Sunday, 30 April 2017

Strawberry Delight

Every solution brings a new problem. After our tricky lambing and bottle-feeding, we moved Rubitu and son into a pen in the greenhouse. Life is like that around here – lamb was undersized, probably a bit premature, shivering in the northerly wind and in need of somewhere warm. Greenhouse – obvious, yes?

Moving a lamb is easy – you pick it up. Getting the ewe to follow is as easy as the ewe chooses to make it. The technique is to carry the lamb so that she can see it whilst doing your best cry of mah, mah if the lamb refuses to call for mum.

As it turned out, getting them in was easy. Rubitu was cooperative, probably helped by the fact that we had spent the last couple of hours with both of them, in a confined space, trying to get lamb to suckle.

After two days of warm and safe, we reached the trade-off point between keeping lamb warm versus teaching lamb to follow mum. To complicate matter further, Rubitu wasn’t eating properly – yes the sheep nuts were very nice, but what she really wanted was fresh greenery. The odd large handful of dock leaves went down well, but we couldn’t spend all our time picking salad for her.

The morning of the big day felt a bit too cold, but shortly after lunch we decided it was finally warm enough. The plan was for a simple division of labour: my partner went to let Rubitu out and see if lamb would follow, I went to install some new cat-flaps as the rodent-suppression team need access to some more out-buildings.

The thing I really need to emphasise is that Rubitu and lamb were in the greenhouse, which is fenced off from the sheep to protect all those young plants being raised just outside the greenhouse. Sheep have no respect for the plants you care about. There is a hedge just inside the fence protecting the trees and we had to beef-up the fence to stop them reaching through and eating said hedge.

It turns out that Rubitu likes strawberries – not the fruit, but the plant. In fact she more than just likes them, but if she can’t have strawberry plants, well those young willow saplings look tasty. Are those raspberries at the back? Rubitu was in sheep gastro-heaven. So much to choose from, but she couldn’t eat a whole one, or at least not before my partner intervened and shooed her off.

It took two of us to get Rubitu and lamb out into the field, one to move the lamb, one to defend the plants. Junior now goes out during the day, but he has another few nights in the warm, so Rubitu has those brief few moments, morning and evening, to give the strawberries a good look, or perhaps a quick munch if we’re not paying attention.

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