Saturday, March 31, 2012

Time to spill the beans.

With the last of the wool off to Stanley and the last of the animals off to the abattoir next week this season is as good as over.  Daylight isn't coming in until 7am and although we are still having mild weather it is getting colder.  Its time to reflect on the season which Christopher and I both agree is probably the hardest season in 20 odd years that we have both done.  It should have been the easiest one ever as we had an employee for the first time ever.  Plans were made before the season started.  Shaun wanted himself and Christopher to shear all the sheep instead of getting contractors in.  Mainly because this allowed him to boost his own wage by coming off wage and going onto contractors rates.  This still saved us money as obviously Christopher was to shear for the love of it and we would not have to pay overheads to Shaun.  It all looked good.  Tanya was to be the rousie and I would roll, class and store the wool.  What could go wrong.  Well Shaun and Tanya also had another plan that we didn't know about.  They had decided to start a family.  November saw us shearing the hogs on George Island which are the only sheep we shear before Christmas.  Christmas eve we were told the very exciting news that we were going to be grandparents.  That's were the rest of the plan went completely out the window.  Over the Christmas break we had the fire on George that took several weeks to get under control and which saw Christopher and Shaun absolutely worn out from firefighting.  With Tanya only been 9 weeks pregnant at that time this prevented her from wool carrying as both Tanya and Shaun were desperate that she should get to the relatively safe 12 weeks when the chances of a miscarriage become less likely.  So that is how we ended up with me being rousie, rolling the wool, classing the wool and stowing it.  Over the weeks one of the most popular songs on the radio seemed to be "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger".  There were points when I thought it would kill me but we made it.  Luckily for the last shearing we were able to get in a shearer and a rousie so that made life easier.  Today Tanya is 5 months pregnant and we are very excited to be expecting our first grandchild on about the 18th August and it is going to be a little girl.  Tanya is keeping well the house in Stanley is starting to fill up with baby things and they are both very excited as are we.
The George Island fire taken out of the window of the Islander aircraft on New Years Eve.

The father to be shearing one of our largest rams on Barren Island (January 2013)

The mum to be practising with Connor Joe her cousins baby.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Who broke the fence?

This week has seen us still at Speedwell.  Christopher started the week with the straggle gather of Twin Ponds.  Must have been a good gather the first time as there were only 4 sheep in there.  He then gathered Top Twin Ponds and brought all the sheep into the settlement.  This camp has had the Twin Ponds ewes in to give their own camp Twin Ponds a months rest.  These sheep were brought into the settlement.
Tuesday Christopher left at 9:30 am to gather the South End.  I left at 10:30 in the rover with the dogs.  The South End now has this years lamb drop in it and the shearling ewes.  They will now all over winter in this camp.  We had to bring them in again as we still have a small amount of lambs to go to the abattoir.  The lambs were contrary and although they didn't really cause any problems you had to be on their case.  They were not keen to march and stopped at every opportunity. They pretended that they had never seen a gate and stood in the gateway rather then going through it.  We eventually arrived back at the settlement at 2pm.  A slow gather and drive.  I was really pleased when they headed straight into the pen.  The front end then did a quick swirl and before we knew it they were all heading back out the gate.  Not really a problem just annoying.  Christopher was getting pretty pissed with them.  This is were sometimes you should practise what you preach.  Christopher does not complain about Shaun very much at all but all season he has growled at Shaun and to me about Shaun forcing the sheep at the gates.  More then once I have heard "he pushes them to hard at the gate, he's going to have the fence down" and the trouble is he's never seen what happens when you force them at the gate".  Well Shaun still hasn't seen what happens when you force them at the gate but we now have three broken posts were Christopher forced 1,400 sheep into the pens.   At the end of the day its frustrating for everyone because you then have to make temporary repairs before you can start drafting.  Oh well we shouldn't hear too much about forcing sheep for a while.
Wednesday saw us drafting all day.  Christopher also went out and did a straggle gather of the South End.  He assured me it had been a good gather, not as good as he thought as he arrived back at the settlement with another 80.  Oops.  So that should be the last of the gathering and drafting for this season.  The flocks are sorted the fences are repaired so everything should stay where it is put.
The last of the sheep to go to the abattoir are now in at the settlement and we are going to take them down to George on our own boat to go on the Concordia Bay from there.  This week was only the second time that the pens have been really wet and I have needed boots.  Well we all know what happened to my lovely Fat Boy Bombers.  What was I drafting in, a pair of size 8 rigger boots, not so comfy when you only take a four.
In the house I have been painting the back porch. The ceiling and walls have both had two coats of paint each and tomorrow I will get the first coat on the skirting.  So that's our week. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A look at the last few days.

