Sunday, 26 August 2012

Mother's milk, and fat lambs

Our lambs are growing fast:

Button has set the record, growing at an average 365.8 grams per day since birth (Stitch and Rap are nearly as fast, at 350 g/day). Today, 41 days old Button weighs 18.5kg. Most of this weight gain is thanks to copious quantities of his mother's milk. But part is explained by his enthusiastic feeding regime:

Trough scoff

The technical bit
This makes Button a full kilogram heavier than the heaviest lamb in the ANCRI/Autonomous University of Barcelona test series in February this year. ANCRI is the Catalan National Association for Ripollesa Sheep. In 2010 they ran two test groups of lambs to check growth rates. They ran another test in February 2012. The lambs in the test are a bit older than Button and Stitch; the test starts at around the point that the lamb stops suckling, around 40 days. The fastest-growing lamb in the February 2012 series put on weight at 364g/day. We'll see how well Button and Stitch compare.

Monday, 20 August 2012


The brambles are out, and so was I, picking enough for an apple and bramble crumble.

Mimosa the donkey helped.


And then I saw this - a short-horned grasshopper. Any ideas which one? Family of the Acrididae, I'd guess:

'Hopper, full

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Life's a ball

I'm a crofter. I'm a cook. 

But above all, I love to dance. 

Hello. Do you come here often?
 This spring Paula, a student at Tot Dansa in Santa Maria de Palautordera became my teacher for a season. She choreographed a great piece and then taught me the steps (with infinite patience.) It was a dream.

Teacher, floored, and pupil

Friday, 17 August 2012

The Birth of Broch

Fidget gave birth this morning to a strong wee female. We've named her Broch, in honour of the Iron Age broch being dug by Greer, near Auchterarder (

A small Catalan Broch

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Keeping the heat in

We have a fine new door for our bread oven. Made by Marc Herrero and Miquel Xirau, members of the Metalworkers Association of Catalonia (Gremi de Serrallers).

Miquel featured in this TV programme on the artisans of Catalunya. He is the fourth generation of metalworkers in his family - the firm, Xirau Serralleria in Vilanova del Vallès, was founded by his great-grandfather.

It's baking in here

Downsize in Catalonia

A good article in Monday's La Vanguardia about the growing degrowth movement in Catalonia.

The Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) has a research group working on the topic, with the omnipresent Serge Latouche involved, both linked to Research & Degrowth. The article includes a number of downsizing communities, including Xicòria - a group of four friends working a garden in Montblanc (the Catalan Montblanc...). Degrowth is even happening in Spain.

Time to get smaller.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Saved by a tube

Rap was born into the warmth of the evening of 6th July.

Is he really suckling?

He started OK – seemed to find a teat and seemed to have a suckle, but by midnight he was looking weak. I had given him a couple of shots of Thermovite (as recommended by Tim Tyne) but was not too happy with his appearance. We milked Morag, a new and slightly reluctant mum, and gave him some from a dropper.

By 9am on the 7th I was really concerned about him.

Pep the Vet had kindly given me a stomach tube for lambs, and encouraged me to use it. So I read the instructions in The Sheep Book for Smallholders (Tim Tyne, The Good Life Press, 2009) and in The Sheep Keeper’s Veterinary Handbook (Agnes Winter and Judith Charnley, Crowood Press, 2007).

After a couple of failed (and scarily gurgling) attempts I used the syringe to get a few ml of milk into his mouth. This seemed to help him swallow. I managed to intubate Rap, and got 100ml of milk into him.

The effect was immediate. He got up and went over to Morag and started suckling. As though the intubation had given him a start and now he wanted a lot more.

I had been determined not to lose another lamb after losingLuna. Rap had many of the same characteristics – a weak lamb, not that interested in feeding, not finding the teat, preferring to lie down and rest rather than feed. Luna had faded away like that. Intubation seemed to kickstart Rap’s feeding reflex.

Thanks for the tube, Pep!

Summertime, and the going is easy

We’re having a busy Summer at the Croft. Thanks to clever sheep management (by the ram, not by me…) we’ve got a batch of lambs appearing during the August holidays.

Button and Stitch aged 2 weeks
 Isi (who’s living with us) and I have built a new chicken shed, named the "Anti-Ziggurat" for its decapitated pyramid shape:

The soil is rock hard – in the month from 2nd July to 5th August we had just 3mm of rain…

Pick a hard place

…but with our recycled water supply we can irrigate, and have been harvesting the tomatoes planted by Emily Hornett.

A source of tomatoes