Plant and Protect

Posted by Nick  | 09 Aug 2015  | 2 comments

With most of the tree cages complete and the arrival of our very first specimen trees, it was time to hop to planting and guarding those precious plants.

The twelve varieties we chose were: London Plane, Red Oak, Tulip Tree, European Ash, Purple Norway Maple, Maple Freemanii, Northern Pin Oak, Liquidambar, Honey Locust, Gingko, Golden Robinia, Copper Beech.

We’re definitely keen to restore lots of native plants on our little patch of once-lush-rainforest-cum-vacant-pastureland, but the characters of mighty exotics are too charming to pass up.

The first task is to find the centre of the tree cage and cut away a square of turf. This prevents the surrounding grass from competing with the tree.

Then, dig a hole large enough to accommodate the tree’s roots.

At this stage it is absolutely crucial to have a mischievous feline swat at the loose soil. I cannot stress the importance of this enough.

Next up, bam some slow-release fertiliser tablets in that hole (we use GroTabs).

Drop that sexy specimen into its dirty new abode. Press soil around the sides – remember – roots don’t grow through air pockets!

Now fertilise that leafless mofo. A soil test revealed we were lacking in potassium and magnesium so we used a mixture of blood-and-bone, sulfate of potash, and dolomite lime.

Mix it in, baby.

That’s right. Now we need to tuck this bad-boy in. A weed mat serves as extra protection against opportunistic weeds and grass.

Pin that sucker to the ground.

Now, for added protection, we don the tree guard. This protects from rabbits and hares, but more importantly sheep.

But why did we build the tree cages if sheep can still get in? Ah, you see, it’s ingenious. We decided on a two-rail system, so the cows would stay out but the sheep could get under and graze around the tree. That way, with tree guards equipped, we don’t have to deal with a bunch of long grass surrounding each specimen. Yay, no mowing.

After staking that guard firm and true, that’s one down and eleven more to go. Now we leave it alone and hope for the best. Good luck, you expensive bastard.

Peering outside on a rainy day, I caught the setup working as planned. The cows were very curious about the new construction in their paddock – a superb scratching post. No way they’re getting through that, despite how much they pug up the ground around it.

Don’t forget to thank your kitty for all her hard work getting in your way. It’s exhausting being a troublemaker, ya know…

Earrings for the Woollies

Posted by Nick  | 05 Aug 2015  | 0 comments

Prompted by the limp of one of our Wiltshire sheep – which she’s had on-and-off since her arrival – it was time to proceed with our plan to ear-tag our herd of sixteen. The reason for ear-tagging is simple: ease of identification for tracking health and quality. As you can see, there aren’t many distinguishing traits between these woollies:

We had a couple of friends over during the weekend, so it was an ideal opportunity to tackle this job with extra pairs of hands around. We herded them (the sheep, not our friends) into the stockyards without incident. They’re easily coerced with a bucket of delicious sheep nuts. Suckers.

We’re fortunate that this land came with some stockyards still intact. They’re gnarly, but they do the trick.

It’s a shame we were all a bit too busy to take more photos. There was an instance of me leaping for a runaway sheep and crashing straight into a mud puddle. I did catch the bugger, though!

Everyone had a job. Whilst Char and I dealt with separating the sheep one at a time and tagging them, Dingus kept the rest in check and James was in charge of loading the tagger with the appropriate tag number, dipping it in iodine, and recording any information we shouted out about each sheep. It would have been a lot more hectic without their help, especially since this was our first time doing this sort of thing – thanks guys!

Dingus gave tagging a go, too:

You feel a little apprehensive the first couple of times, because you don’t want to hurt the sheep, and you’re unsure of how much strength you’ll need. But you just have to commit and follow through. I think we all did pretty well for first-timers.

Snap! Ear pierced! Don’t worry, they hardly notice. As soon as we let them through after grading their shedding percentage and checking their gums for anaemia, they were completely absorbed in grazing and scoffing nuts, as if nothing traumatic had happened.

The problem sheep, whom we’ve aptly named Poo-bottom, had a limp and a bunch of hardened dingle-berries. We saved her for last.

With Dingus straddling Poo-bottom, Char went in for the kill, or rather, the trim.

Geeze, Poo-bottom, what have you been eating? All your sisters have clean hineys and drop unoffensive pellets in neat little clusters. Did you find a plate of unfinished vindaloo or something?

Lucky we had all the right tools. Char went to town on that dirty butt. Dingus was also in a prime position for having his dingle-berries trimmed. Shame I didn’t get a photo of that.

Char’s practised with the shears – she cuts my hair after all. Viola:

Much better. Here are three of the hardest nuggets chopped from Poo-bottom’s pooey bottom:

Addressing Poo-bottom’s limp, we clipped her toenails and sprayed some hoof-rot treatment between her toes. Hopefully that does the trick. We’ll keep an eye on her.

It’s a little traumatic for these ladies being rounded up, separated from their herd, man-handled, some of them flipped on their hindquarters, and then having their ears pierced – but it’s for their own good. Tagging is a one-off event, and their check-ups are infrequent. Now we can more easily identify who’s who when a problem arises and track their health.

Though they’re eventually destined for the meat-works after breeding, we want to make sure we can provide them with good lives. There’s no reason to treat livestock like meat before they become it.

It was quite a fun experience. We felt like real farmers. It was lively and kind of exciting, and especially jovial having extra company around to join in the craziness. I hope the ladies appreciate it in their own way, too.