I have just re-read my last missive, from November, entitled ‘Squirrel problem sorted’. Unfortunately, that wasn’t entirely true, as it turns out. Having dispatched three more insurgents since then, we still have unwanted guests in our quite extensive loft. Squirrels, presumably………?! Hmm, well, the shotgun is no longer ideal as it is now still dark when we get up, so I have a selection of traps in various places in the loft. Initially I put up a squirrel/mink cage-trap and baited it with peanut butter. For the next three days the peanut-butter disappeared but the trap wasn’t tripped, so I then added a Fen-trap, which I use outside, for rats. Next morning……. shock, horror, etc……I had a very dead rat in the rat-trap!…….and a very unhappy wife, in the kitchen! Now, generally speaking, you won’t have a problem with rodents, in the house, unless they find a food source. My problem now is that the squirrels have secreted an unknown quantity of acorns, hidden somewhere in four separate and somewhat inaccessible loft spaces. The peanut-butter has been disappearing daily and tell-tale mouse droppings have been left behind, so I have added two mouse traps to the defences. These are working extremely well. Every day I have caught at least two mice – one day I had two in one trap! Unfortunately, one day last week I came down the step-ladder from checking/re-baiting the traps with my hands full of torch, peanut-butter pot, sticky spoon, reading glasses and one-eyed terrier (of course), and forgot to replace the trap-door!! By lunch-time Trace’ spotted something ‘big and black’ scurrying around in the spare bedroom, which is currently being used as a storage area and dumping ground, because we are redecorating our bedroom and en-suite. I guessed it was fairly serious by the shouts and screams as she came hurtling down the lane, where I was busy digging up a blocked drain, with both dogs – ( all three of us covered in mud !). Abandoning our excavations we all rushed up the lane in a state of high excitement. Rosie was unimpressed at suddenly being hosed-off in the middle of the day but also realised something interesting was happening, and it obviously involved her. After about fifteen minutes of frantic ‘rodent hunting’ in the spare-room a mouse was spotted ( quite ‘big’ and fairly ‘black’, as mice go…..! ) but it vanished under a pile of something, never to be seen again – yet! Eventually we gave it best, managed to extract an exhausted but still very enthusiastic terrier, placed a couple of strategic mouse traps and shut the door. Trace’ claims she is checking the traps ‘regularly’…… So, what is the moral of this story. However cute you might think grey squirrels are do not underestimate the carnage they can cause in domestic loft spaces. I googled it initially and was amazed to discover that over the last five years it has become a national problem, without any mention of secondary infestations by other rodents. Oh, and I am considering modifying a head torch to fit the dog.

Elsewhere on the farm things are reasonably quiet. Ducks, lambs and pigs are all in the farm shop. Rodney the ram, Balti the goat and the pregnant ewes are trying to avoid the worst of the mud. A ministry vet came in to test Balti for bovine TB last week. He wasn’t sure how we were going to catch and hold a singular goat? I went over to the gate with an empty bucket and called ‘Balti’, who came trotting over ( albeit with a dreadful limp as he had just developed a nasty case of strip ) and proceeded to rub himself against the vet as if he was a long lost friend. The vet clipped a patch of hair off both sides of his neck without even restraining him and then applied a ‘daisy-prick’ to the exposed patches of skin, while Balti looked at him lovingly and made no attempt to escape. In fact, if the vet had opened his car door I think Balti would have jumped in. He may be thinking he could end up in the Farm Shop, too!

Christmas is nearly here and the geese will be glad to hear that we are having turkey this year. Some of you may be in for a white one, which comes with mixed blessings. At the moment we are just wet and muddy but that could all change overnight. Where ever you are, whatever you do and whoever you do it with, Tracey and I wish you all a very merry Christmas, a very happy new year and we look forward to catching up with you in 2018.

Best wishes, farmer Chris.