Let’s start with something positive. The weather has been, and still is, absolutely fabulous, for the whole of April. At least that means that people who have access to the great outdoors, in whatever form, can enjoy ‘social isolation’ in the fresh air and sunshine. Life has changed dramatically for many of us and will possibly never go back to what we once considered normal. Children have rapidly adapted to home schooling and Internet lessons and many parents are getting to spend quality time with their respective families. Less traffic on the roads and in the air is transforming the environment on a global scale. Many people are enjoying natures dawn chorus of bird song for the first time and wild goats have invaded Llandudno because of the dearth of traffic, noise and fumes. Apparently, in some normally smog-polluted towns in Northern India the air is suddenly so clean that people can now see the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas, a hundred miles distant. There are obviously huge disadvantages to many people living in social isolation and without funds to buy food, but when present restrictions are eased hopefully changes will occur to improve twenty-first century lifestyles as a direct result of our current situation. Some good often develops from adversity.
Here at North Bradbury farm, peace reigns supreme. Having spent the Winter months preparing for thirty plus weeks of paying guests – some of whom are extremely noisy and boisterous – there is a detectable calm hanging over us. Misty the sheepdog spends much of her time sitting in the yard with a tennis ball in her mouth, looking hopefully towards the gate, as if to say ‘come on then…..I’m ready and waiting for you ! ‘ Rosie, our terrier, is rather more philosophical about the situation. She is enjoying being able to lounge about like a lizard, soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the peace and quiet. The weather has definitely gone from one extreme to another. We have had one showery night in the last five weeks and that’s it for rain. I brought the lawn-mower out of hibernation and tidied up the verges at the bottom of the lane but the ground closest to the barn wall is now so dry that the grass has gone brown and died off. The ponies did a wonderful job of mowing the lawns. In fact they make a better job of tidying up around the ‘daffs’ than I do with the strimmer. It was tempting to just let them loose in the lane and put some hurdles across at the bottom. However, the downside of that system is the amount of dung produced ! I would have to spend so much time going up and down the lane with a wheel-barrow and shovel…….! Yes, there is a similar problem when the ponies are grazing the lawns, but between the sun, the flies and the pheasants and given about a week to evolve there isn’t much dung left. OK, moving swiftly on……
You may already be aware that we bought a dozen orphan lambs. It was rather a case of ‘now or never’. If we didn’t get them during lambing time they wouldn’t be available at all. The price of lamb had skyrocketed because of people panic buying a few weeks ago but it has settled back again. We nearly decided not to get any in case we don’t open for business again before October but we will have a surplus of grass in a few weeks time and we like having lambs about the place, as well. Misty, the sheepdog, likes to have something to round up and look after during the Summer. She is very good at retrieving the goats or geese when they go AWOL, and helping to move the ducks occasionally, but she is still a sheepdog first and foremost. Anyway, fingers crossed, we will hopefully have paying guests back at some stage who will expect us to have some lambs about the place. It also gave us a really busy start to our new ‘Little Farmers club’ with sheep and lamb based activities for one of our topics and our annual ‘name the lamb’ competition on our Facebook page. Tracey has been very busy on the computer, setting up the Little Farmers club and farm based activities. Our ‘Sponsor a farm animal’ section is gaining popularity. It is fascinating for us to see which are the most popular – (and least popular ! ) – animals. At the moment Balti the goat and Moo the miniature Shetland are out in front. Snowy could do with some more support. Believe it or not I am now a Youtuber, reading out farm based stories for children. Our next interactive challenge is the ‘Who can grow the tallest sunflower ‘ competition. Please feel free to join in and please remember to ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on Traceys’ posts. Otherwise we will presume no-one is interested and find something else to do. How the world has changed, and in such a short time.
The new pigs, Speckles and Freckles, have settled in well. They spent the first week escaping and coming to find us, in need of company and food. Fortunately they have now fattened up so much they can’t squeeze through the fence anymore.
At last, we are making progress with the geese. Bianca has been laying eggs in the nest that I provided in the field-shelter, approximately once every two or three days. I started saving every other egg in case the ‘mysterious egg thief’ struck again. Earlier this week she started sitting on the nest and preparing to incubate them. I have now put my five eggs back with her seven and she is sitting on all ten of them. She isn’t sitting all day, which may be a problem, but it has been 24/5 degrees centigrade some days so they should stay warm. So in thirty-one days we might have some goslings…..! Fingers crossed on that one then.
Elsewhere on the farm, all is well. Horses, ponies, goats, chickens and ducks are all enjoying the weather, and the peace and quiet. Tracey and I have been busy gardening and getting the pool ready to go and have a long list of jobs to keep us occupied. We do hope you are all coping well with these strange circumstances that we are all stuck with for the time being. Perhaps we will be getting together with some of you later in the year.
Cheers for now, Farmer Chris.