September has been an interesting month for a variety of reasons. Overlooking the political situation, the cricket and now the rugby has been absolutely gripping. The weather has been ‘unpredictable ‘ but it hasn’t really stopped any of our guests from enjoying their holiday with us. If it isn’t classic beach weather there are so many options in North Devon we really are spoilt for choice. Being completely surrounded by arable maize at the moment Tracey and I have been visiting National Trust properties in our locality – in order to enjoy walking the dogs without having to wade through fields of maize. If ever a plant was aptly named……. Anyway, we went to Knightshayes Court, at Tiverton and had a fabulous day out and only saw half of what was available. We will definitely go back again and will probably become members again if only for the dog walking. We left twenty five years ago when the Trust took a misguided step in the hunting debate. There are a variety of other NT properties within easy driving distance so our maize dilemma may have a benefit after all.

 

The Beagle puppies, Linnet and Lintel, are still with us and have been another great success. Actually, they are hardly puppies now. At seven months old I suppose they are ‘young dogs’, which means in theory we can still teach them some ‘new tricks’. They already have a reasonable repertoire. They definitely know they are called ‘Linnet and Lintel ‘ – the problem is we can’t tell them apart. One of our most important tasks is to teach them to recognise their own names, so that when they go back to the kennels and join eighty other Beagles the hunt staff can identify them individually and hopefully they will respond. If no one can tell them apart they have to answer to either name……or both…..simple…! They spend a lot of time ‘exploring’ at the moment – which basically means some sort of juvenile delinquent activity – but out of sight, somewhere. Reassuringly, wherever they are, I only have to whistle once (loudly !) and they suddenly appear at high speed, ears back, tails down, bums slightly out to one side, tongues out to the other side and running as fast as their little legs will go, and always looking incredibly guilty. The most important thing is that they return because they really want to. We will probably have them until the end of October, which means that our half-term guests will be able to enjoy them, before we close for the Winter.

 

The ducks have nearly finished laying for this year. They started on Valentine’s Day and usually stop in September. The chickens virtually stopped laying during the Summer for some unknown reason. We never have a problem with mites or lice and they weren’t really moulting at the time. I think I ( along with my young guests ) may have been feeding them to much poultry corn and not enough layers pellets. Apparently corn makes them fatten up rather than lay more. Even the new ‘point of lay’ pullets started laying and then suddenly stopped. Also, I think I read somewhere that you should only feed corn in the morning. It may just have been something to do with the weather. Other local egg producers had a similar situation, and are now returning to normal production. Any other suggestions would be gratefully received.

 

Matey and Sampson have their shoes on again and are very happy to be out and exercising and hunting again. They have fattened up nicely during their Summer holiday. In fact, Sampson is the size of a small hippo’. He puts on weight much faster than Matey and if I try to separate them and give them different diets, they panic and pine for each other. Having sold the sheep last year we are now rearing orphan lambs. Therefore we have considerably more grass to eat off. The horses spend most of the sunshine hours in the field shelter, to avoid the flies, which does control the amount of grass they consume during the daytime. Sampson has been doing ‘pony rides’ all Summer but that is nothing compared to what he does during the hunting season. I may have to resort to putting a grass muzzle on him. That is a bucket shaped device that you fit over a horses nose with a couple of holes in that reduces their access to grass to about one blade at a time. I am not a fan – they are almost instruments of torture in my opinion. As a last resort, that might be my only choice. I can’t help wondering if you could get a ‘burger’ muzzle for humans…… I can think of several people who might benefit……. myself to start with…….!

 

The ponies haven’t been a problem at all during the Summer. At the end of the Winter they are usually as thin as rakes, so as soon as the grass really takes off they rapidly put on weight. The moment they appear to be approaching obesity I put the lambs and goats out with them to graze everything right back again – including the hedges, which are the goats particular favourite. Meggie, Echo and Moo are now looking nicely plump to go back into the seasonal cycle of reduced grass. It won’t be long before the clippers come out for a seasonal trim.

 

Iggle and Piggle, our latest pigs, have settled in to their new home and routine nicely. I may have been poorly advised when we did the last ‘name the pigs’ competition. For obvious reasons I thought ‘Iggle and Piggle’ were some sort of celebrity TV pigs ! I have since been advised that ‘ Igglepiggle ‘ is actually a stuffed toy. Anyway, the pigs don’t seem to mind, and they are a bit like boats in that it’s unlucky to change their names, so Hey Ho.

 

We still have some availability for short breaks between now and October half-term. The pool is off at the moment but hasn’t been winterised yet so a few days of sunshine and it could be up and running again. Everything else on the farm seems to be ticketyboo for now. I’m off to catch up on some rugby,

Cheers for now, Farmer Chris.