Proper Job/ Work of Human Hands

We have committed to doing smallholding properly- really learning about the animal’s needs and best care, and learning to do jobs on our own, rather than buy in specialists. And that takes time. Industrial tracts of time. But one thing I have found- and I hope the kids get this- is that making, repairing and doing things with your hands is healing. It soothes. You feel good when you come in from the land.

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The smallholding kind of tells you what job needs doing- and when. For instance,  the chickens started getting into next doors garden, which is bad news for her manicured lawn, because they poo everywhere and some of their poo’s are as big as the eggs they aren’t laying yet. Our dog Moby was also getting out, and he has no road sense. In fact were pretty sure he had a near death experience, because a passing pedestrian told us he was outside the gate, barking like a nutter, and now he cringes around the roadside with little eyes, which mean he’s guilty or scared.

So we had to fence the winter thinned hedge. In the summer it was a thick lush barrier, but now it is 70% gaps. Fencing costs a bomb, even second hand, but we got a bargain from this old guy who was selling some semi rotten panels on behalf of his son (which is a bit strange and complex, come to think about it) Anyway we got them cheap, and I had to borrow his trailer to get them home. Then he sold me his trailer and we got another real bargain.

We had to wedge the fence panels in the hedge trees, and for now its held up my garden poles and part of the new barrier is made up of bits of old shelving and even an old sand tray, which looks rubbish and makes me dribble. It looks like some hillbillies built it after an atomic incident. But we have decided it has to hold until we can do it properly, to the standard of the main boundary fence and gate. It does the job. And our free range chickens are contained.

Let me tell you, chickens are amazing. Some of my best friends are chickens. We have three sub colonies- Audrey the Light Sussex mother hen and her 17 mixed breed hooligans, then Mrs Puff, Patchy and Sandy the three Warren hybrids, and then the three surviving hand reared hybrids- Custard the Sussex Ranger (a known psycho), and RePecca and Lollipop the…whatever they are. Brown theme. Nervous. These latter three have a shallow gene pool, if you ask me. But we love them.

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Audrey’s brood have become pretty big- and its time to split them. There also appear to be few cockerels amongst them, but we aren’t quite sure who is who, as nobody is crowing yet, and they’re all naturally big as well, because they have Brahma blood in them. We just bought them a new coop, that arrived via our trailer last week. We will sex them when the identifying tags (I somehow bought from China on Ebay) arrive. Probably on my 50th birthday. We will be giving our cockerels away for free, so contact me if you want ’em.

Things are slowly falling into place- sometimes too slow, but tangible nonetheless. As we adapt, and read the signs. We have a freedom to innovate and solve problems our way; the land is ours and its a canvas we can paint on without fear. We don’t have a boss to impress; we aren’t creating a product; there’s no time pressure.

And its nice to plan, to slowly assemble the bits we need to address a new job- like we have to MOT the sheep soon. It has suddenly become the right time, because two of them are tame enough to hand feed and they follow us and call to us now in the mornings and evenings. We need to check their teeth, their hooves, and their bottoms for problems and disease, and damage from too much poo getting caught around the bum area. Naturally, I can’t wait for that job.

We have bought the foot trimming tools, and the foot spray. Now we just need a day with three adults so we can corral them, and one of us wrestle them into this strange sitting position where they go limp and let it happen.

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Treasure/ Baboons

We love cats, but had decided to not have any at Shabbafarm. The road is insane outside the main gate (yes parents, that would be the eerily deserted road with tumbleweeds blowing down it when we viewed the house road, just to be clear), and even though the cats will have 250,000,000 cubic miles of farmland to explore out back, you just know they are going to crap across the road. And play chicken with 70mph Slovakian truck drivers ramped off their skull on Red Bull and Costa shots.

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And then came Treasure.

We rescued one of the two feral kittens on our land. My wife found them hunting on the paddock, and when she approached, one was too weak to move further. It had a bad case of cat flu, and was spent, but its sibling was too fast and got away.

What do you do? Im a great believer that if an animal survives through adversity, it deserves to live. I lived in Botswana as a child, and we found our ex neighbours cat Henry (whose owners had returned to he USA) lying on our tin roof, with a dislocated pelvis. It had decided to fight a baboon- never a great idea- and the baboon must have thrown it into the air, and Henry must have landed badly on our roof. Henry had survived the blazing heat for days by crawling to the gutter and licking the dew off the mulch. When we located him by his weak cries, we took him to the vet, who wanted to euthanise him. We said no. Henry went on to have a happy life, but walked like John Wayne after that.

Our captured kitten is now doing well, after some meds and check up by the vet. We were told by the nurse she was about five weeks old and female, so we called her Treasure (after one of the chicks that didn’t make it)

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Just been back to the vet, and I have been told she’s more like eight or nine weeks, and she is a he. He said “Who told you it was a she- the nurse?” Awkward workplace LOL. I suppose Treasure can be a unisex name, as long as he doesn’t hang around gyms and cage fighting clubs.

Re: the feral sibling, I’ve only seen it once since, about two weeks ago, and it was living in an old rabbit warren. The mother hasn’t been seen in ages. Im guessing the mother is dead, or has abandoned them; as winter rolls on, I doubt the feral sibling will survive (if it isn’t already dead) Now is the last window to act. I borrowed a humane cat rap from the vet, and baited it with cat food.

Then I bumped into my neighbour. She said that there are millions of feral cats around here, and they congregate at the cottage up the road- where the Feral Cat Feeding Lady lives.

But of course. Every hamlet, village, town and city has one.

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You know-its fine, but these things feral cats need to be spayed and neutered. I’m paying vets bills and hiring more hardware than “The Lost World; Jurassic Park 2”, and then you hear somebody has opened a homeless feline theme park up the road. I would be doing more than flipping feeding them. Isn’t that slightly…insane? Like, loads of cats boiling through your Rhododendrons, hissing and defecating and stuff, and she doesn’t think “There is rather a lot of them. And little helpless kittens as well….my oh my“. I suppose she didn’t see “The Mad Death” in the 1980’s…..

I hope it doesn’t fall to me to be the resident cat trapper and testicle snipper. I came here to do touchy feely cuddly animals, but its dawning on me that things might get gory and practical soon. The trap idea got me thinking- what if we catch more than cats? Foxes? I actually like foxes, and in another life I was a Hunt Saboteur. But they can’t live here, with my chickens. If I catch a fox I shall probably drive to a forest miles away and release it, or maybe somewhere nearer, like a UKIP office.

Rabbits? Well they are all over my laaaand and, when the crops are planted, will become Public Enemy Number One. I shall probably kill and eat them. Rats will be killed on sight. Not sure about what to do with Badgers, or Mink etc. It all has to be done, but not sure what it teaches the children, especially children with big feelings that sometimes turn violent.

Answers on a postcard.