The Second Lamb.

img_1378-2Our second lamb was born this afternoon. All of our previous lambs were born in the early hours of the morning but these two decided to come in the evening and afternoon! Which is rather nice for us.This one is a little male, so now we have two males, which is fine. And he is going to have the same wool as his mother, which is even better! img_1439-2This sheep is my favourite as she is very affectionate for an Egyptian sheep. Even as a lamb she was different and will often come up and say hello and want her neck scratched. None of the others do that. img_1451Her male lamb is bigger and stronger than the little white female, born yesterday evening, but she is now up and running all over the place. img_1467

She is a friendly little thing and quite lively now that she has found her feet and the milk! Needless to say, they are born and live amidst plastic bags and empty crisp packets; running around underneath the washing lines. Thank God they are not goats!img_1408

But I’m glad that they were both born before we left for Sahl Hasheesh at the end of the month, as now the flock is established and they can manage on their own. So long as they don’t sell any when I’m gone, which is what happened to the last few rams we had, then they should be fine!

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New Addition to the Flock.

Last night Mother shouted up at the window for Omar, who had gone out 20 minutes earlier to visit a friend in hospital, who had had a motorcycle accident. Omar never usually goes out at night but we needed chicken feed too, so he decided to kill two birds with one stone (what a horrible saying!).

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Photo taken in the dark on a mobile phone so not the best!

Anyway, she shouted up for him and I told her that he was ‘outside’, and she shouted something about the ewe! Then she scuttled off into the dark. Chris, who is here on holiday for two weeks, and I, ran downstairs thinking that the ewe was in labour.

When we got downstairs Mother appeared from the sheep’s pen with a small white lamb in her hands. And I mean small…and scrawny! She must only just have been born as she was still trying to make it to her feet, with her mother’s head-nudging help.

Needless to say, everyone wanted to see her, so Mother and Baby were surrounded by an audience of 11 children and associated parents! All making a lot of noise and deciding on the sex of the lamb! PLUS, we now had to celebrate the birth so that meant we had to buy something for everybody! Poor Chris got nabbed for that one, so off Omar went to the shop for a box of crisps!

img_20161006_202610Eventually, the poor ewe was put in the chicken house, to allow the lamb to find the milk, away from the other sheep, one of which is due any day too; my favourite sheep with the lovely wool! So now we have a flock of 7 females and  1 male and we have shown the value of having females, rather that raising two males and then selling them for very little profit! We’ will hang on to the male for a couple of years and hopefully, next year will double the flock.

It has taken 5 years to get to this point, but now it is on the way! Worth all the struggle and pain, I can tell you! Oh, and this little one is another female, and we have called her Sika. Mainly because she reminded me of a baby Sika deer! Hopefully, my favourite ewe’s lamb will be female too! Her last lamb is the only ram we have and he has the wool of his mother, so we might have a wool flock yet!

 

Qurna Homestead Update. April 2015.

Its been quite a while since I posted here and quite a lot has happened, even though it still feels as though nothing has! Much of the change has been on subtle levels, creating change within the house, so that for people looking in from the outside, it still looks the same. But every little shift here is important. People are so stuck in their old ways of doing things that it takes much healing to bring any change at all.

DSCN9923We are still looking after our animals, a bull, a cow, a pregnant ewe, a ewe and lamb, lots of ducks, turkeys, geese and chickens. Some of the chickens we now have were incubated by Ruby Tuesday on the East Bank, which was a godsend as all of our other chickens were wiped out by a particularly nasty cholera outbreak. Normally we lose a lot but never all of them. We were lucky that we managed to save the young Muscovy ducks and geese. Our Pekin ducks seem to be impervious to it! Even our turkeys managed to avoid it, once we used the right anti-biotics. Pretty miraculous really, as nearly everyone around us lost everything. We try to keep the place disinfected, but it is so difficult when all of the birds and animals share the same space.

