Saturday, August 20, 2011

Preparing To Lose A Friend

How do you do it? Is it possible or is it best just not to know?

Last year, the last Bank Holiday in May to be precise, Bean my Newfoundland  was sleeping just outside the front door after a long dog walk. A few hours later it struck me that Bean hadn't moved and I thought this strange so I went out to see how she was doing, she was fine just in a deep sleep. It was a warm day and so not unusual for the dogs to collapse around the garden and sleep for hours on end after a dog walk but there was something about her that I just did not like.

Once she woke up she seemed to be fine but I decided to book her into the vets first thing Tuesday morning anyway for peace of mind. When I got to the vets I told them that I might have imagined events as Bean appeared perfectly fine and I felt a bit silly. I was convinced the vet would agree with me and say I had nothing to worry about but she didnt. Bean was referred to a specialist after the vet discovered an irregular heart beat.  I still wasn't overly concerned because Bean gets checked regularly and has had her heart checked lots of times and nothing has ever been found to be wrong so I agreed to take her to the cardiologist but fully expected the all clear when the time came.

Appointment day came and the 3 of us (Kyle, Bean and myself) jumped in the Landrover and set off. When we got there Bean was taken from me and lead into the surgery and I was told to collect her in an hour which I did. When I went back I had a chat about what had been found and it was that Bean had developed a terminal heart condition - she needed to go on medication immediately that would need to continue for the rest of her life. I asked how long Bean would survive without medication and the answer was about 4 weeks. Even with her medication Bean's life expectancy was only 6-12 months but with luck on her side she could live as long as 18 months - that takes us to 6 November this year .... .6 weeks 5 days away. In total shock, with tears streaming down my face, a confused toddler in one hand and Bean in the other I set about loading my two passengers back in the landrover for the drive home trying my best to appear to both of them that nothing was wrong.

I was advised to stop Bean's walks and all her activities in the hope that this would prolong her life and I thought long and hard about the advice given to me in the tearful days following diagnosis and came to the conclusion that I owed Bean more than that.  Although I was aware that Bean's life could end at any moment - she was not - and she would only get a sense that something was wrong if I changed her routine and the life she knew and loved so much.  Bean has always been a very special friend to me. She was a character the day I bought her and she has never changed - to me she is one of the most beautiful dogs I have ever known with the most beautiful eyes .... I swear when you look into Bean's eyes you see her soul. Bean is the best four legged friend anyone could ever have.

So I took the decision that as far as Bean was concerned nothing would change. I would not cut down her walks and on the days I ran around the valley with the dogs she would still be allowed to come if she wanted to. If her and Minnie had a mad hour then I would not intervene because I felt that if I changed anything then I would be trying to prolong her life for my own selfish reasons and in doing so I would be cutting down the quality of it for her .....  and so the decision was made - Bean would continue the life she had always known and I had to get my head around the fact that one day very soon my friend would be gone, but this is my problem and not hers. I have also made Bean the promise that should things get uncomfortable for her then I will do what is right by her as she has always done by me.

Bean is 4 years old.

But .....on a positive note Bean is still going strong and is enjoying her days as she has always done. All I can wish is that her happy life continues for a good while to come.

My Friend, My Bear, My Bean!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dave The Lamb .... Returned to Solitary

After a couple of weeks in solitary confinement I was beginning to feel a little bit sorry for Dave and thought he might like to come out of his pen and join the other sheep in the field. My friend also thought that Dave should, by now, have realised he is a sheep and be happy eating grass in the field with the others and leaving my plants alone.....

So we let Dave out ....

He ran straight out and up the field to the holding pen where he met Minnie and without a second glance Dave hot-footed it through the fence and straight over to the front door! Things were not going well .....

So we set about re-capturing Dave who obviously hasn't got it yet.

Dave had other ideas and when he saw my friend approaching him he just lay down on the floor and refused to move. Jean went to find a halter to put round his neck to try and lead him back into the field ..... no chance.

Dave was going nowhere.

Only one thing for it .....

A Fireman's Lift

Dave is back in his field for another week when I will try again to re-introduce him to his Flock!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It's Nearly Time

Sadly it is almost time to say goodbye to the two Saddleback pigs I have on the farm at the moment. I have to organise a trailer and get my paperwork in order for tomorrow.

I have just brought the next set of weaners on to the farm which makes taking the older two a little bit easier to deal with because while I am looking after the little ones I am not thinking about the two that have gone. It works for me anyway but it is never something that I look forward to, enjoy or find easy to deal with.