22nd March and we are still in Stanley.  I have been working on the farm accounts and this afternoon we went and bought our groceries for Speedwell.  I am unorganised as usual with a partial shopping list for Speedwell but no list for George at all.  It no longer bothers me if I run out of anything unless it is salt which I just can't live without.
Also got offered a job today.  I had decided that I was not going to come to Stanley and work for the winter this year but I do like the kerching of pennies going into my  bank account.  The job is only for 3 months from the beginning of May until the end of July.  This is very tempting because we will have finished all the sheep work on the islands but it would still give me time to do some decorating in the George and Speedwell houses before I came in.  I would also have August/September  to work on the houses before the sheep work starts in earnest next season.  Tempted, very tempted.  The job this year would be with FIC the same company that I have worked for in the winter for the last 4 years or so.  My job this winter would include putting newly received stock onto the computer, opening new stock, some stock taking and I guess general office duties.  At the moment I am waiting to hear back about the wage and I will then make a decision on whether to take the job or not.
23rd March and still in Stanley.  Still not doing anything in particular.  Christopher has been a bit busier.  A brake pipe went on my Mitsubishi so he changed that this morning so that I could take my mother out this afternoon.  He also changed the headlights on the Strada.  The reflectors  were all rusty and they were just not putting enough light out.  The Strada is not really used in Stanley but with the days now getting shorter we are either leaving Stanley in the dark or arriving in Stanley in the dark so something had to be done about them.  All the groceries are now packed up and the rucksacks are ready so we will be out of here early tomorrow.
Left Stanley at 7am and arrived on Speedwell at midday.  A crappy sort of day no wind but horribly drizzly and damp.  We both took the rest of the day off.
Gentoo Penguins with chicks and King Cormorants with chicks

The sea crate.

Christopher demonstrating the swinging fence in the sea crate.
Today Christopher has spent the day pressing.  All the fleece wool is about finished but there are still bellies, neck, stain and pieces to be pressed up.  We are running into a bit of a problem at the moment as the Concordia Bay is due up here to clear all the wool from Speedwell, George and Barren on the 3rd April.  This is proving a bit of a headache because the squid season has been exceptional and Shaun has now been stevedoring for over three weeks and there is no sign of him coming back out yet.  We can work George and Barren on the same day but we cannot beat the Concordia Bay up here to work here as well.  I can't stay here and roll the bales out as they are all 200 kilos plus. There is just far too many for me to roll from the bale shed and down onto the jetty.  Not only do we have to sort this problem out but Concordia Bay then comes back on the 7th to clear all the rest of the animals for this season to the abattoir from both Speedwell and George Island.  What a headache.  We are loath to ask Shaun to come out because he makes very good money when he is stevedoring.  This afternoon we went down to the sea crate between the Sand Grass and Twin Ponds to check if the fancy new swinging fence was still standing.  It must be about a month since we put it in and we have had some really rough weather.  It is still there and looking good at the moment.
Finally for today.  Prince William  has been and gone.  It was great having the prince in the Falklands.  Although he didn't do any official appearances a lot of people did get to meet him. He visited the shops and even had an evening out in the pubs in Stanley. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Stuck in Stanley