It has been a very trying few months. Last November I finally thought we could escape Luxor. A British woman, converted to Islam, advertised for a job on her farm in Alexandria. We lasted a month before returning to Luxor. Lovely place, but terrible working environment, and completely lacking in integrity. But I did do much personal healing while we were there and so it was  not wasted. All we did waste was a lot of time, energy and money! It was a very emotionally challenging month. DSCN9659

When we returned, we found that our animals, who were supposed to be looked after by Omar’s brothers, were as thin as rakes. Even the bull looked more like a calf again. MIL had taken over the hen house, even though I had given the care of the birds to one of the other women, and it was in a state. We quickly put it back into shape and fed the poor birds. None of them were laying because nobody fed them properly. I bought a large bag of feed and within two weeks they were all laying.

Omar sold two of our sheep and bought a new ewe with her twin lambs. Within a month they both had died. We had no idea why, until the second one was dying. They were riddled with fleas, which were just sucking the life out of them. We tried to save the second one but it succumbed. We had to dip all of the remaining sheep and spray the pen. Then Ginger, my sheep with the lovely wool, gave birth to Paschal, on Easter Sunday. He is the spitting image of his mum, and the first ‘boy’ that we’ve had since we got the sheep.

2015-04-05 14.53.56But then we noticed that he was scratching. More de-flea-ing, but we had to be so careful as he was less than a week old. We got rid of those and three days later he had even more. So all of the animals had to come out, while we turned the place out and burned everything. Then we discovered the bull going nuts, scratching! Lice! Once again we had to race to the vet to get an injection. Omar had sold the cow, bought a bull, changed his mind and bought another cow instead. She brought lice with her; just as the two lambs had brought the fleas! It was getting a little crazy! All of the chickens had already died, plus one of my young geese; then the Muscovy ducks were ill and one of those died. Next it was the turkey’s turn. Having treated them for Cholera they developed a Vit. B deficiency! It was one thing after another! Then we discovered, that although the other young goose had managed to survive the cholera, she was blind! So she has to be taken more care of and we have to make sure that she gets enough food and water.

However, in the midst of all this chaos, our Muscovy hen hatched lots of eggs, so we ended up with more Muscovy and, Pekin  ducklings, plus 5 chicks. 2015-03-03 12.48.45They are all huge now and our first new chick from the latest hatching is now in the brooder. The Muscovy hen started laying again, but after two days we had to stop her being with the drake, as he tore her back to shreds. We put one hen’s egg underneath her, not thinking anything would come of it, but it hatched two days ago. In a few days hopefully we will get a few more ducklings to keep it company. It spends a lot of time sitting (put an ‘h’ in there and it would be more appropriate”) on my lap for now!!!

We have brought in the wheat harvest, which Omar’s brother planted, but harvested too early, and the onions have now been pulled. Omar is definitely the best one for the job. His wheat and onions were brilliant compared to this year. But his older brother thought he could do better; he has now changed his mind! But Omar has influenced the way that they think. They planted wheat in the sugarcane field too, so now even with the Gov., wheat shortages, we have enough wheat for the year.

We have stopped everyone from going into the garden as they kept taking all the tiny, pea-sized lemons from the tree. Everything is nabbed before it even ripens on the branches. So this year we are taking care of it and no-one has the key to the garden anymore. Everyone will get their fair share and no-one will go without. Plus, I am slowly convincing everyone that duck eggs are actually delicious! Two of them now eat them regularly! Small successes!!!

Although Omar did get bitten by a snake, while planting Okra in the dark, but that’s another story…

More Sheep!

Well its been all go again. Mother had an accident and had to have four stitches in her toe. She cut it on a sharp piece of ceramic, so she’s been out of commission for the past few days, but lapping up all the attention. I did feel sorry for her though as it is pretty painful!2013-11-11 11.12.40 (2)

On a good note Omar bought two new young ewes at the souk yesterday morning. Apart from getting the sheep there were other good developments which came out of it.  He decided that he wanted to do this on his own, without the help of his big brother, who wasn’t too pleased but had to accept Omar’s decision. That didn’t stop his brother from telling him how to do it, of course, but naturally Omar ignored everything and followed his own gut instincts, which, I have to say, turned out to be pretty good! He came home with twin, white ewes, who are nearly ready to mate, but we will give them a few more months. I don’t want to start them off too early! Omar was interested in how his brother would react and I told him how he would react, exactly the same as my younger sister reacted whenever I achieved anything without her, or showed how capable I was. I was considered to be the daughter with the reputation for being the ‘irresponsible one’. Most of my ‘bad behaviour’ was the result of sexual abuse during my early teens, but they didn’t know that. They just thought I was ‘out of control’.

