Apparently there is a heat wave coming. About time too. I set up the solar-heating on the swimming pool about three weeks ago and haven’t had it on yet. Whitsun is nearly here so I expect it will be blisteringly hot at the weekend which means my favourite job of the year will suddenly need doing…….separating Rodney the ram from his woolly jacket! Shearing the ewes is hot, sweaty, backbreaking work. Some of them seem to think that they should fight for their very lives to hang on to their hot sticky overcoats and they will kick and thrash about like gymnastic alligators. Our sheep -(Jacobs)- have wicked, curved horns with razor-sharp tips and they literally use them as self defence weapons. There is a very precise set of moves to remove these fleeces in more or less one piece and it basically involves holding the sheep as firmly as possible between your open legs whilst shearing with one hand and slowly rotating the ewe with the other. So…. those nasty horns are never very far away from ones ‘nether regions’….if you get my drift. Going back to the point of my diatribe, if you now think shearing a sixty kilo ewe might be a bit tricky, separating a hundred kilo ram from his woolly winter coat is often nearly impossible! Oh joy! Maybe the heat wave won’t happen, yet.
Ink and Oink, our current piglets -obviously- have discovered the sport of escapology and have been causing chaos around the yard and buildings. They say that if a pig can get the tip of its snout through a hole it will get its whole body through. Oink seems to think the grass is definitely greener on the other side of the fence. I’m not sure why she tried to tunnel under the dung-heap the other day but if I hadn’t happened to wander past and spot her bottom sticking out she could have met a very sticky end, literally. She didn’t really appreciate being dragged out by her back legs, either. It is very hot at the bottom of a fresh compost heap so I presume she was experimenting with different pork roasting techniques.
I had the dung spreader out and about for its annual exercising outing last week. We spent the day tearing around the field in the pouring rain chopping up last winters dung and spreading it thinly on this years grass. Having finished I parked it up next to the empty dung heap and set about clearing the sheep shed out and building this years heap. As I was reversing carefully out of the shed I spotted a blue-tit disappearing through the greasing hole in the gear-box cover on the front of the dung spreader, with a large, juicy, grub wriggling about in its beak! As I watched in dismay I realised there were a pair of blue-tits frantically flying in and out of the tiny hole and obviously feeding nestlings. Inside the gear-box cover there are two chain wheels with a triple width chain which flies around at high speed when you operate the spreader, and not much room for anything resembling a blue-tits nest. There were obviously live nestlings inside so I had to investigate. Having removed the front cover I discovered that the blue-tits had built a sturdy nest out of moss and straw between the top chain wheel and the inside wall of the spreader. The whole front of the nest had been chopped to pieces as the wheel had been crunching round at high speed for most of the day, but the sturdy little nest hadn’t moved at all and there were four very lucky little blue-tit nestlings sitting there with open mouths, screaming for food. I hope there were only four to begin with!
In case you were waiting for news about the goslings, I’m afraid it was another wasted exercise. Victoria and Hilda spent weeks sitting on their precious eggs, to no avail. They eventually gave up and are now busily gobbling down grass as fast as they can, to regain some of their condition and hopefully lay another clutch, and off we jolly well go again!
Our two new ponies are becoming problematic, unfortunately. George, or to be precise Georgina, has always been a bit on the plump side and has started showing signs of laminitis. She has been shut in the stable on iron rations and anti-inflammatory drugs for ten days and we are considering her future…….Peppa has chronic sweet-itch and has rubbed herself raw in places and is now covered up completely with a fly rug and face mask and needs treatment twice daily. Sweet-itch is caused by midges and is becoming a major problem now because we don’t have enough cold weather to kill them off during the winter. Some ponies are allergic to the midge saliva and rub themselves raw as a result, and unfortunately Peppa is one of them. The best solution is to put the ponies in a field on top of a windy hill with no surface water for midges to hatch in. Bit of a problem there then!
Elsewhere on the farm we have some exciting new developments. Half the sheep shed is now a table-tennis area so if it is to hot or to wet outside, or you fancy some gentle post-prandial exercise of a vaguely competitive nature, look no further. If you feel more energetic, over the gate is our new ‘straw bale play pit’! Or what our grand-son calls the ‘parcours playground’……I’m not exactly sure what that means or how you spell it……whatever…..The wilderness area and mud kitchen has been extended and fenced in and is more popular than ever. The horses and sheep aren’t impressed, though!
Anyway, since I started writing the heatwave has arrived, Rodney has been separated from his fleece and we both survived the challenge/ordeal and…..there is another General Election just around the corner……Oh, what fun!

Best wishes, Farmer Chris.