It is now the middle of March and looking out of the window I can still see snow on the roof and snow drifts under the hedges. Yesterday the schools were closed so we took the grandchildren and toboggans out in search of a suitable ‘piste’. We had to go high up onto Exmoor to find somewhere steep and deep enough but eventually we were all satisfied – including four very excited dogs. Just like children, dogs and horses get highly excitable when the ground is covered in snow. They will all race around like mad things, throwing themselves down and rolling around in it just to experience all the different sensory stimuli possible. If there is a strong wind blowing the excitement increases and ‘naughtiness’ or bad behaviour can become a problem, especially in groups of children. Increased levels of Oxygen and differing acoustics are probable causes. Anyway, I’m not sure who had the most fun – grandchildren, grandparents or dogs – but a very memorable afternoon was enjoyed by all. Regardless of your stance on climate change, what used to be a normal Winter activity is now very much a rarity. I remember in my childhood it always used to snow on my birthday, in the third week of April. Nowadays they are usually playing cricket outside at Filleigh cricket club by then.


We have just finished lambing and fortunately have enough room to house the ewes and lambs during inclement weather. Hill farmers have to try and time their lambing to start after the worst of the Winter weather. Once their ewes and lambs have bonded they have to go out to make room for the next ones. Snow, especially drifting snow in March, is every sheep farmers worst nightmare. Some of the hedges and minor roads on Exmoor had ten feet of snow drifted against them.


Our small flock have all lambed and the ‘lamb rugby’ season is about to start. Children arriving today for the Easter holidays will be attempting to capture their own lambs whilst the ewes are competing to eat as much food from the trough as possible. The youngest and most gullible lambs are easily caught at the moment but by the end of the week they will be bigger, stronger, faster and definitely much wiser. Their survival instinct and evasiveness is remarkable to behold. I suppose that is one reason why there are so many of them.


Now, I am sorry to say that I seem to have over estimated our goose-flocks ability to defend themselves from predators! Unfortunately, Sid, our English Toulouse gander came to a sticky end one night last week. Judging by the feathers spread around the goose house he put up a gallant and prolonged defence of his harem. Goose wings have dangerously hard and sharp leading edges and their huge breasts are effectively muscles that are designed to keep them airborne for hours on end. They are formidable weapons to defend themselves against attackers and renowned for injuring and often breaking children’s arms. (l hasten to add not here because the children are supervised). Without going into to much gruesome detail his injuries suggest a badger rather than a fox, although a distinctive pungent odour of fox urine leans more towards a dog fox. Victoria and Hilda are busy laying eggs at the moment so we now need a replacement gander or they will be producing unfertilised eggs alongside their previous fertile ones. I still haven’t located their cache, yet. I know roughly which section of hedge it is in but unless I happen to catch them on the nest, which means lurking around down the valley at dawn, I’ll have to take pot-luck. Frankly, having spent a month on lambing watch, I can think of other things I’d rather be doing at six o’clock in the morning!


Curly and Whirly have finally settled down in their pig enclosure. Initially, after being ‘turned out’, they were escaping on a daily basis. Their bids for freedom never took them very far from home. Usually they would appear outside of the farm gate, frantically trying to ‘escape’ back into the farmyard! Getting them back into the supposedly ‘pig-proof’ pen without dismantling the electric fence wasn’t easy, especially with an enthusiastic sheep-dog and an over-enthusiastic terrier doing their best to help out! Why they felt the need to escape from a fresh and interesting piece of ground with a pig-arc full of straw and generally five-star accoutrements is a mystery. I suppose, like sheep, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.


We have a new pony on loan for the Summer. Echo is a young Dartmoor Hill pony who lives at Princetown, high up on Dartmoor, and is joining us for the Summer. She has settled in nicely with Meggie and Moo, and seems to be enjoying the milder weather and lowland life at North Bradbury farm. The children are queuing up to ride her and Meggie. I’m not sure if Moo (our miniature Shetland ) has fully realised that he won’t be involved in riding activities. He has been left in the field a couple of times and has now become adept at escaping with the others, mainly by hiding underneath them! We may end up taking him with us, on a leading rein, just so he feels involved……..or am I going soft in my old age?


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You may remember my prediction about Scotland being the team to watch in the Six-Nations. They deserved to beat England. They should have beaten Ireland and they should have lost to Italy. As for England ending up fifth in the table…..!  That unpredictability is part of the appeal that makes it the best sporting tournament of the year.        In my humble opinion!


Bye for now, Farmer Chris.