What a glorious, dry, sunny month we have had here in North Devon. Summers always used to be hot and dry. I remember as a child growing up in North Devon how the Tarmac on the roads used to bubble up and we could hear it popping as we cycled along. We used to spend all day out in the sun with just a pair of shorts on and never worry about sun cream. In fact, I can even remember going to the beach in the Seventies and lying out in the sun with coconut oil on our bodies and foil reflectors around our necks to maximise the effects of the sun and get as brown as possible. We have now had six or seven weeks of constant sunshine and could really do with some rain. The grass has just about disappeared and the gardens are really struggling. Grass is quite shallow rooted and following three or four wet years the roots will have stayed very near to the surface. A prolonged spell of dry weather means it just dies off and that means we will have nothing to feed the animals on. Many farmers are already feeding hay that should have been stored until the Winter and silageing cereal crops to feed direct to cows and cattle that should have provided corn and straw for the Winter. Our fruit trees are loaded with fruit and because tree roots go down much deeper than grass they may well flourish and produce bumper crops. At least, the ones in the garden may well do. The trees that the horses can reach are gradually being stripped bare of fruit, leaves and in some places even bark, which means they could become stunted and possibly die. The knock-on effects of prolonged, hot, dry weather can be catastrophic in some cases. Let’s hope we get some cool, wet,weather soon, without losing all the ‘glorious sunshine’!
We went over to South Wales with the grandchildren a few weeks ago, Yurting. Although it is a couple of hours away in a car it’s only about thirty miles as the crow flies. You can look across the Bristol Channel and see cars on the roads in good visibility. The climate and landscape is very similar to North Devon. So it is a bit strange to see all the signs written in a strange language first, with small English translations underneath! There’s no hard border to get in to Wales and you don’t need a passport but it is a bit like going abroad. We were there during the early stage of the Football World Cup. I don’t know if a Welsh team was involved or not but it was very obvious that they were supporting every team that England was playing against ! This isn’t unusual in the Principalities and Protectorates and has never surprised or bothered me. There was another English family staying in one of the yurts and he wanted to go to a pub and watch the football. He was/is a serving policeman from the Sunderland area. He went off by himself and survived but only after rejecting the first two pubs as being too anti-English. I was surprised by the number of Welsh speakers we encountered, and we were only in Glamorgan. As one of our ‘treats’ we took the grandchildren to the Welsh National coal-mining museum at Blaenavon and went 300 feet underground to experience where men and pit-ponies once spent much of their working lives. Our guide was once a miner. It was interesting to hear the Welsh version of everything from the Industrial Revolution to the miners strike, which is quite different to the English version. It is possible that we all struck a nerve by being more concerned about the pit-ponies spending fifty weeks at a time underground and only coming up for air for two weeks every year than the miners who went up and down on a daily rota. As for the football (which we weren’t very interested in ) I can’t help feeling that it was better to lose to Croatia by one goal than to France by two or three! I think that the World Rugby sevens is just starting, in America of all places, with both men and women playing. Let’s hope we can beat Wales and France at that!
Oscar, the painter and decorator, has been and now gone. All the masonry on the house is now sparkling and freshly painted.He just managed to squeeze in front of the Wisteria, which has now grown up to first floor level and outwards by four or five feet on either side. It certainly doesn’t appear to be suffering from drought ! In fact, the garden IS looking a bit worse for wear at the moment, but not because of the weather. I managed to displace a rat from the sheep-shed when I cleaned it out and stopped feeding them. It must have taken up residence under the Gazebo. Misty and Rosie discovered it/them and weren’t very impressed. In their attempts to oust the rat/s ( by the time we realised there was a problem, they had multiplied !) they managed to trash much of what Tracey and Garden Pete had lovingly created earlier in the year. Oscar and Steve then turned up with ladders and scaffolding and buckets of paint and proceeded to trample anything within six feet of the house. Now, Chestnut and Chandler, the Beagle puppies, have learnt how to squeeze through the pig-netting and break into the garden, where they can often be found playing the Canine version of British Bulldog ! (Although I suppose it could be said that we play the Human version !) Anyway, the main thing is the rats have gone. I think I mentioned in my last Blog that Tracey was …….’eagerly looking forward to the Beagle puppies arriving…….’ Hmm, well that enthusiasm is rapidly running out, and they haven’t stolen anything, yet. Fortunately for them they are at the top of the guests list of favourite animals, and that is not just the children.
We are just about to start the school Summer holidays. Some of our regular guests will be back for more than their tenth visit. Some will be here for their first stay. Either way we are looking forward to sharing our way of life with other people and introducing children ( and some of the parents !) to looking after animals and producing food for the first time. Hopefully our water supply and the good weather will both last all Summer. In September we will be starting weekends and short breaks again and bookings are already coming in so if you have missed out on the school holidays see if you can come then.
Bye for now, Farmer Chris.