So, after years of therapy, I learned how to make my life work better, with the help of my sister. But she was the product of her upbringing to2013-11-12 08.14.53 (2)o and was unable to let go of being the ‘healthier sister, with the result that she could never quite give me a compliment, or if she could she would always point out the negative aspects after first giving me the compliment. ‘Oh that’s a really nice job Ann…but…look at that. You could have done that better.’ This took away the energy of the compliment so that all I felt was ‘useless’ again; the sister who could never achieve anything. I realised, through therapy, that she was used to being the rescuer, but once I didn’t need her to play that role anymore, as I was healthy enough to do it myself, she wasn’t able to deal with that. It made her question her own health. I have to say though, that I am indebted to her for her support over the years. It just wasn’t an easy transition for her to deal with my no longer needing her so much.

As it happened, Omar’s brother did exactly what we expected, he undermined Omar’s efforts; but out of enviousness. It’s always such a shame! They could do so many good things here if they only learned to let go of control and allow someone else to do something. But at least Omar was expecting it this time and so he stood up for himself. His brother later apologised, which is a first, saying that he only does it to make Omar better at doing these things! Hmmm…I’m sure that being criticised and undermined doesn’t do anything of the sort…but…that was his excuse!

 2013-11-12 09.55.40This morning I was thinking of ways to not allow myself to be overpowered by everyone here and when Omar came back from the sweet corn field, where he has started to harvest, we decided to make a start by me being ‘more proactive’ downstairs when it comes to our animals. So we went down and started clearing all the old foodstuffs, and manure, into a large pile! Needless to say, even though Omar built a feeding trough, everyone else just throws large quantities of food on the ground. Instead of preparing the food they just heap large piles of dried sweet corn stalks onto the ground, where most of it gets wasted. It seems such a shame to put all of that energy into growing something just to waste it! The women usually dry it and burn it but in the meantime it builds up into huge piles of fly-infested waste. All of those flies then end up in our flats. Very, very annoying.

We were trying to figure out where we could put all of this, so that the women could still use it, but of course there was opposition! Another brother told us that ‘the cow likes to live in her s**t! I wondered if he would like to live chained up in his toilet, and having to eat off the same floor he is used to emptying his bowels on! Somehow I doubt it…but the cow is not a human,is she?2013-11-13 12.05.31

Thinking about the dynamics here reminds me of the difficulties you face when trying to regain your power in an unhealthy relationship. You try to try to find ways in which to make things work, and to find some semblance of power within the relationship, so that power is shared. But, in the end, you realise, that you have exhausted every avenue and that healing yourself enough to leave the relationship is your only option. Not running away, but recognising when you can do no more! This is what I feel here. It doesn’t matter what I do, or what Omar does, the power balance is always on the side of the men and Mother and no matter what you try to do, it just is not accepted. They do not like change.

But, we only have a few more months to wait before we are out on our own, so I will manage until then!  And slowly our little flock is growing so we will have some lovely animals to take with us, and by then I will know how ‘not’ to do things…which is just as valuable as knowing how to do them!

Whose Cow is this?

This morning we are up at the crack of dawn as Omar has to go to the sugarcane field for its monthly irrigation! Everyone is up, getting ready for school or work and all I can hear, as I sit upstairs in my flat having my morning coffee, is the cow lowing. No-one seems to be taking much notice, so after half an hour of listening to her I decide to go downstairs and check her out; to make sure she is not thirsty or hungry. It might also be that the sheep are out of the enclosure so she is ‘calling’ them back. Omar has the donkey with him too, which adds to her loneliness, so  I go downstairs to see what she needs, if anything.