Well we have now been in Stanley for 8 days.  We came across to go to the ram sale at Saladero.  Having made the decision to change our flock back to Polwarth because we can't get the genetics we need to continue with the Samm and Dohne we went to the sale with the intention of purchasing 10 shearling rams.  Christopher had trawled through the catalogue of 90 plus potential animals and selected his top 10 specimens.  The animals were selected on what we consider to be the most desirable traits that we wish to see in our animals.  The Samms that we have been using have done a fantastic job of putting body size across our animals on Speedwell but have disappointed us by decreasing in wool weight significantly.  We were expecting a drop but it has been bigger then expected.   They also have a fairly low fat cover and we were unable to source any genetics with more then 3mm of fat.  It appears that this is not enough for our climate.  Anyway getting back to the desirable traits.  The top 10 were selected first for body weight. 50 kilos plus as a 2 year old.  This was closely followed by clean wool weight.  All the top 10 clipped 3 kilos plus of clean wool. The final significant selection criteria was micron. The range for micron was between 18.0 and 22.0.  Finally on the sale day all the animals were assessed visually.  My job at the sale was to bid for these animals.  The bidding system is a helmsmen system.  For those who do not know this system I will explain it.  All 90 plus animals are put up on a board simultaneously.  All the shearling rams had a reserve price of £65.00.  The first half hour  is  a very intense period as every one bids on all the animals on the board at the same time.  Each bidder has a number and you write down your bid which is then passed to the board.  Your bid is then wrote on the board with your bidder number so that everyone can see.  I found it really difficult keeping a track on our top 10 as I had to keep trawling through the board to see if I had been outbid. Over the first half hour the board changed constantly on all 10 animals.  Up until the last 5 minutes of the sale I managed to keep hold of all 10 animals.  Then  the manager of Goose Green farm said that I had all his top four animals and that he was going to keep bidding until he got one.  The one he had decided that he was going to keep bidding on until he got it was our number 10.  I decided to let him have it.  The sale concludes when no more bids are put on any of the animals for 2 minutes.  All in all a pleasing result which saw us leaving the sale with 9 out of the 10 chosen rams and £1,100  poorer.
The last week has seen day after day of wind.  This has not been the only reason for us being stuck in Stanley.  Christopher hurt his back the day we came over.  Christopher and bad backs is nothing unusual but this was unusual because he was in extreme pain.  I predicted this episode when I saw him lift the dinghy trailer up to hook it onto the Strada.  The Strada was slightly too far back and instead of getting me to get in the vehicle and move it forward slightly he was not only holding up the boat trailer which is no flimsy lightweight job but also pushing the Strada forward with the rest of his body to get the eye of the trailer onto the hook of the Strada. Stupid!!!!  This has meant that he has just not been fit enough to take us home.  The biggest obstacle being that Theo has heavy duty moorings at both George Is. and Speedwell Is. as they have to hold her in the foulest of weather.  The riding chain is so heavy that I am unable to pull it up.  Christopher was sure he would be able to pull them up but I was certain that it would just aggravate his back even further.  So here we are still in Stanley. Christopher's back is 90% better but there does not look like there is going to be a weather window to get back onto Speedwell until Saturday.  Today we were supposed to be getting the last of our animals for this season of both Speedwell and George on to  Concordia  Bay for the abattoir but this has had to be cancelled.  These animals cannot be moved now until the 7th April which is a bit of a pain but just couldn't be avoided.
Finally for today.  I came across a new blog written by a lady currently living in the Falklands.  An interesting blog well worth a read.  It is interesting to see how we are perceived.  Also interesting to see how we are all clumped together as being adverse to contractors.  I for one realise that there are positions where we need to have contractors. I can't see that ever changing.  We are never going to produce enough doctors, teachers etc.  In time I hope to see my daughter filling a position in her field which is currently predominantly staffed with contract officers.  Not because she is a Falkland Islander and has priority over jobs (or because I don't like contractors) but because she is qualified to do the job.  Tiphanie left the islands at 16 to spend 2 years at college, followed by 3 years at university.  She then returned home for a year to gain experience working in her field as a marine biologist. On completion of  her year she returned to university to complete a  master degree.  Tiphanie has not had to be encouraged to come home.  She made her career decision at the age of 16 in a field where she knew there was a lack of locally qualified individuals.  It is not true to say just because you are a Falkland Islander you get first dibs at all the jobs.  You have to have the qualifications required to fulfill the criteria of the job and if we have individuals with the qualifications and experience required for a specific job then yes I think we should be employing them.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Eliza Providence Durie

Was Eliza Providence Durie who was born on Speedwell Island after being ship wrecked on the island from the ship the Isabella in February 1812 the first baby to be born in the Falklands?

