Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Great Escape

Monday 6th March 2017
One slight whiff of freedom today and everybody decided to make a run for it!

The turkeys enjoying being back outside.
I still haven't thought of a name for the silver stag. Any ideas?
For finally the day has come around for some of the poultry to return to the great outdoors. I hadn't quite decided whether to try to drive the turkeys down the land in a group or to catch them individually and carry them. In the end my mind was made up for me as the two young hens were engaged in all-out last-hen-stands warfare when I went in to feed the chickens. I reached up, grabbed two legs and pulled both birds down from the top of the wall before carrying them ignominiously upside down all the way down the garden to their new pen.
Instead of being pleased with their new treat, they just carried on squabbling. I hoped that the extra space would help them to settle down, or that they would just get tired of fighting. They are both destined for the table, but it would be a real shame if this had to happen on their first day of freedom in three months.
Since I had now started the job, I caught the other two turkeys and carried them down too. They at least had the good grace to be a bit more excited about their new surroundings.

On a roll, I decided to move the three waddly ducks (as opposed to the Muscovies). This was easier, as I just herded them up the land to their new pen. They too were audibly and visibly excited to be back in the fresh air with grass under their feet.

While I was that way, I checked to see if yesterday's Stonechat was still around and to my delight there it was perching up on the fence posts from where it would dive into the grass before swooping back up to the next post in the line. I got far better views than yesterday of this first for the smallholding.

Stonechat territory

Since I was down the bottom of the land, I decided to move the sheep to the next paddocks. All I have to do is take down a small gateway of electric fence and they follow the bucket through to their new area and dive straight for the fresh new grass. I took the opportunity to top up their hay, water and beet nuts. It was at this point that I glanced around to realise that Arthur had disappeared. Learning from his escapade last week, Boris and I headed straight toward the dyke at the bottom of the land. Arthur couldn't have been gone longer than three minutes, so if he had gone that way we would surely see him running up the fence line or crossing next door's land.
Fortunately there was no sign. Arthur must have taken himself back to the farmhouse. I continued along the dyke with Boris, keen to check out a distant black object (I thought it might be a coot, but it turned out to be a black bin bag!). I raised my binoculars to check out the wild swans by the river and a wiry black terrier ran through my field of vision and kept going along the riverbank. It was Arthur and he was moving at some lick!
Boris and I ran after him as I called his name at the top of my voice, but Arthur just kept on running away from us. Goodness knows where he was going. I was now out of puff and had to slow to a walk. By the time we reached the river bank Arthur was a couple of hundred yards away but fortunately he heard me and stopped. He just sat there and made me walk all the way along to get him.
I was very cross and marched him all the way back to the farmhouse, barking at him. I had only left one gate slightly ajar for a couple of minutes and he had taken his chance to slip off. Lesson learned. From now on every gate gets firmly closed, even if I am working right next to it.
To add insult to injury, when I finally arrived back at the house my phone had turned itself Spanish, all the menus, all the messages! It took quite some time to turn it back to English as navigating the menus was somewhat tricky!

With that little escape effort thwarted, I let the geese out into the veg patch to trim the grass for me. They greeted the sight of the open sky with hoots and honks of delight. Letting them out onto the grass will save on the cost of feeding them while they were inside and I can move their water too as they spill it everywhere and it makes the straw bedding sodden.

I moved some sheep hurdles out of the chickens' stable too, to set up a run for the geese so I can keep the chickens extra biosecure. It was while I was doing this that I came back round the corner to find all the chickens, all twenty of them, merrily strutting across the yard, clucking with delight! The next ten minutes were spent in a comical chicken chase. It's not easy rounding up chickens when there is one person and about four ways the chickens can go. Fortunately they tend to stick close to Cocky The Cockerel, especially when they are curiously exploring new areas, so I focused on him and most of his hens eventually followed him back into the stable.

And finally, after a very eventful day, a nature note. Sue's bees have been flying for about a week now, only when the sun comes out and warms the hive, but today I saw my first bumble bee of the year.
With some of the birds out, bees buzzing and skylarks singing, it really does feel as if Spring is finally starting to nudge Winter out of the back door.
One of Sue's honeybees, clearly finding pollen somewhere.
The catkins are out and they love them.

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