Posie's Blog. Tales of island life on a hebridean hill farm

Posie's Blog. Tales of island life on a hebridean hill farm

Friday, 14 September 2007

Noddy and the Highlanders




Oh the autumn is here, everyone seems to have a cold, and the days have been windy and gloomy. I think it is time to start lighting the fires, stocking up the stores, with all those vegetables, chutneys, jams and pickles, and hibernating indoors. I don’t quite feel ready to let go of the summer, but the change in weather is bringing about the change in seasons. I feel sorry for the lingering blooms of flowers, battling against the chilly September winds.

The happy farmer goes out looking like ‘Noddy’ each day, complete with red fleece and big hat, only to return, after a morning's fencing, with a matching red face, and that’s without any whisky !!

The highland cows have been moved down towards my mother in laws, off the hill and into the fields, to get a good bite of grass before the winter weather and the geese strip the fields bare. They are in great form just now, and happily followed the happy farmer, bucket in hand, off the hill and along the single track road to the fields, a group of cars patiently waiting in the lay-by, until the cows were well clear of the road.

It will soon be ‘tupping’ time once more, when the ‘boys’ (and I am talking the woolly ones here, and not the welly boot clad gang!) go into the fields with the ewes to work. The happy farmer has been busy giving those boys a manicure; they have a tendency to get bad feet, so theirs have been neatly trimmed in preparation for those ladies in waiting. It never ceases to amaze me how soft the tups are. The ewes live in large numbers out on the hillside and in the fields, in all weather, spend several months of the year pregnant, then go through the birthing, feeding and rearing of their offspring, before the whole cycle begins again. The tups on the other hand, spend the year lazing around, eating to their hearts content. They get extra rations of feed to build up their strength in October, go out into the fields to ‘work’ in November, and are then gathered in, and fed throughout the winter to help them recover from their few weeks of mating. They come away from the sheep and are literally ‘knackered’. This is often the point where we lose old Mr Blue. We use a blue faced Leicester tup, among other breeds, each year, and invariably he struggles to survive the winter months, in spite of being given shelter, extra rations and anti biotic jags, as he is the one that always seems to get a flu bug. If he is feeling particularly naughty he may even die before tupping begins, choosing his time to coincide with after the tup sales have finished and just a day or so before he is due to begin his mating programme.

This year tupping time is going to be challenging, with the foot and mouth crisis, not knowing if the disease is going to spread, and the movement restrictions, which will prevent us buying new stock to breed in with our flocks. In September or October the happy farmer usually goes away to the mainland to buy several new tups for his ladies. Fingers crossed the outbreak will be contained and livestock movement can return to normal as quickly as possible. On a flippant note, how else am I going to get those new shoes if the happy farmer doesn’t manage to sell those lambs?!!

Until next time….

14 comments:

lampworkbeader said...

Good luck with the new shoes. I see some movement of stock is to be allowed, let's hope you'll be able to get your tups in time.

sally's chateau said...

ooh rosie not sure if I am quite ready for descriptions of Autumn and mentioning of fires and chutney !! can you believe it, 2b has a cold ?? I do so hope you are allowed to move your stock.

ChrisH said...

Having sheep outside my window opened my eyes to the trials and tribulations of tupping last year. The ewes were all sprayed with numbers and the tups were painted... well, they were painted. Poor number seven was severly tupped, splodges of blue paint everywhere but the tup seemed to fade away a bit after that and some of the laydees were quite ignored. (Honestly, what I've learned, here!)

Preseli Mags said...

Our tup's a big softee too. He's currently behind 'bars' (in the stable) patiently waiting to be let in with the girls. I can hear the odd basso profundo baa - I'm not sure if he's saying 'let me out' or 'hey laydees'! It's time for his manicure too!

Hannah Velten said...

Is that the Paps I can spy? And the Highlands - as you know I'm rather partial to cows - what a treat to own them....Good luck with the tupping (well, not you personally)and the sales - fingers crossed for those shoes!

Mootia x

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Ah the poor 'men' - they do need to be looked after don't they.

Love the feeling of Autumn and Winter approaching and getting everything ready.

Suffolkmum said...

Had on or two sarcastic comments running through my mind when reading about the 'boys' and their easy life! Fingers crossed for the movement of stock, and of course the new shoes.

Elizabethd said...

Autumn....hmmm, please not just yet! I've been thinking about chutneys too, but it does take a time to make. On the other hand, I have so many tomatoes.
Keep hoping for the shoes!

toady said...

I'm with SF on this one, the tups do seem to live the life of riley. Does the HF have a bell on his hat and a little yellow car? Please say yes.
Toady

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I can so relate to this blog - very well written as always. Those tups don't know how lucky they are! We currently have 8 but have ordered another to be delivered once the FMD has eased and restrictions have been lifted on movements. The ewes do make me laugh when they seem to "line up". It's like a red light district out there in November and December!

Crystal xx

snailbeachshepherdess said...

well good luck up there with your 'movements' coz we are stuck fast down here with ours!! I had a wry smile about Blue Faced leicester tup ...their only desire in life is to die!!

elizabethm said...

really interesting blog - you answer the questions about sheep i didnt even know i had until i lived here!
hope F and M steers well clear of you and yours.

@themill said...

Blue faced leicesters are very good at dying.

Pondside said...

The things I learn on these blogs!! I wish you'd attached a picture of Noddy of the Highlands!
I've said it before, but your writing is lovely - so easy to read, puts me right there in a few sentences.