Five days until Christmas – time to go Christmas shopping. When we were living in Oxfordshire our next-door-neighbour, Brian, would do all the Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve. He would drive the family to Oxford and spend the day before Christmas bargain hunting for everything from Tinsel to the Turkey! Amazing deals could be done, if he was lucky. His wife was quite philosophical about the system because she couldn’t really lose. If there were no Turkeys left it was ‘Brians fault’ and if they got one it would be half-price. She always appeared to be relaxed in the days and even weeks running up to the festive season but we couldn’t help thinking she was probably paddling quite hard under the surface. Anyway, I’m off to the Christmas farmers market in South Molton this morning, in search of ‘inspiration’.

 

Well, what a day that turned out to be. Christmas shopping went according to plan. I was issued with a list of shops, suggestions and cash and instructions and managed to complete all tasks successfully. This included a photo shoot of ‘Farmer Chris’ in a certain shop with an armful of presents, looking ‘cheerful and relaxed’ ! On arriving at Mole Valley for some ‘proper’ shopping I was just getting into my stride when HQ’s phone pinged……….two tickets had surfaced for the Chiefs v Saracens game at Sandy Park……..kick-off in two hours time. That was the end of Christmas shopping for this year, then ! My old Disco’ might appear a tad turgid but once on the M5, with a tail wind, (and it is down hill all the way to Exeter) we were almost flying. We could see great clats of mud hurtling off of the mud-flaps as we (slightly !) exceeded the speed-limit. In case you are wondering what all the fuss was about, this was the biggest game of the season so far and a re-run of last years final, which we lost. Sarries were two points ahead of Chiefs, at the top of the league, and a home win would reverse things. Tickets sold out weeks ago but because we were planning to go skiing for Christmas we didn’t buy any. A last minute change of plan due to Trace’s back injury meant we were at home for the game…….which was a sell-out. A variety of thingies on wotzap and ‘hey presto’……… two tickets for sale at the last minute. What a day…….and we whipped Sarries as well. Happy Christmas all round !

 

We are having a particularly mild run-up to Christmas, here in North Devon. The thistles are still growing, the stinging-nettles are re-growing already and the Daffodils are in flower. We’ve had a couple of mild frosts, but not cold enough to freeze over the surface on the duck ponds. I have seen birds flying around with nesting materials in their beaks. The ponies are happy with their new hair-cuts, but a bit disgruntled with their austere diets. They are out in the field day and night, nibbling grass and bits of hedge. They have a daily ration of Oat straw which is reasonably nutritious and fills their gut up and the trickle of natural green vegetation stops them getting constipated. In their natural environment out on the Moor they would have a similar regime and wouldn’t  put on any weight at this time of year. I remember the bad Winter of 1962/3 when we were living in an isolated village on the edge of Exmoor. We were cut off for six weeks and the Army had to fly food in for us by helicopter. There was two feet of snow all over the common and nothing for the Exmoor ponies to eat, so hay had to be airlifted out to them. Foxes were reportedly working together like packs of wolves to pull down large mammals. My point being that Meggie, Echo and Moo have an almost luxurious life with their diet and field shelter, not to mention twenty-first Century mild Winters. Well, if that isn’t tempting fate, I’m not sure what is!

 

Tracey and I would like to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and healthy and prosperous 2019.

 

Cheers for now, Farmer Chris.