This week our first batch of Scots Dumpy chickens were ready to start exploring outside. We took them onto a grassy patch and let them wander around. They didn’t stray very far from us but were instantly into pecking and scratching around, eating the grass and insects which passed their way. It was amazing to see the innate behaviour of scratching the ground to uncover insects, something they’ve never seen another chicken do before but naturally want to do. We'll be taking them out gradually more and more over the next few weeks to get them ready to move into their coop. At the moment they tend to get a bit chilly after a while, and they'll puff up their feathers to try and warm up - signalling it's time for us to move them back inside.
Monday I was called to Howar for some sheep getting onto June's fields from the shore. Luckily the hole was obvious and filled in in no time. It was a lovely sunny and warm day, and we had brought the lambs with us to the beach. Helga, with her daughters Isabella and Lottie, popped down to the beach with their lambs, Norbert and Fang were soon running around with them. After working up a sweat while building, Olly and I went into the sea to cool off, and cool off we did! Unbelievably our lambs darted down the beach, into the sea with us, swimming around with apparent ease. Norbert had a little trouble trying to get out onto one of the rocks (their coats soaked up a lot of water!), but they seemed happy to cool off too.
With the nicer weather now underway Olly has made a solar dehydrator to dehydrate the rhubarb pulp in order to make rhubarb leather and mint leaves for mint tea. He saved up coke, beer and cider cans to use as a basic solar panel. As air moves up through the cans it is warmed, and travels further upwards into the dehydrator. The thermometer recorded the temperature inside the dehydrator as over 40C - success!
Bumblebees and butterflies have been a welcome sight this month. We are lucky enough to have some beautiful orchids sprouting on our lawn! Our lovely fuschia bush is also in flower and I've been excited to discover that fuschias produce edible berries. We had no idea what this dry old shrub was when we were tackling the garden in Spring and I'm glad Olly convinced me to keep it.
We have been training Norbert and Fang (North Ronaldsay lambs) using raisins and positive reinforcement. They've taken to it remarkably well, Fang especially is a bit of a raisin addict! We've taught them to come to call and to jump in the car, which is handy for beach trips and calling them back when they escape! They are quickly proving wrong the common misconception that North Ronaldsay are unfriendly and hard to round up.
This weekend Isabella has completed her 13 mile walk around the island, raising money for the Marine Conservation Society. After learning about the sad effects of plastic and other pollution on wildlife in our seas through an 'Under the Water' topic at school, Isabella started doing little beach clean ups and was really shocked to see how much plastic there is just on the shore on North Ronaldsay. Along with her parents and little sister Lottie, Isabella walked around the island on Saturday, joined by other islanders along the way, completing the final stretch with her 84 year old grandfather. It was a mostly misty summmer solstice, but the sun did make an appearence when we caught up with them on Linklet Bay. An amazing feat for a young ocean hero! Sponsor Isabella here.