Thursday, 10 November 2011

A mild autum.


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Autumn arrived in Tarset. The show of colour has been good but I've definitely seen it better, dull, dank days haven't always allowed the colours to be shown off to their best potential although having said that

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the above photo was taken under such conditions and the colours seemed to saturate the eye, the bronze of the beech leaves seemed so intense it was almost dazzling and yet not a ray of sunshine to be seen.

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It has been so mild of late that we could be forgiven for thinking spring was on the way, except the leaves are dappling and falling not budding and and opening. There are some strange out of season events - gorse flowering for the second time this year, garden roses doing the same, boar thistles rising from the ground in a spring like fashion - a confusion in the countryside.

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There is no doubt that autumn is a beautiful season but it also signifies a closing down. Short days, long nights. Colder weather just around the corner.

It is the shortening of the days which bring the breeding ewes on heat, their bodies telling them that mating time is here, the optimum time has arrived for them to seek out a mate, allowing them to carry their slowly growing lambs in their tummies through what ought to be the least sociable months of the year ready to give birth to their off spring when the year wakens up again, when spring arrives and all new life appears, when daylight hours lengthen, grass grows and a fresh cycle commences.

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The fish are no different, they too are on a quest. The fishing season drew to a close on the 31st October, fishermen were out in force hopeful of catching the last salmon of the season - the biggest catch of the year maybes. Fish were beginning to run, they had come up all summer from the sea heading towards their spawning grounds. Natural obstacles are in their way, waterfalls difficult to jump to access spawning grounds higher up. We have had little rainfall compared to many areas of the countryside and yet I am reliably informed that for some fish at least they have succesfully run up stream and are spawning away frantically. Once again it is water temperature which drives them on as it is when the eggs finally hatch in the spring of the year, the temperature of the water will be the deciding factor as to when the young fish see their new world.

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Dank days would make one imagine a greyness, dullness, and yet there is plenty of beauty to be found.

We had a frost, there have been odd ones but this was the hardest to date. -5 was recorded at Sheps house, a hoare frost with mist for company, a day which saw half a field of sheep gathered as the other half were hidden in the gloom - much hilarity and leg pulling ensued, red faces as the offending other half were tracked down and gathered in!

It was fitting then that during these mild then cold weather conditions Shep was invited to join a farmer to attend a talk held by the local vets to learn more about pneumonia. I am often dependant on the kindness of farmers to invite me along to such events, giving me an opportunity to keep abreast of the times and hopefully learn something in the process. The offer was gratefully accepted then later turned down.

Pneumonia can be a problem to all livestock, cattle can suffer badly due to being housed throughout the winter months, held within close proximity to one another and "steamy" conditions such as we've experienced lately can cause potential havoc within the herd. Sheep are also prone to the problem although held at bay to a degree with annual innoculations which are available to treat them with. People can also fall foul to pneumonia which was the reason Shep finally turned down the offer of a night out to learn all things new about pneumonia.

We had had the 'mother in law' to stop for a few days, hot on the heels of the nephew no less. A quick turnaround on the bedding front found the spare bed only vacated for twenty four hours between guests. She's a grand soul, made meals, hoovered, chased some dust around the house, kept the fire stoked and seemed to enjoy herself, although has to be said I did think she wasn't her usual chirpy self but then she is elderly and was probably working herself to the bone.

Three days after the departure from ours a 'phone call informed us she had been admitted into hospital and was suffering from pneumonia. OOPS!

Now the temptation to attend the seminar held by animal health drug companies discussing prevention and treatment of pneumonia was a strong one. Mebbes I could find a wonder cure for the 'mother in law'? Although self prescribing is not recommended and to date it never seems to have worked in Shep's favour. I decided a trip to the hospital was probably more appropriate. The patient is improving, although her hale and hearty appetite seems to have eluded her for the time being.

My mind has been racing, we live in a cold and damp house, was that the cause of her illness? My cold refuses to shift for all I've had it for a month now, just snotters and phlegm, nothing serious - but did I cough and snotter over her? Should we have realised she was probably "off the stott", had it been one of the dogs or a sheep hanging it's lugs I would have most likely noticed, probably with people we expect them to say something. But then did she not say something? I recall being told she was very hot in bed one night and replied "Aye, I opened the window, it was very mild last night" Then there was the night she couldn't keep her eyes open "I'm just tired" she said, we told her she'd over done the hoovering and should have more sense at her age..........

Animals are so much easier to understand but probably harder to treat due to the fact they can't tell you their symptoms. Mother in law is improving, responding to treatment, she is in the best place possible. Farmers have the worry of pneumonia running through their cattle but hopefully their farming practices will enable them to keep the risk to a minimum. It often seems that no matter what the weather conditions there is always some reason for concern regarding health of livestock.

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