Thursday, 8 March 2012

Animal Farm Life

The horses on the farm

At this time of year we spend more time with the animals, it is a time to restock or rethink the well being of the farm. Meadows are grazed in a way that in the spring new life will come to the hillside bringing with it the flourish of wild flowers. The methodical way the animals are moved from plot to plot is to allow some of the land to rest and recuperate. The reason behind the mixed grazing, horses, sheep and hens is to benefit the animals and land reducing parasites. This mixed grazing means we have to give fewer medicines to the animals and is friendlier to the wild life. There still has to be some hard labour strimming the nettles and brambles that are left behind, but the animals do their share of strimming.

Xalda mother and lamb

Our flock of Xalda sheep now has about 35 mothers, these are used for keeping the grass down, lamb for the restaurant and wool for Samantha’s felt projects. The Xaldas are a very hardy breed of sheep, rarely giving any problems, except if you need to capture one, when they can run and jump well. This is how they survived in the mountains from predators, such as wolves.

Our flock of xalda sheep with the different colour fleeces

They are different shades of brown and white, which gives nice tones of wool for felting. Many years ago we stopped naming the sheep for obvious reasons, though we do still have one named sheep; Lucky, who fortunately escaped from the fox some years ago.

Max the sheep dog who was with us for 10 years

Sadly we lost Max the sheep dog last year, a very fine well natured Mastin. His replacement is Shiva who is now ten months old, she is slowly bonding to the sheep but as with most young animals is full of life. She is quite big for a female mastin, and very energetic and playful, and slowly doing her job of protecting the sheep.

Shiva the new young female sheep dog

Viboli one of our Asturcon ponies

The ponies we have are Asturcones, the Asturian breed of wild pony, and they are still a little wild. They are called Viboli and Tolivia, time passes but I think they must be about 10 years old. They finish the tough grass the sheep don’t manage to eat, we normally send them to graze after the sheep, and they really can keep the grass down.

The Asturcon ponies with their heavy hoofs

At this time of year they are supplemented with grain. Their heavy hoofs can also help with the battle against mole-rats, apparently it disturbs the underground creatures, and they move on, to another part of the farm……

The hens going round together

The hens which are my delight are wonderful to watch, anyone who likes eggs I think must really appreciate them when you see these birds, busy all day feeding but never getting fat. They are very social able creatures as I think any guest would say, whether it is the company or the thought they might get food that brings them forth I cannot say.

The Asturian breed of chicken

I have different breeds of hens, there are only three Asturian ones which are white and black, the reds which are more common are actually the friendliest and the bantam is the oldest. As with all birds they have an enemy, the hungry fox, just when I am thinking they are safe he strikes again.

The black chickens

Wednesday the goat has now been with us sixteen years, we brought her in the animal market in Cangas when we first arrived here. She is alone in her pen because she doesn’t want company, we did try with some sheep, and we had to grab them quick before she rammed them with her nasty horns. She is like a watchdog; she watches the farm from her privileged plot and calls out if something is amiss. I must admit she is affectionate to me, but I wouldn’t take many people in the pen. It is strange to think Wednesday has seen this project from the beginning and has out lived all the animals that have come and gone during the years.

Wednesday the goat

Cheers to Wednesday

Entrance written by Joe


Anne Wilson said...

Do you use the stinging nettles as liquid feed? it's great stuff and protects potatoes against blight.Do you really have mole rats? I thought they were just East African, are they not just moles? Very interesting critters if you do have them.

Ian and Luis said...

@Anne - they are land voles to be precise not mole rats as they are sometimes known here.

@Jo - great post Jo and lovely photos. I so want hens.

Nigel and Joann Burch said...

HI Anne
We dont use stinging nettels as a liquid feed but do use them when ever we can in our compost. I didnt know of the use of stinging nettles as a way of protecting against blight I will have to give it a try this year.
As Ian said I used the Spanish translation for the animlas which are actually common voles and not mole rats.

Anne Wilson said...

Stinging nettles are also good against aphids, we also found that making a strong spray for the potatoes protected against the Colorado beetle, it doesn't kill the adults but appeared to stop the grubs from feeding and growing, we used this method for the four years that we were in Galicia. Against blight we discovered when we first lived in Ireland, we will use it again on our Pink Fir Apples, shouldn't need it on the Jersey Royals as we should crop those before the blight attacks. Main crop last year and this are Sarpo Mira, a blight resistant spud, also slugs don't attack this variety.


Hotel Posada del Valle is a small hotel in Asturias Northern Spain surrounded by its own organic farm and where we are passionate about organic farming, food, and sustainable livelihoods. In this Blog those of us who live and work at Hotel Posada del Valle open a door to share with all of you who are interested in what we are doing.