‘SHEEP MAY SAFELY GRAZE…’: PASTORAL DORSET


Alpaca Dorset

For six years we had our neighbour’s 3 alpacas in our paddock. Advantages: they mowed the grass and were decorative. Drawbacks: they caused a lot of damage by digging and from their peculiarly toxic waste; and were annoyingly passive / aggressive. So we moved them off, spent last winter filling in all the holes with a ton of topsoil and re-seeding, followed by a programme of regular harrowing, mowing and rolling to make the field ready for our son’s wedding on midsummer’s day (where we had our own reception a few years decades ago).

Wed Pad

Now what? The answer is: sheep. Peaceful, munching grazers with no obvious drawbacks. A young farmer in the village has put 7 pregnant Poll Dorset sheep in the paddock. Result: pastoral scenes, evenly cropped grass, and a damage-free field – with pre-Christmas lambs in prospect. Dorset Poll Sheep 7Dorset Poll Sheep 1Dorset Poll Sheep 8Dorset Poll Sheep 6Dorset Poll Sheep 3

The Dorset breed of sheep comes in both poll and horn varieties. Here are specimens of each kind photographed at a recent show in Dorset. The breed is hardy (as befits Hardy country), and unusually they can lamb 3 times over the course of 2 years, making them a productive option for a young farmer building up his flock. 

Dorset Poll Sheep, Stock Oak Fair Dorset Horn Sheep - Stock Oak Fair

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SPRING IN THE AIR IN DORSET THIS WEEK


The sun is shining, the birds are twitterpating (©Disney), the trout season has opened. Also, the first swallows arrived on Tuesday, followed by the martins on Wednesday. These birds are already checking out the mud nests under the eaves that remain from last year.Martins' Nest Totnell 4.14

The hedges are suddenly greening up and the grass is beginning to grow fast. The Alpacas, formerly the official lawnmowers for the paddock, have been banished to another field to give the ground a rest. That means resorting to the mechanical method for the first cut of the year.Alpaca Totnell 4.14Paddock Totnell 2014

Some creatures appear to have got Spring fever. The rabbits for a start, who are clearly ‘going at it’ for all they are worth. And the sheep over the road surprised me one evening when I opened the kitchen door (the notice on the gate is good for their self-esteem). Sheep climbing bales Totnell 14

My first fishing of the season yesterday, on the River Piddle (as in Tolpuddle) – very pretty, pretty unproductive…  Today on the River Frome, the swallows were skimming insects off the surface of the water. There were heron and egrets, and a pair of common sandpipers clearly looking for a suitable nesting site. It’s been a great Spring week.Piddle 1 Dorset 4.14 Piddle 2 Dorset 4.14 Piddle 3 Dorset 4.14

The moon and stars have been wonderful all week. There have been plenty of moon photos around, pink or otherwise, but one evening Mars was gleaming brightly too. Only one shot was steady enough to use – at maximum zoom most of the images looked like squiggles.

Full Moon Totnell 14Mars Totnell 14

DORSET SPRING


A GOOD YEAR FOR HELLEBORESHellebores Dorset

FRITILLARIES PLANTED LAST YEAR ARE DOING WELLFritillary Dorset

PEACOCK BUTTERFLIES  ARE PLENTIFUL Peacock Butterfly, Dorset

THE ALPACAS ARE ENJOYING THE SUNSHINEAlpacas in Dorset

SPRING IN DORSET: BETTER LATE THEN NEVER…


Spring arrived in mid-Dorset last week. On Tuesday evening, swallows appeared for for the first time. On Wednesday, they were joined by housemartins. That evening, the unmistakable sound of an attempted break-in at the back of the house turned out to be a male partridge landing on, and strutting round, a corrugated roof. His mate then set off a security light, to her great surprise. Last year they raised 13 chicks. On Saturday morning, I was fishing for wild and wily brown trout, when a sandpiper flew up from the water’s edge. Plenty of people have been posting lovely Spring pictures. I certainly can’t beat them, but I’ll join them with a few photos from the last few days.

Buds are burstingDorset Spring 2Dorset Spring 1The partridges are back, and other birds are out in forceDorset Spring 15Dorset Spring 19  Dorset Spring 3

The spring flowers are at their best Dorset Spring 7Dorset Spring 4Dorset Spring 10Dorset Spring 13Dorset Spring 16

Baby blackbirds are already fledgingDorset Spring 17

The rooks are pairing up, and nesting in the oaksDorset Spring 12Dorset Spring 8

The alpacas are enjoying fresh grass and the warmth of the sun (attractive they may be, and useful mowers, but they were looking the wrong way when brains were being handed out to the animal kingdom)Dorset Spring 6Dorset Spring 9

Other seasonal woolly creatures are out and about in the nearby fieldsSpring 2013 1Spring 2013 2

The river is full and running clear   Dorset Spring 5

A sure sign of spring – the first hotair balloon passes overheadSpring Balloon

A blazing sunset to end the day…    Dorset Spring 23

…and an early spring moon bright in the sky the following afternoonDorset Spring 24

ALPACAS IN DORSET – BEAUTIFUL, YET DIM & PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE


ALPACAS IN DORSET – THE 3 LAWNMOWERS… 

I realise that these creatures are not strictly – or in any sense – equines [the page where they are kept] , but South American camelids related to llamas. I don’t have a separate category for them, however. Our neighbours keep these 3 in our paddock, where they act as lawnmowers, mobile fertilisers and exotic livestock eye-candy in the Dorset countryside. They are very stupid, and wince-makingly shy – except when they are being violently aggressive…

And here is their modelling portfolio in slideshow format. Some might say the brown one has “IT”, but the white one clearly needs some expensive orthodontistry… 

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