It's midsummer and tiny Luna, the smallest lamb in a set of triplets, is finally being weaned (and protesting bitterly at the reduction in her beloved bottle). At least we now have her safely contained in the chicken paddock where she lives, surrounded by feathered friends.
Dry weather meant the wooden door frame shifted and the latch wouldn't close, so we shoved a variety of objects – wheelbarrows, wooden planks, old gates – against the door to keep her in. Although a small lamb, she discovered that with brute force she could batter her way through all our defences to freedom, come into the house and demand food.
And once the battering lamb cleared a path, most of the chickens followed her out to run madly around the garden and resist recapture. Bruce made a wooden bar to hold the gate in place which has thwarted Luna's plans for world dominance and now she just bleats furiously and helplessly whenever she hears people.
Our son Jack bought five new chicks last month to add to his flock. They are too little to go with our other hens yet as they'd be beaten to a pulp (the pecking order of chickens is literally that, and these young ones would be at the bottom) so we keep them in a small separate enclosure until they grow big enough to withstand the rigours of mixing with the older girls and rooster.
They've also discovered they can escape their enclosure at will. I think they may be taking their chances with the larger flock in the paddock soon because we're all getting tired of chasing chickens around, and the dogs are convinced the little flappy creatures are fair game. And there are so many dogs.
We were almost down one dog at Christmas because farm dog Bex climbed up to retrieve a container of rat poison off a shelf, removed the lid and ate some. Bruce found rat poison scattered across the shed floor and suspected either Bex or Gingy, the little bantam rooster.
Bex was an especially likely culprit, given her previous brushes with poison (she has a taste for it, having eaten both slug bait and rat poison in her time). As it was Christmas Eve all the local vets were off to start enjoying festivities – except those on call.
What fun to be a vet and spend part of your Christmas Eve making a dog vomit. It took a couple of doses to get results, but the green contents of her stomach confirmed she was indeed the offender. She seemed fine afterwards, but is treating Bruce with disdain, apparently blaming him for the indignity she suffered at the vet's hands.
Even now, a month later, she refuses to go anywhere with him. We tolerate her bitterness, because we still have her and can keep enjoying her idiosyncrasies, like the way she howls whenever she hears an ambulance siren. Other sirens and horns spark her attention and make her ears prick up, but nothing sets her off like an ambulance. She can't help herself, once she hears that siren wail, she howls right along with it, looking slightly embarrassed the whole time.
Another dog we thought we might lose recently is Bex's mum, Jess. She's 14, and when we noticed a lump growing on her stomach we thought hmmm, this could be the end of the line for the old girl.
Bruce carted her off to the vet for an operation and said goodbye, thinking this might be the last time he saw her. She stayed overnight at the vet's and when he called in the next day, not sure if he was picking up a live dog or a body for disposal, the nurses greeted him cheerily.
It turned out that it was a benign growth and despite a little stiffness (and deafness) she was in fine condition for a dog of her age and will carry on wandering about the place thinking she's being useful for some time yet.
Our younger son is fascinated with the huge growth which came home in a jar. He keeps it in the garage fridge and brings it out to wave in visitor's faces. He's yet to find anyone equally intrigued. Just a warning to anyone thinking of calling in.