At last, it’s raining ‘cats and dogs’. At least, down here in North Devon we have had just enough to save what was a desperate situation. Other places haven’t been so lucky. Our grass is growing again but many farmers are already using their winter rations and won’t have anything to replace them with. A lot of Italian Rye-grass has been sown post harvest and is up and away. That may produce a late cut in October but only if the weather is amenable. Fortunately, most of the rain we have had has been at night and day times have been warm and dry. Our guests have been on the beach or in the pool every day. One of our main selling points has always been that there are so many choices with both inside and outside activities in North Devon.
The farrier is coming next week to shoe the horses. They have had three and a half months off to lounge around in the sunshine and fatten up on Summer grass before the next hunting season. In the Spring we take their shoes off and let their feet grow out and harden up in the good weather. They are already shedding their Summer coats and in a few weeks time they will be clipped out and rugged up at night. Sampson has been helping out with ‘pony rides’ all Summer but he really doesn’t like walking over stony ground with any weight on his back. The ponies, Meggy and Echo, have never been shod and their feet are much tougher, so they are fine on the forest tracks. If we were going to do much road-work with them, or hunting or competing they would have to have shoes on to protect their feet and stop them slipping.
Chandler and Chestnut, our Beagle puppies, have been very popular all Summer. Our guests, both adults and children, spend hours playing with them. Puppies are such fun and walking them for the local hunts is a great way of having two puppies every year without gaining two dogs. We actually walked their Dam, Casket, about four or five years ago, with her sister, Carmine. We always have two together so they have company all the time. They learn much faster with a sibling to play with – but they also get each other into more trouble by being overconfident. These two have just started stealing shoes and socks and tools and suchlike and can often be seen scuttling away with their latest prize/treasure. If you give them an old, unwanted, item they really aren’t interested.Their favourite trick at the moment is pulling the bunting off the fence around the farmyard play area and running around the yard with a mouthful whilst trying to look innocent! Sadly, due to our terrier Rosie’s pending confinement, Chandler and Chestnut will be returning to the kennels on Tuesday. Having boisterous, half grown, puppies around with a whelping bitch and then newborn puppies is asking for trouble. Rosie is due at the end of next week and she needs a quiet few days to work out where and when to give birth, without a couple of annoying ‘teenagers’ pestering her. Otherwise she may drag herself off and hide in a barn or hedge to whelp and suddenly we wouldn’t be in control of the situation.
We have replaced the pigs. We still had plenty of pork in the freezer so Curly and Wurly went off to market. They were nearly one hundred kilos and eating us out of house and home so keeping them wouldn’t have been cost effective. They may have ended up in someone else’s freezer, or could have been bought as breeding sows or gone on somewhere to fatten on as baconers. They were middle-white x Gloucester Old Spots and being virtually white all over they had really struggled with the heatwave. We were filling up their wallow twice a day so that they could bathe and cover themselves in mud to prevent getting sunburnt. The children loved carrying scoops full of water from the trough to the wallow and one of them inevitably ended up ‘wallowing’. We now have two new weaners which are Tamworth x Oxford Sandy Blacks. Being smaller they are starting off under the apple trees and are happily hoovering up windfalls at the moment where there is plenty of shade. What you might call ‘Piggy Heaven’. Our customary ‘Name the Pig’ competition is running until Sunday evening (19.08.18) so if you fancy your chances check out our Facebook page. There will be a ‘piggy prize’ for the most original names.
Out on the farm the fruit trees are overloaded with fruit. The plum tree has collapsed under its own weight and the apple trees are nearly as bad. The blackberries and nut bushes are fantastic and the mushrooms are the best we have had for years. I must go and pick something.
Bye for now, Farmer Chris.