Home Education and Theresa May

Home educationDefinitely a day that made me want to head butt the wall as the dog knocked glasses off my face (tip – don’t pick up mad, hyperactive, nutcase mongrels) and I turned around only to feel the ‘crunch’ beneath my foot. Honestly, its like something from a sitcom only this left me partially blind. Out came the glue, which seemed to fix the job, only now I have a smear of the stuff in my vision. Great.

Lack of time prevented me from getting on with the latest words I’ve plotted in my head, which made me a bit disappointed. So much for a new years resolution (two days after I started it). Fingers crossed this will just be a blip! In all fairness I did stay up till late helping one of my students, rather than getting on with much needed writing, so I have an excuse. Trouble is there are some times when I always have excuses…

Yesterday also saw us dosing the sheep, a job that went smoothly thanks to the trained nature of the sheep. It does mean Woolie is a step towards coming home (yeay!) after she’ll be PD’d (pregnancy diagnosis) later this week. For those who don’t know, Woolie is our pet sheep, given to us by my uncle as a runt who was rejected by her mother. After three…awwwwww.

Looks like Theresa May has had another black mark against her name with this cabinet shuffle cock up, failing to make changes that she said would come. Will it make a difference though? I’d like to think that by now the Joe Bloggs will understand that she is not a good leader but will they vote for Labour? I’d like to think so as Corbyn seems a much better guy to have in charge! Saying that, we have a local labour party member who is trying to infiltrate the home education groups and with this forced register coming out (honestly it sounds like something from the Hitler’s regime) coming out there is a severe lack of trust. Its almost as if she wants to gather information about the home educated.

Perhaps we’re paranoid but can you blame the home education society? People don’t understand the way they have been mistreated. I had one friend whose child suffered severe anxiety but wanted to try to go back into school for a few days. They were told by the school that this was fine and she could always leave again only for them to find letter after letter and threat after threat piled against them when the girl couldn’t cope. So much for being allowed to leave. Local Education Authority officials falsely tell parents that they have every right to enter people’s houses (this happens on numerous occasions) breaching people’s privacy. And now, with one child dying of nutrition deficiency in the home education world, everyone is put under scrutiny. Let me ask you, how many children are abused that come from state schools? How much children have died by mistreatment who go to the state schools? A hell of a lot more.

People simply fear what they don’t know. And that’s the crux of the matter; there is a lack of trust between LEAs and the Home Educated and that needs to be fixed before we can work together. Personally, I don’t see a forced register as allowing this to happen.

Self Sufficient Biology – Goatish Contemplation

OlafDue to the small nature of our premises, our two Anglo-Nubian goats (Fudge and Olaf by name) happily chew a cud made up of delicious hay. Its always lovely to see them crashed out and comfy, jaws circularly rotating as if chewing gum while they contemplate the world. The question I want to answer in this article is this: just what are those goats up to? There are a number of animals that chew the cud (sheep, cows and reindeer to name but a few) but why do they do this strange act?

The problem for the herbivore eaters is that plants are pretty tough critters, evolutionarily responding to their constant destruction by beefing up their structure. They produce a molecule known as cellulose, a tough polymer that refuses to be broken down, and incorporate it into their structure. This cellulose grinds down the teeth of those who try to consume and make sure the plant can’t be digested. This way, the animal won’t eat them as there’s little point. Job done.

Only evolution has a crafty way of combating the adaptations of others. The herbivorous diners developed large molars to grind away at leaves whilst some developed a new type of digestive system. Ruminants are animals with a special type of ‘stomach’ known as the rumen. In here, bacteria and microorganisms sit, not to infect and cause illness but to work in a symbiotic relationship with their animal friend.

This relationship is mutualistic, when both organisms gain something from it, different to parasitism as the organism that dines will be the sole one to benefit. The bacteria gain a source of food and protection from the elements, taking their share of the food that the ruminant consumes. So what does the goat, sheep or cow gain? Well, those microbes have designed enzymes to break down cellulose, biological molecules that allow such reactions to occur efficiently. The cellulose that could not be destroyed is now digested, just as if the herbivore could do it itself. However, there is one problem.

Once cellulose is broken down, it must be digested further and unfortunately this process occurs in the mouth. Having already passed this part of the digestive system, it means that the herbivore has no means of obtaining the nutrients…or does it? Cleverly, the ruminants have developed muscles that pull the food back up into the mouth! If you watch carefully while a ruminant chews, you may even notice a pause and sudden movement up the neck when the food is brought up! The animal will then grind away with its teeth, the mouth digesting the products of the broken down cellulose, in its casual, carefree way. Repeating the swallow and regurgitate process, the food will eventually pass on to the next part of the gut and finish its passage through the animal.

So next time you see livestock chewing happily, spare a thought for the animals who have to grind up their own regurgitated gut contents!

Confused Rams

Ah to see the ram going about his flock, swaggering amongst the fifty or so females that all belong to him, a pincacle of manliness. Well I guess that’s a bit far from the truth as he’s more like a docile sloth, chewing on the grass and more interested in the grub than making a dash for the nearest female. Until one comes into heat.

Still, I think his masculinity is quite important to him deep down and that’s why I can hear him screaming ‘not in front of the ladies’ as I pick him up (or try at least) and pin him down on his rump whilst the females look on .

Fair dues to our ram (or one of); he’s a quiet creature who does what he’s told (having been spoilt with cake since we had him) and he does his job well. Last of he fertilised no less than thirty females in one week. The flock was almost finished in that week alone.

Today we change his crayon (not that of the crayola kind; somehow I couldn’t picture him in nursery school drawing pictures of trees and houses. “What’s that you’ve drawn?” “It’s a human miss.”). No, these are crayon markers we attach to the chest so when he mounts the female we can see who’s going to have a lamb and who hasn’t. And that’s the reason why I’m currently holding down a very heavy sixty or seventy kilo ram.

Once we bought three rams and did such a task, attaching a crayon to ech. These were pedigree, the finest of the fine, recently bought to impregnate the flock. However, these were also three very confused rams. As they were eager to please and more than a slight bit impatient, we had decided to put them into the fields with the ewes the day after buying. We expected that they would complete the job ahead in no time and placed them in a small meadow for the night, ready to release them and let them spring fourth in the morning. Imagine the shock when dawn’s early light brought us the sight of three rams each with a mark on their rump.

Had we bought three gay rams? Did they prefer to were spandex trousers and decorate themselves with a earring in the left ear? Or perhaps they painted their hooves red and put a little eye liner on to impress the other rams…

Thankfully they had just been, enthusiastic, some would say too enthusiastic, and they set about their real task straight away.

Phew.