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She had no water and her food is trampled underfoot, mixed in with her excrement and urine,a  lovely feast I’m sure! She is tethered, as always, so only has a small-ish space to move around in. They feed her here by throwing sugarcane stalks and other greens at her feet, and within half an hour it is filthy and inedible.  Not only is it an awful waste of resources it is also dirty; it hasn’t been cleaned in weeks! As a result, the flies drive her mad. These flies have a vicious bite and suck her blood. They will also suck yours if you stand there too long! Flies are a fact of life here but there are things you can do, if you can be bothered!

So, after giving the cow some grass, which someone had thrown to the sheep, 180 (2)I found a bucket of water, also for the sheep and out of her reach; and with the help of young Zeeyad, gave her some food and water. She was calling the sheep, as someone had let them out to be fed, away from her, so she was on her own.

As I stood there I noticed someone behind me, Mother-in-law. She sat down and started to collect the foodstuff left behind after the sheep. They use this for the bread oven. She explained that the cow was calling for the sheep. I stayed there, talking to the cow with  5 year old Zeeyad, and Mother stayed there too. Why was she there? She sat, and then said that she was there to collect the stuff for the bread oven. She must have read my mind! I felt uncomfortable, as though I was under surveillance, but I stayed for an few minutes, by which time she was sitting virtually beneath my feet, then I left the enclosure to check out the sheep, as they were trying to come back in; and another child, young Ahmed, had decided that he was going to beat them back! Which he did, with a stick! He is four years old!

I wondered if I washeep2s imagining Mother’s watching me with the cow, but as soon as I left,. so did she, and she came to sit down beside where the sheep were eating. I was standing watching them, feeling more and more pushed out by the second. The message was very clear: this is none of your business. The fact that the cow is ours, as are three of the sheep is irrelevant. I. as a wife, have no power here and my only use is when they need something from me, which is a lot of the time! We had the same problems with the chickens. I bought my own and she interfered endlessly and I gave them all to her and stayed in my flat! I have no right to be anywhere else it would seem,. But it is not just me that she does this to. All the other wives, apart from her favourite, are treated the same. They struggle to find any space here to take care of themselves, she makes sure they have no power. Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.

We had an interesting issue a couple of months ago. We bought two ducks from her, to add to our own drake. But when we first bought the cow I noticed that there was no drake. I looked everywhere. Omar asked his mother where it was and she claimed that there had never been a drake, only a female. I knew then that she had killed it! She denied down to the ground, that there had ever been a drake, the fact that we had photos of him with the female was also not the truth! No matter what we said she denied its existence, but the kids dobbed her in! They had been there when she was killing it and they said that it was our duck! But she ignored them. She knew it was ours!, She was killing it jealousy, because Omar had told her, the previous week, that I was the best woman in the house! She was giving me a very clear message! However, it backfired on her. Because she had been caught in the lie her other son told her that she now had to give us two of her ducks in recompense. She was not happy but could do nothing about it. But she also thought that she would not lose them as they would have to stay downstairs. There was no other place for them…or so she thought! ducks

I decided that I wanted to give them to to Nagat, Omar’s lovely older sister! So Omar brought the three ducks upstairs and we called a service taxi to go to Nagat’s farm. I wanted to teach Mother  a lesson. If you lie, cheat and steal then there are consequences! Being nice to me in front of your son, but being the opposite when he is not around, is crap!

So I will be glad to leave here and set up our own farm, and I will not feel remotely guilty when we take our animals with us!  As much as I want to be involved here I cannot be, so I spend my days crafting in my flat and staying away from her! I know when I’m not wanted…unless there is a bill to pay!

Our First Lamb…

This morning we were presented with our first lamb, a little chocolate-brown female. We were woken up at 6am by Omar’s mother Fatma, calling us from downstairs. Throwing on some clothes and without even washing our faces we raced down, camera and phone in hand. standing All of the kids were up, and Aya, Omar’s niece, was the first one to see her. She picked her up and brought her our of the enclosure, where all the animals are kept. Mum came too…naturally.

