03.

And of course this is where the boasting ends. We are managing our tiny flock differently from other farms. We don't keep lambs to grow up as ewes - because we have just one male (Phoenix), so if we kept the lambs he would be mating with his own daughters (er, not good.) So all our lambs went to slaughter, boosting our "Numerical Productivity." And the fact that ours is the smallest flock in the data set also makes a difference.

But we are also the top in one other score, which is more relevant: our lambs are the heaviest births in the national Ripollesa flock.  Average birth weight here at the Croft in 2013 was 4.8kg, against the national average of 3.5kg.

All of this is no credit to us, because we are rank amateurs compared with the other Ripollesa shepherds. But it is credit to Pep Martinez, our wonderful vet, who has been able to transmit to us innocents a load of sheep-care knowledge. Thanks Pep!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

What are they? The 2015 Quiz

I saw these three over the Christmas holidays. I have almost no idea what they are, so that's the 2015 Quiz: tell me what they are.

This brightly coloured bug was in the bark and ivy of a willow tree near us. He appears to be wearing the Estelada - the Catalan national flag. The distinctive white spot on the tail must be an identifier, but I don’t know of what. He might be a  Fire Bug, Pyrrhocoris apterus. But then again he might not.

L'Estelada, en insecte?

I found this one inside the underground box that protects our water pipe and taps, on the edge of a mixed (holm oak and pine) woodland. My guess: Rana temporaria, the Common Frog. But s/he does not have the distinctive V shape (chevron) on her back.

Je suis le frog

I found this on the edge of the track above the house. Distinctively white droppings, with a spiral twist and a pointed end. According to "Animal Tracks and Signs" by Preben Bang and Preben Dahlstrom these are characteristic features of fox (Vulpes vulpes) droppings. So, maybe a fox?

The Swiss Army drops in

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Christmas morning on the Croft

Up sharpish to feed the donkeys. It's a magical time, a totally silent Christmas Day, with the gentle rhythm of  three donkeys chewing their hay:

Hay, Santa

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Oli booster

Ovelia Modale, better known as "Oli" needs a wee booster. His mum, Ballachulish has mastitis and so is only giving milk on one side. It's a messy business, feeding the wee one:

Mine's a pint


Friday, 12 December 2014

Ovelia modiale, nou nascut

Ballachulish has given birth to a new Ripollesa lamb, born yesterday :

I've named her Ovelia Modiale in honour of my brother-out-of-law, Jonathan Jarrett whose paper* on the use of cows, sheep and possibly pigs as monetary units in 10th century Catalonia is a must read. Our tiny new lamb (3.8kg at birth, so small) probably is not yet worth a modius of grain, but I'll love her all the same.

Unfortunately when I explained to the residents at the Croft that we were calling her "Ovelia Modiale" they all, er, laughed. So she's to be called "Oli" for short. 

Difficult to imagine this animal currency really working. Here's an early manuscript from Catalonia, cerca 975 AD: 

Shopkeeper: Thank you ma'am. That will be three Bovo soldare and half an Ovelia modiale.
Customer: Half an Ovelia modiale? Not sure I've got the change. Just a moment while I fetch an axe...

Bloody business, shopping.

*Bovo Soldare: A Sacred Cow of Spanish Economic History Re-evaluated, in Naismith, Rory, Martin Allen, and Elina Screen, eds. Early Medieval Monetary History: Studies in Memory of Mark Blackburn. Studies in Early Medieval Britain and Ireland. Farnham, Surrey, UK ; Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2014.

Monday, 8 December 2014

The Woods go Dung

Turning over a new leaf

 The forest here grows very thick, so we've put the donkeys to work reducing the woods to, er, manure.

The woods go dung

Donkeys are efficient, but ruthless. They will strip the bark off anything small enough, and chew their way through almost everything else.

Barking mad

Arran loves it.