Aaaaah…….. I was just looking at last months missive and saw the photo of the Beagles in their cage, as they were on their way back to their kennels. I wonder what they are up to now. I expect they will have completely forgotten about us and North Bradbury farm already. Also, we were all looking forward to the Rugby World Cup final. What a fantastic sporting tournament that turned out to be, despite Japan suffering a devastating typhoon, halfway through it. We didn’t get the result we were hoping for, but England, New Zealand and South Africa came out as the best three teams in World Rugby at that particular point in time. Let’s hope the Olympic Games are as good next year.

 

We have just about settled in to our Winter routine. The lambs have all gone – some to the farm shop and the rest to South Molton livestock market. The pigs are happily rooting away in the top pig pen. I put a whole bale of straw into their pig-arc yesterday following the forecast for below average temperatures. They have ‘fluffed’ it up into a huge nest and were buried so deeply this morning I thought they had escaped when I went to feed them. Eating and sleeping are definitely their two favourite pastimes. They don’t hibernate – they’re far too greedy – but they sleep so deeply between meals they can be difficult to rouse at times. On occasion I have crept up to them and prodded them awake. They then go into an instant state of hysteria and tear off to ‘safety’, squealing in terror. Our current pigs, Iggle and Piggle, are Gloucester Old Spots,  which means their ears flop over their eyes and they can’t really see where they are going and when they stop they can’t see or find each other. I know what you’re thinking……’He doesn’t get out enough’…….but there is always some amusement to be found when working with animals, even if it has to be encouraged or teased out.

 

The goats have got fed up with being exiled to the Goose and Pony field. I moved them over several weeks ago because they kept breaking in to the orchard and stealing apples and stripping bark off the trees and Snowy started sleeping in the horses hay-rack. Anyway, they started escaping and appearing unexpectedly in the farmyard or wandering about on the road and generally causing trouble. They are now back where they started but because all the apples have been picked that problem has disappeared. I am putting preventative measures in place to control their other bad habits but they have an uncanny knack of getting in trouble without really meaning to. The fact that they can jump cleanly over gates and fences doesn’t help. The fact that they have such innocent and endearing personalities makes it hard to scold or punish them. Even if I catch them red-handed, with a mouthful of Traceys’ flowers or her favourite Clematis wound around their necks, or in the feed-store with lids off the bins,they have no concept of ‘guilt’. I read somewhere that they are the only flight animals that run towards predators when threatened, which does make me wonder how they survived evolution. A simple case of ‘safety in numbers’ I suppose. Balti and Snowy might do well to realise that that doesn’t apply if there are only two of them!

 

The ducks are also behaving rather strangely. It is now nearly December and two of them are still laying an egg a day. Normally they stop laying in early October and start again in mid February. After nearly twenty years of farming ducks I’ve never had duck eggs in November – now it looks like I will have some in December. I’ll let you know next time if we get any Christmas eggs. We have one set of fattening ducks left to get in the freezer. Their pen, which is a pond with a fenced in safe grazing area, has never been so muddy. There isn’t a blade of grass out there. It’s surprising how much grass they eat and how much time they spend digging up grit and gravel, which they can’t do in a mud bath. I have been letting them out into the field during the day, just to allow them some grazing and gritting space. That leaves them totally vulnerable to predators during the daylight hours. Fortunately, Misty the sheepdog is more than happy to use her talents to round them up and drive them back into their safe area, as long as we do it in daylight. The ducks refuse to be driven anywhere in darkness, as I just discovered on getting back from Barnstaple a bit late this evening.

 

The horses and ponies have accepted their new regime. Echo the pony is delighted to be out with Matey and sharing most of his lush diet. Sampson is not so happy but his diet is working and he has lost over thirty kilos. Moo, the miniature Shetland, started out bullying Sampson and thinking that he was top dog – and Sampson let him get away with it – until he realised how hungry he was. Now, Sampson gets to the hay rack first and bares his teeth at the others and lays his ears back flat on his neck and poor, fat little Moo has to pick up scraps off the floor. So, that system seems to be working really.

 

Elsewhere on the farm……..the Geese are as happy as they ever are…….they probably know we’re having turkey for Christmas lunch……or not….! Winter maintenance is progressing reasonably well. Christmas is coming and I probably won’t get another blog out until afterwards. So, on behalf of both of us, have a wonderful Christmas,

 

Cheers for now, Farmer Chris.