This is Dolores’s (sheep) first lamb so we did not know how she would fare, but she seems OK. She was rather nervous about having so many people around and kept making little anxious noises and checking her lamb. Before the lamb was born we had speculated which one of the rams was the father, as we have two. One of them, the white one, is ours and the other one, dark with a white tip on his tail, belongs to Amer, Omar’s brother. Well, judging by the colour, we are guessing that Amer’s sheep is indeed the father!  Damn…I was hoping for a white lamb so I could dye its wool! But with two males and one female it was touch and go as to who the father was.

Here in Upper Egyptian homes, when they have sheep, they tend to have males. They buy them at the souk for around 500-650 LE, then feed them for a few months and sell them on at a profit. Although they are not actually accounting for the price of the food they have fed them with, so the profit is very little. That to me made no sense. Buying a female was a better option. More females, less males. One male is more than enough for any female! But they didn’t see things like that. Now, of course, that we have our third sheep ‘for free’, they are beginning to recognise the sense in it! Unfortunately, as soon as it was born it was its financial worth which made it desirable, not the fact that it is an animal made of flesh and blood like us!

As much as this 2013-10-30 14.12.09 (2)has been a good lesson for all, I wish we were in our own house so that we could raise the animals as we want. Everyone gets involved here and it is impossible to get anything done without chaos and noise! All the kids are shouting, Omar’s older brother is picking it up and trying to get it to stand, and checking to see what sex it is, giving Mum no real opportunity to train it herself. As a result of all of this the lamb won’t suckle. Mother blames ‘bad eyes’ (jealousy) and burns incense to ward it off and Omar and myself try to get her to suckle and end up resorting to expressing her mother’s colustrum ourselves and bottle feeding her! She seemed to be quite weak so we put her in the sun and fed her little and often. She appears to be improving, but we will have to train her to find her mother’s teat!

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It is now late evening and she is much stronger but still struggling to find milk. She is moving in the right direction, following her mother, tottering around, her little tail shaking, but she is still confused as to where the milk actually is! Hopefully by tomorrow she will have found the way, but until then we will have to feed her beside her mother and hopefully she won’t get too cold, as the weather has dropped by about 6 degrees and it feels really cold for a little lamb that has just come out of her mother’s warm womb.

31 Oct update: This morning, after spending an entire night worrying about whether the lamb would make it through the night, we awoke to a lamb finally suckling for itself! Now her main issues are the incessent biting flies! But she knows that if she hides under her mother’s thick wool she can escape the worst of them!

Here is a video of her this morning:     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBWeaGWflQU&feature=youtu.be

Baa Baa Black Sheep.

Our friend Chris left us a few days ago to return to the UK but while he was here he bought us 3 Hens, a cockerel and a young black sheep!!!  Unfortunately we were unprepared for the poultry so we had to keep them in the bathroom for a few hours until we had sorted out their house!!! The woman who sells them by the side of the road, along with rabbits, turkeys and ducks, would have charged us more if she had known that we were buying them for the eggs not for meat! I’m glad she didn’t know until after we had paid for them!!!

Chickens in the bathroom.

The black lamb is only a few months old and we got her on impulse on our way back from the souk! The men selling her were loading up their car with animals but sold us the black one for £35! A bargain for a young female. She didn’t get to stay in the bathroom as she just went in andjoined the three rams the the rest of the family own.

Baa Baa Black Sheep

Now all we have to do is feed her which means growing more clover and maize and Omar taking regular trips to the sugar cane field to get some sugar cane.  Omar’s mother Fatma also suggested we buy ‘seeds’ for her as she has only recently left her mother and needs the nutrition. I don’t know what they are but they look like large, unhulled millet!  She seems to like them!

Fat-tailed sheep.

But, thinking about how animals are fed here it seems that there are other, more effective ways to feed both humans and livestock. Growing maize and waiting until it is mature and has cobs on the plants benefits both. Here, they grow the maize by throwing the seeds onto the roughly tilled land then irrigating it and letting it grow to around three feet high. t that point they harvest it for the animals and immediately grow it again. Here in Egypt is grows so quickly you can replant as soon as it it harvested. But we have planted some now so we can have corn on the cob!!! They don’t boil it here!!! It gets roasted on the cob when it is not yet mature. tastes good…but not half as good as boiled with butter and salt!!!