Sorry folks I’ve been a bit lax with the blog this week as we have been busy on our first Helpx experience and I haven’t had the energy to update it! Must try harder! We arrived at our first Helpx assignment a week ago and the time has just flown by. We are at Best Buddies Petcare which is in the Leicestershire Countryside. Dave and Jan, our hosts, welcomed us and showed us around their small holding. They have about five acres of land and run a dog hotel and small cattery.
They also grow their own veg and keep Hebridean Sheep which are currently lambing. Hens and ducks also provide more than enough eggs for everyone plus some to sell. To add to the fun they also have three very sweet flatcoat Retrievers – Star, Hattie and Bluebell. Star recently had a litter of ten puppies which are now coming up to eight weeks old and will be leaving for their new homes in the next few days. We were shown the ropes on what we needed to do and have been busy everyday helping to care for all the animals. Hence the lack of updates.
Friday saw us helping to take the ten puppies to the vet for their microchipping (now a legal requirement). It’s more difficult than you think organising ten puppies into the van and making sure none of them get microchipped twice whilst multi tasking clearing up wee and poo from the floor of the vets! Saturday Tim helped worm the puppies with Jan.
Tim finally realised a long held dream of driving a landrover on Monday as Dave left us to it to put it away in the barn after he had been using it to pull out an old iron farm gate from one of the hedges. This was a big event for Tim as he has never been allowed to have a landrover! It doesn’t have any power steering and you need arms like popeye to turn the wheels but it was fun driving it.
Monday night was dog training night in the barn as Jan runs classes. I had Bluebell for the first class and Hattie for the second. To be honest, they are old hands and I didn’t have to do anything really. They knew the drill and got on with it making me look like a pro! I could have taken home one of the dogs which was a little black terrier rescue dog called Lola which the owner thinks is a schnauzer/patterdale cross. She was a typical terrier and a real character but would have been a complete nightmare in the wrong hands!
Jan took us with her into Melton Mowbray Market for the Livestock Market on Tuesday. Melton Mowbray Market is the largest town centre livestock market in the country and has been in existence for 1,000 years.
We’ve never been to one before so it was really interesting seeing how it all works including the auctioning of wood, bikes, farm equipment etc as well as animals. I had to take a picture of a giant rabbit which must have been raised at Sellafield because it was enormous. The picture doesn’t really do it justice but trust me when I say it was the size of a beagle!
We watched the sheep and cattle auctions but it was all gobbledygook to us but interesting none the less.
We also visited the Famous Pork Pie Shoppe. Tim was in pork pie heaven or maybe pork pie torture as he has given them up since last August in a bid for a healthier lifestyle!! It seems to be working as he is now starting to resemble a whippet instead of a greedy Labrador!
We have been helping with the ewes and lambs during the week. After a ewe has lambed we’ve helped move the ewe and lambs into the lambing pen where they are kept for a day or so. That last sentence made it sound so easy didn’t it? In truth it can take anything from 2 minutes to an hour depending on the ewe. After catching the lamb and walking off with it the ewe is supposed to follow as their mothering instinct is so strong. Yeah right! The younger ewes take more than a little coaxing to follow their lamb but if all else fails then out comes the shepherds crook. We left that job to Dave as we didn’t want to be held responsible for strangling a ewe! The ewe and lambs can get undercover in the trailer and are easier to monitor for any problems and to make sure the lambs are feeding. They are then moved into the adjacent field.
Hebridean’s, apparently, generally have only one lamb but sometimes two and rarely three. Mabel, their oldest breeding ewe, had three lambs on Monday but it didn’t look like she was feeding them. One lamb was really tiny and we had to tube feed all three of them to try to get some milk into them. Unfortunately one of the lambs died the next day and another one is currently in a dog bed in the kitchen being bottle fed but it doesn’t look like it’s going to make it:( Mabel is with the last lamb and that one seems to be doing ok so far. It is strange to be letting the lamb out last thing at night with the dogs for a last wee though!
Tim has been enjoying letting the hens and ducks out first thing in the morning and collecting the eggs. They are characters and know when you have food because they come racing across the fields at break neck speed to see what there is. They seem to eat pretty much any scraps from the kitchen (although I did draw the line at any egg mayonnaise because that surely would be cannibalism?!? It would be wouldn’t it?) The hens and ducks also put themselves to bed just before dusk and Tim just has to shut them in. They’re not stupid!
The good thing about staying here is we have made the most amazing duck egg mayonnaise sandwiches.
So that’s it so far. We are having a great time and it’s such a refreshing change after working in an office environment for so many years.