Friday, March 9, 2012

A super fast turn around

Back on Speedwell.  Started drafting on George Island at 7:30 am and had the job done and dusted by 2 pm.  The sheep were rather manic.  The first draft was a 3 way draft. Wether lambs, cast and odds to the left.  Flock ewes under the age of 7 straight ahead and ewe lambs to the right.   At the end of the first draft we counted the ewe lambs and turned them out.  For the second draft we brought the ewes under the age of 7 back around and did a two way draft taking shearling ewes of to the right, these are the replacement ewes going into the breeding flock to replace this years cast, the 7 year olds.  This was to get a count of the remaining flock ewes and to also get a count of the shearling ewes to make sure we have enough ewes under the age of 7 to make up the breeding flock of  1,150.  Very pleased that we do have enough so we will not have to run any aged ewes on George Island.  The flock ewes and the shearlings were then turned back out to their camp.  The third draft was a three way draft.  Wether lambs for the abattoir to the right, cast ewes for the abattoir straight ahead and cast ewes to make up the Barren flock and odds to the left. Then the wether lambs were counted out.  The fourth draft was a two way draft to take of the cast for the Barren flock which just left us with cast ewes too poor for the abattoir, about 12, wether lambs not fat enough for the abattoir, about 8.  If there were any amount of wether lambs not fit for the abattoir we would normally take them up to Speedwell to over winter but such a small amount will be left on George.  The 12 cast ewes not fit for the abattoir will be used up over the winter as dogs meat.  Now we have done the stock take we can book the wether lambs and cast ewes into the abattoir to go as soon as possible.
It was a good days drafting the sheep rattled through the pens.  One was so enthusiastic it came thundering up the race,took a giant leap to clear the drafting gates rather then go through them and heads collided as it caught Christopher just above his eye and knocked him clean off the gates.


I have just noticed when I glanced at my profile that it says I live in the Falkland Islands then in brackets (Island Malvinas).  I would never, ever put that.  How has it got there!!!!! It will be changed.

George Island

Christopher and I came down to George Island yesterday morning.  For the first time this season I put my padded trousers on the boat in anticipation of being cold but for so late in the summer it was a lovely day and even out on the sea it was pleasantly warm.  I spent the majority of the trip sitting outside on one of the large buoys which wedges nicely between the wheelhouse and the bulwarks making a nice comfy slightly bouncy seat.  I was hoping I might see the Sei whales as I had seen them coming down through Eagle passage when I looked out the window at Speedwell a couple of days ago but they were no where to be seen.  The lack of whales from made up for by large numbers of cormorants, albatross and giant petrels.
We are running on a bit of a tight schedule at the moment and have came down to George to do our annual animal stock take and sort the number of animals available to go to the abattoir.  We need to draft all the sheep on the island to take of  the cast ewes, these are all the ewes that have now reached 7 years old.  We also need to go through all the lambs, we will keep 300 of the very best ewe lambs as replacement for the flock.  All the remaining lambs will go to the abattoir before the end of the month, condition permitting as will the 7 year old ewes again condition permitting.  We arrived here just after 2pm had a quick snack and Christopher went straight out on his bike to do the first gather.  These sheep are already home and in the pens and he is away on his second.  I have been unable to go because the Mitsubishi has a puncture.  The schedule is a bit tight because we have the rest of this seasons animals going from Speedwell on Tuesday so we have to get back there in time to gather two camps in and brand and de-tag those animals.  Even after Tuesday the schedule still stays tight as we are going to the ram sale at Saladero on Friday. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

It's been a year!!!!

