In three days time we alter the clocks and although it’s still officially Autumn it often feels like the beginning of Winter. Not because it’s particularly cold – it’s really just because our daily routine suddenly changes. It will be getting dark by Five O’clock in the afternoon so animal feeding will begin at Four thirty. It ‘s our last week of paying guests so it will suddenly be very peaceful and quiet. The lambs and pigs will be off to market or going into the freezer. The ducks will be in the freezer in a couple of weeks. The geese have been advertised and will hopefully be moving on. The table-tennis table will be folded up and stored away in the workshop which means the tractor can be parked up in the sheep shed next to the hay and straw. The horses have been shod and clipped and rugged up and started their Winter routine of exercising and hunting. In fact we had our first day out hunting yesterday and I’m not sure who was the most excited. Matey and Sampson couldn’t get in the horse-box fast enough and our grand daughter, Etta, was as high as a kite. It was our first official outing together since everything went pear-shaped in March. Time is a great healer and despite some trepidation we all managed to come home intact, thankfully. Tarka and Tangle, our visiting Beagle puppies, will be going back to the kennels to begin their working lives in a week or so which I think Misty and Rosie will be quietly relieved about. They all enjoy each others company, but having four dogs does make everything very busy all the time. Just taking them for a daily walk almost becomes a days hunting. Having been fully booked since we opened up in July it will actually be a pleasant change to go back to just us and a quiet routine for a while. No more Covid deep-cleans and no more cleaning staff to organise every week.
It rather looks like Christmas will be something of a non-event this year. We had thought about staying open for November and even possibly Christmas and the New Year but with ever changing Covid regulations and more and more restrictions it is just becoming too complicated. The short days and wet weather don’t really help so we will stick with plan A and close as normal until March.
I was just reading last Octobers blog and remembering what a high state of excitement some of us were in, having just beaten the All Blacks and qualified for the final of the Rugby World Cup. Here we are a year later and Exeter have just won the European Champions cup and are playing in the English Premiership cup final tomorrow. Fingers and everything else crossed there then. It will be very strange to watch such an important game being played at Twickenham with empty seats all the way around the stadium.
The Autumn weather seems to have arrived a month early this year. Normally, the heavy rain coincides with the leaves coming down in November and blocked drains and ditches then cause flooding. The river Bray burst its banks three weeks ago ( early October ) and steady rain now means the ground is already saturated. It hasn’t been an easy year for farmers, despite Covid restrictions having little direct effect on us. Food production and distribution has to keep going. As the hospitality trade ebbs and flows with both Covid and seasonal fluctuations, supply and demand through the food markets and distribution system has to be flexible. Everyone still has to eat, though, whether it’s eating out or staying at home.
Balti and Snowy, our two goats, are happy now that there is straw on the floor in the sheep-shed and the hay rack is full of delicious fresh hay twice a day. They really are ‘fair weather friends’ and sometimes won’t go outside if it’s really wet and windy. They are still doing a fabulous job of hedge-trimming all around the farm. They thrive on brambles, nettles and thistles and there isn’t a weed or bush growing through the pig-netting anywhere around the farm. They also stand up with their front feet on the top rail and trim the hedges perfectly evenly to well over six feet. I couldn’t do the job nearly as cleanly with a mechanical trimmer.
Anyway, that’s about it for October. I will keep updating you monthly throughout the Winter. Let’s hope that 2021 will be an improvement on this year, for all of us. We are finishing our season on a high with two separate families who have been regular guests for at least ten years and are now firm friends with us and each other. We had a ‘party of six’ knees up in the utility room last night – and have another scheduled for Friday evening which will probably involve curry.
Hence our motto………..’Arrive as guests – leave as friends’……
Cheers for now, Farmer Chris.