July has been a bit all over the place from the weather perspective. Glastonbury came and went without the usual Midsummer deluge and now Wimbledon has finished on time with very few weather related delays. Our neighbour, who grows a lot of wheat for thatching, has been out with his reaper-binders. There are now acres of wheat sheaves stooked up to ripen in the fields around us, and guess what…….It hasn’t stopped raining since he started cutting! That’s farming for you. Actually, it is glorious today so our guests have all gone off to Saunton for a day on the beach.

The fire pit in the wilderness area has been lit every day this week and our home made sausages and burgers have been flying out of the farm shop. That isn’t good news for our two pigs, Ink and Oink, but they don’t seem unduly perturbed at the moment. I’m not sure if they have worked out the correlation yet!

The upgraded fox fencing around the chicken run seems to be working and we haven’t lost any more hens this last month but I did find a young buzzard trying to kill one of our bigger chicks the other day. Out of the twenty five that have hatched out so far this year we are now down to ten. This is obviously a problem but at least having found the culprit I can now act accordingly. I have about twenty CDs suspended on fishing line, in mid air above the run, which is apparently very effective. I wish I had noted where the Brian Adams ones went just to see if they were more offensive to birds of prey…….Hopefully the fact that the gamekeepers have started releasing the pheasant poults in the release pens means that the buzzards will find easier pickings elsewhere.

Our ponies, Peppa and Meggie, are looking forward to the school holidays. They will be kept busy for the next couple of months with bigger children queuing up to go out pony riding. That means more exercise, more stimulation and therefore more food. They have to be kept on very strict diets because, like most of our indigenous breeds, they get fat on air and water and obesity leads to all sorts of health issues. They live in a starvation paddock and have to work hard just to nibble off the grass shoots as they appear and once a day they have a small rack of oat straw to fill up on. Horses and ponies are ‘trickle grazers’ and need herbiage passing through their digestive tract all the time to prevent digestive problems occurring. Getting the balance right is not easy and keeping the ponies happy at the same time is an added complication. So, more exercise, stimulation and food makes life more bearable for all of us.

Matey and Sampson, our two horses, are enjoying their Summer holiday. They spend a lot of time lounging around in the sun, rolling and sunbathing and stuffing themselves with rich Summer grass. We actually want them to fatten up and rest during May, June and July because when the hunting season starts again in August they will have nine months of regular hard work to contend with. They have their shoes off for the Summer which allows their feet to toughen up and develop naturally and they don’t have time to get obese or suffer the same health issues as the ponies. Tracey seems to think I’m on the same regime!

Best wishes, Farmer Chris.