I have never really been comfortable with the killing of animals for any reason and drifted in and out of vegetarian phases in my younger days. I think the first attempt at becoming a vegetarian was after buying The Smiths album and listening to Meat is Murder. Upon hearing Morrisey confirm the killing of an animal was death for no reason and death for no reason was murder my life as a vegetarian had begun to take shape .... unfortunately after many months struggling to find vegetable curry and breakfast without bacon tasty I decided that a vegetarian life was not really for me and so I started to think about how I could eat meat without the guilt trip it carried with it for me personally. This came about by me thinking of raising my own meat as strange as it sounds because that way I could ensure that the life any animal I raised for meat would be controlled by me and I could thereby ensure their life would be the best it could possibly be. In knowing that my pigs are raised the way nature intended without any growth hormones or cruel practices that routinely take place with indoor intensively farmed pigs I reached a place where I was happy to eat that meat.

This aside, the weeks leading up to the date that I take the animals to slaughter I still find terribly upsetting and I find it hard to think about anything else. I consle myself with the fact that they have had a great life that is not offered to many animals destined for the food chain. The first time I took animals to slaughter I realised just how much respect is required for the animal that in the end gives you everything.

So here I am at the saddest point in the journey that is home grown meat. I now need to get the papers and pigs ready so they can be transported.

I need to complete the BPEX forms (these are avilable online at the BPEX site) and email these to the Abattoir. The pigs will need to arrive no later than 10am in the morning. I will load the pigs on the trailer then ear tag them. I have always got someone else to do this for me just because I am a softy but I am going to try and do this myself this time ... lets see!! I will set off at 6.00am to get there before 7am which is the earliest I can unload them and then get them settled into their pen.

So it is a sad day but it is also makes me happy because I am standing for what I believe in and by doing what I do I am making a difference.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Arrival of 3 Pigs And A Puppy ....Goes Pear Shaped

On Friday there were 4 new arrivals at Nunnery Farm

Dolyhir Ikkle Elf at Luddenden ("Elf") the Bernese Mountain Dog Puppy
3 Mangalitza Piglets (Spanish Woolly pigs)

The journey although long was pretty straight forward without any mishaps and I almost had the job done and dusted when it all started to go wrong.

First of all I lost a piglet ....

Then I lost the puppy!

I backed the van into the area in the drive where I unload animals. I fed the two Saddlebacks so they would be distracted in another part of the field and this meant I would be able to open the gates for the pigs to run straight into the pen from the back of the van without any problem. Two of the piglets did as exactly what they were supposed to do and the other saw a gap under the fence and ran straight through it and joined the sheep in the middle of the field. "Oh Fantastic" I cried ... this is just great!!

Luckily Jean and Nat were on hand to help me capture the piglet. Jean stood guard at the pig gate, Nat started to give chase and I joined in (appropriately dressed in flip flops). Another Nunnery Farm Nightmare was unfolding before my very eyes! Luckily for us Meg was on hand to make matters worse and every time we got within a few feet of the piglet she would appear from behind the shed and charge it so it fled in the opposite direction and further away towards the bottom of the field. Not dissimilar to a scene from Tom and Jerry the pig chasing lasted about 15 minutes before we managed to corner and capture the escaped piglet and get it into the field with the others.

Sweating, stressed and not even nearly amused we walked back to the van to get the puppy out and you can imagine my surprise when I opened the door and couldn't see her - she was gone! We ran round the garden trying to find where she had gone searching high and low, in the chicken shed, under all the bushes, behind the house, I eventually heard a faint cry and ran over to find that she had sniffed out a dead rabbit in the corner of the garden and obviously drawn to it by the awful smell had took a step too many any tumbled into the brambles. She was now completely hidden by the thorny bushes and the nettles! Jean scrambled through the brambles and rescued Elf who was quickly taken indoors and out of harms way!!

A few days on and Elf is a fully fledged member of the Nunnery Farm Pack taking it all in her stride. The piglets are also all settled in to their new home and all seems well ..... for now anyway!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Dave's Destruction Knows No Bounds

Now Dave has been causing trouble yet again ....
Dave In His Hiding Place Avoiding Capture

His distruction of the entire garden has meant that I have been left with only one choice......
My Raspberry Bush

Dave is heading to solitary confinement.
Another Bush After Dave Dined On it

Harsh some may say ......but fair!
Another Plant Trashed

He has been moved to the second unused pig area for a few days in the hope that he will at last want to live in the field ... or get a taste for grass!!
Nat Taking Dave to His New Home

As you can see by the way Dave had to be transported to his new home he is not impressed. I will see how he goes on and see about letting him out with the others in about a week for good behaviour!!