Its just over a year since I started my blog.  I'm not sure why I actually started it, I think I was bored and looking for something to do.  Why a blog, I'm not sure, I can't even keep a diary.  Several times over the year I have thought of giving it up.  Then someone would leave a comment or I would be in Stanley and I would meet someone who would say its time you updated your blog.  So here I am a year later  with 25 followers, yes 25, and 81 followers through Twitter.  In a way it has become a useful tool for me and I guess in some respects it has become the diary that in 24 years I never managed to keep.  Can I keep it going another year we will see.
Its also a year since we employed Shaun.  Looking back I don't think we ever made a conscious decision to employ Shaun.  It was more the other way around, Shaun decided that he was coming home to work.  I was unsure if we could truly afford to employ him.  A year later the results are out and yes we can afford to employ him.  It has been a great decision, he is hard working, conscientious and reliable.  With the outbreak of the fire again on George Island he has found himself in the position of having to gather and bring sheep in from the large camps on Speedwell by himself .  Him and Bex with the aid of Christopher's most experienced dog Elle have risen to the challenge.  Sometimes it has taken two attempts to complete the challenge but he always gets there in the end.  Him and Tanya are now in Stanley for a couple of weeks because it is squidding season.  It was agreed when we employed him that he would still be able to go squidding.  This takes him away for about a month in March and then about a month in August.  The March one is a bit of a pain as we are still busy but it is good money and allows him to boost his income considerably.
Last but not least Tiphanie is back in Stanley.  She went out observing on a vessel in the fishing fleet  for what she thought was a two week stint and eventually got back into Stanley seven weeks later.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Treasure + gardens

Yesterday Christopher and I went for a spin down to New Town Providence looking for treasure of the Isabella.  Her cargo included wine, seal skins and mother of pearl.  We had never looked for the mother of pearl before but Shaun and Tanya had been down to the site the week before and found some which prompted us to go and look.  It was a sunny  day and within minutes of stepping onto the stony beach I saw something glistening in the sun.  My first piece of mother of pearl.  Within half and hour we had probably found about 20 pieces between us.  Not bad since the ship was wrecked 200 years ago this year.  I also found another two pieces of blue patterned pottery.

Mother of Pearl
More of the blue patterned pottery
In the garden the potatoes are starting to die off ready for digging.  It has been very frustrating with the Robins digging down and taking so many of the potatoes that some roots are literally empty when you dig them up.  Christopher came to the decision that although they had not died off it would be better to dig them early then keep on losing them to the birds.  It appears that although this has stopped the Robins having them the skins are still too delicate and in places where it has rubbed off the potatoes are going soft.  It seems to be a non win situation.  On a more positive side the potatoes that are still in the garden are a good size and are yielding fairly well.  Any suggestions on deterring the Robins would be greatly appreciated.  The situation would not be so bad if they only ate the ones that are showing on the surface but they are literally digging right down to the roots.

One of the potato plots
White turnips, carrots, parsnip, swede, beetroot, onions and  lettuce.
The remains of a Robins feast.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Falkland Islander in Shearing world championship Semi final!!!!

So exciting the Falkland Islands have a shearer in the semi final of the World Championships Shearing competition in Masterton, New Zealand.  We have two shearers representing us and two wool handlers.  In the shearing competition we have Lee Molkenbur and Evan Jones.  The boys have so far came fifth in the team shear and we are eagerly waiting for Evan to compete in the semi final of the individual shearing.  The girls Vikki Lee and Sammi Hirtle also did an awesome job in the team event for wool handling and came third (IN THE WORLD).  How cool is that.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Have you ever seen a human catapault?

Following on from my story of the bogging last week I thought I should tell you about another incident that happened on the same day.
We were down on the beach at the crates.  I was sitting on a gabion filled with rock pretty much just watching and getting bits and pieces from the vehicles that Christopher needed for the job.  Christopher was standing on top of a rock filled gabion from a previous attempt at sheep proofing the beach.  He had decided to drive a galvanised steel standard down through the original gabion and then down into the beach.  The gabion had flattened out considerably and he was about 2 feet above the beach.  Using a sledgehammer he drove the standard down through until it was securely driven down into the rocky beach.  He gave the standard a tug and said to me does it seem firm enough?  It was firm and barely moved.  Obviously my assurances were not enough and he went around the other side of the gabion and gave the standard an almighty jerk just to check.  Next thing he is flying through the air, standard clasped between both hands.  It looked like he had been fired off the top of the gabion.  It looked hilarious, there was no sound, his legs didn't move and his hands were still firmly clasping the standard.  Next thing he is flat on his back on the rocky beach.   In some respects it was his  lucky day as the beach had a really thick layering of kelp to break his fall.  The standard had snapped like a carrot.  Uncontrollable laughter.