I think I should probably apologise for being so optimistic about the health of the Nation in my last instalment. In August everything was going in the right direction and as an eternal optimist I was thinking we were nearly out of the Pandemic Woods. Now, we are slowly locking down again and it looks like being a difficult Autumn and Winter. Our guests are always so glad to be here on holiday because we live in such a fabulous, open, green and rural part of the country and as such we have some of the lowest levels of Covid infection in Great Britain. Agriculture is still our main industry in North Devon and farming and food production hasn’t really been diversely affected by either the virus or the lockdown. Most of us already work from home and live in social isolation and as imported food supplies have been interrupted demand has increased for home grown supplies. The famous wartime slogan of ‘Dig for Victory’ is as pertinent now as it ever was. With schools and universities open for service again our roads and beaches are becoming quieter now, which is a relief. We walked across Braunton Burrows to the sea a couple of weeks ago and despite emerging onto the beach beside the estuary there were people camping out on the sand in either direction as far as we could see. I’ve never seen it so busy, which is obviously good for those of us involved in the hospitality trade. Even though people aren’t spending as much money as they used to, if they aren’t here……they aren’t spending anything. So, let’s stay positive here, onwards and upwards……….
We are in the last week of September now and the weather has really changed. It’s still glorious and sunny but there is a bit of a chill in the air. The leaves are coming down and the evenings are drawing in. We’ve closed the swimming pool and probably won’t open it again, unless we have a last minute ‘Indian Summer’. Matey hasn’t been shod yet, mainly because I don’t have time to start exercising him until the pool closes, so I will be making that call in a minute. He has his rug on at night now as temperatures are dropping well down into single figures. At last he and Samson have been reunited and fallen in love all over again. They have been in separate fields since April because they are on opposing diets. Matey has been on as much grass as he can eat and looks rather like an old brood mare at about eight months pregnant. If and when we start hunting again he rapidly loses weight and by Christmas he often looks thin. Samson gets fat on air and water and takes ages to shed it, so he’s been out in the starvation paddock with the ponies. The two of them pine for each other when separated and start playing silly horse games as soon as they are reunited, racing each other around the field like two puppies, standing up and boxing and biting each other and being generally juvenile. In fact, apart from Matey’s tail being squashed down too far, you wouldn’t know there was anything wrong with him.
Tarka and Tangle, our beagle puppies, are absolutely brilliant fun at the moment, both for us and for guests, young and old. They rush around like Duracell bunnies, in a high state of excitement, for hours at a time and then collapse in a heap and fall asleep wherever they happen to be. The bigger children get endless pleasure from playing with and stroking them and once the toddlers get used to their constant demands for attention and realise that they are harmless they seem to join in to the puppy hysteria mood. It is such a great system for all involved, especially the beagles, who get to ‘grow up’ in idyllic, dog -friendly surroundings. They get total freedom, with constant parental control provided by Misty and Rosie, and the chance to learn about farm animals, birds, children and motor vehicles. They have just started ’rounding up’ the sheep with Misty, which drives her to distraction and often ends in ‘beagle tears’ – and ‘Farmer Chris tears’ with the sheep scattering in completely the wrong direction. But we still enjoy having them……..
The pigs are happily munching away on the windfalls under the apple trees, which is just as well as it is a bumper year for apples. We had about three plums on the Victoria plum tree, because of the late frosts in May. The hazelnuts and acorns have been really good, which means more squirrels than usual and yet the blackberries have been poor and I have only seen one field mushroom all Summer.
We decided not to have ducklings earlier in the year, because of the lockdown and then social distancing and Covid compliance, and because the freezer was full of ducks. Now we are going to need replacements for next year and have space in the farm shop we have one clutch of twelve making their way through the system. They are currently on the grass in front of the Farm Shop, getting used to being outside and practicing their swimming. Next week they will be moving down to the top pond, next to the Big Duck pond, where they can put their newfound skills into action.
September is always a hectic month for Trace’ as she starts selling next years holidays. Business has been very brisk with most of the peak weeks being snapped up by our regulars, as usual. Off-peak weeks are selling faster than usual so if you are thinking of coming next year, and you have specific dates you would like, don’t leave it too late to book. We still have one unsold week for this October but with so many enquiries it will probably soon be sold.
Elsewhere, out on the farm, all is well. I must go and do some jobs now.
Cheers for now, Farmer Chris.