The sudden arrival of winter, and Rors still being sick, has meant Chris and I can’t stray far at the moment so we decided today was the day to tackle some jobs around the farm. It was also the day Denis (the llama) decided to escape, but since he made straight for the girls’ field, as usual, he was very easy to catch. He’s now temporarily in the cooling off stable with Maisy the goat, who decided to go walkabout yesterday. Never a dull moment with livestock.

At least Bertie is well behaved!

Our main job today was to re-engineer the fencing so that the three sheep and Seamus, the alpaca who shares their field, could get into shelter. Up to now they’ve been fine hunkering down under the trees at the end of the field. But it’s getting colder by the day and so they needed to be able to get into one of the stables. To this we’ve had to create a corridor across the front of the llamas’ big field so that the sheep can get into one of the stables near the fron of the barn, and the llamas can get into the larger one at the back. This is only for the next few months, and we also need to be able to get through this fencing several times a day to check the camelids regularly. So we couldn’t do our usual post-bashing-in and nailing-on-wiring routine, which we’re really good at now.

The sheep exploring their new territory

It was time to go scavenging. We rifled through the woodshed and the stables and found some very useful huge bits of wood that we inherited with the farm. Whatever they actually were, they are perfect to keep sheep and llamas separated. (There’s no problem mixing the two species, it’s simply that we need to keep the sheep out of the main part of the llama field since it isn’t sheep-proof along the back fence.) We still have some of our large order of chestnut poteaux (posts) left, so we lugged a few of those into position. Chris dug out extra-long nails and after some enthusiastic hammering, we had a wooden Berlin Wall in place. There’s a wire section at the far end that I can easily unhook to get through, and it’s tractor-wide so we can bring either Rusty Deux or Sea Blue out from the hay barn when we need their services around the rest of the farm.

It won’t win prizes for looks, but it’s effective, and most importantly, has only cost a few euros for the posts and the nails since everything else is recycled. Sure I’d love swanky post and rail fencing and classy wooden gates for my fields, but we’d have to sell the house or the children to afford those so we make do and mend, and very successfully.

A final bit of DIY was needed. The llamas were now cut off from the stable with their bale of hay, which the sheep have delightedly requistioned, so we delivered another one into the top stable. Llamas are notoriously messy eaters. Let them loose on a hay bale and they’ll eat a few mouthfuls but spread the rest all over the ground. They’ll lay on that, then pee on it, and so it’s no longer edible. All very wasteful. Anyway, we’ve called their bluff. I’ve constructed another effective mangeoire out of pallets. The first model, top of the range, used bungees, but this one is using string. Works every bit as well!

The llamas approve!

Now our animals can stay well fed and warm in even the worst blizzard, which is probably more than could be said for us! Even with all Chris’s hard work on exterior plastering and constant upgrading of the insulation, there are draughts here and there in the house when the wind really gets going. And I must go and do a winter reserves shop to stock the cupboards up ready for the inevitable session, and usually several, of being snowed-in for days on end. We’ve been lulled into a false sense of security with the mild November and relatively kind winter so far. Time to act.

Turkey proof gate - patent pending