Monday, 24 May 2010

The wildflowers on aqueduct at Whittledene are starting to come into bloom now that the weather has warmed up. Grazing the excess grass down in the late spring has let the light in and allowed them to flourish. One section is still being grazed, the idea being to summer graze one section each year giving a one year in four rotation to prevent any scrub and invasive species becoming dominant.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Jess had her first proper outing to gather some sheep yesterday. She has been getting along nicely with the 5 I have been using to train her in the training field. They had got used to being rounded up and her confidence is growing because they do what she asks them to!
We set off early to Holy Island where sheep had been grazing on the island over winter and more recently lounging in the paddock in front of the Barn at Beal. After a little false start she settled down and we soon had them penned and loaded and on the road back to the reserves at East Chevington.

I did try to get a picture of her on her feet going round the sheep but they all move far too quickly for my camera skills! We will shear them in a couple of weeks and then move them onto another grazing site for most of the summer.

One contented dog keeping an eye on proceedings.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Collected the last of the first years batch of sheep from the butchers yesterday and had some for tea tonight, have to say it was pretty darned good! The varied diet they live on certainly seems to help the flavour.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

It may well feel like winter out there but the lambs are growing fast now and are having great fun playing in the little bit of spring sunshine we have had. These Shetland lambs were having great fun at the weekend chasing each other around the fieldand jumping on the mole hills!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Phew all go tonight had to rush over to Whittledene, I had report that one of the sheep was out. When I got there the 3 Manx Loaghtans had pushed a rail off the fence an decided they would like to graze the neighbouring field. The grass is always greener and all that! They weren't that keen to go back but fortunately I took Jess with me and although she is only partly trained between us we managed to persuade them back in!
She may only be 6 months old but she can certainly run faster than me......................
Had a very interesting trip down to Yorkshire at the weekend to meet 2 Community Supported Agriculture groups (CSA). They have basically formed to buy shearling lamb (the same thing as we are producing) from the farmers on the North York moors.
The lambs are cut up and divided into 8 packs made up of the different cuts. Interested parties sign up to the group and each member receives 1/8th of a lamb each month until eventually the have had the whole lamb. It seems an excellent way for those who don't have sufficient freezer space or don't want to buy half a lamb at a time, they can pay monthly but must commit to taking all 8 packs. The lamb is usually available between October and May.
I intend to research this further and then maybe hold an information meeting for any interested parties later in the summer.
Having the groups gives the farmers the confidence to keep the lambs on for an extra year until they are shearlings which is when these type of sheep would traditionally been slaughtered. We keep them on for the extra year so that they can graze our conservation sites.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

We spent a couple of days last week going through all the sheep checking their feet and trimming the wool of their bellies and tails in preparation for shearing in early June. doing this now helps to keep them clean between now and when they are sheared. On this occassion it was the turn of of the Friends of Tyne Riverside Country Park to lend a hand and practice their wrestling techniques.

The community grazing project at Claravale has got off to a flying start with the arrival of 4 Hebridean sheep arriving to tackle some of the scrub growth on the conservation area. However they soon settled down and got to grips with the job in hand. This is one of a number of small grazing projects happening around Tyneside thanks to a grant from the Community Foundations Local Environment Fund.