Another month has gone by and all eight of Rosie’s puppies have now left home and started new lives with new families all across the South of England. We have had so much fun and entertainment and general pleasure from them as they have developed their own personalities. Our guests and grandchildren have absolutely loved watching them as they grow and learn and several tears have been shed as they have gradually left us. In fact, only Rosie seems to be unmoved by the whole process. What a hectic and hormonal sixteen weeks she has had. Yesterday she was rough-housing the last two puppies and dragging them around the farmyard backwards by their legs and today she is relaxing in the sun without a care in the world. The amount of food they were getting through was amazing – the amount of pooh being produced was even more startling. The amount of chaos and mischief and general pandemonium was bordering on ridiculous. Everywhere you looked there was a puppy doing something it shouldn’t. How they managed to avoid being run over, with all the traffic passing through the yard, was nothing short of a miracle. Every time we stepped outside there was someone stroking or carrying or playing with a puppy. The post-men and women, the Next delivery man, the Tesco drivers, the Oil-tanker drivers and anyone else who happened to be passing through all stopped to make a fuss of them. Now, they have all gone and life is back to normal…….sadly! We obviously couldn’t keep any or all of them and they have been drifting away gradually over the last week, but even so, it is eerily quiet outside now.
It is nearly the end of October now and nearly the end of our guest season. We now close from November until March and try to get away on holiday ourselves. We were hoping to go somewhere sunny in November but Trace’ had a bit of an accident and we will have to wait for a while. There are a lot of rumours rumbling around about real Winter weather coming in this year, earlier than usual, so planning a trip could be a bit of a problem. There will definitely be a shortage of hay and straw this Winter so a long, cold, hard spell could be a problem. Our ewes are now too old to breed from so they will be off to the cull-ewe market. The lambs will be in the farm shop in a couple of weeks so for the first time in twenty years we will have a sheep-free Winter. Rodney the ram has already gone. We tried to find a retirement home for him but it rather looks like other people are reducing their flocks for the same reason so he went off to market and will be in a kebab somewhere, now. This may sound harsh but it is simple reality. Perhaps it puts the culling of wild goats in the Scottish Islands into some perspective.
One of our ducks is still laying every day, which is unusual at the end of October. We have been having an Indian Summer, with guests in the pool everyday this week, but now the temperature is plunging at night and days are definitely shorter and chillier. The ducks usually cease laying in October and start again on Valentines Day. These won’t make it to February though. They have laid well for two seasons and their replacements are already swimming around on the Junior pond! So… Out with the old, in with the new…..
Two of the hens went broody in the middle of September. Despite a couple of weeks of trying to convince them it wasn’t a good idea, eventually resorting to the dustbin with two inches of water in it, I succumbed and set them off on some eggs. We now have young chicks pecking frantically around and shouting for food. As the weather is more seasonal now and frosty at night most of the insects and grubs that they would normally graze on are disappearing so keeping them fed and watered and safe could prove difficult. They will be tempted to wander further away from ‘mum’ in search of food and that’s when they get picked off by predators. On the subject of the weather, the fact that we are being warned about ‘the worst Winter for twenty years’ realistically means we could be returning to the more sensible pattern of hot, dry, sunny Summers and cold, hard, frosty/snowy Winters that I remember as normal as a child.
Balti the Billy goat is definitely missing Rodney. They had become firm friends and enjoyed each other’s company, away from the ewes and lambs, doing bloke things – like lounging around sleeping and chatting. We will have to get another goat as company for him and see if he lasts longer than Bhuna. Actually, I can justify keeping a couple of goats for their hedge-trimming skills. Having run Balti with the sheep for a couple of years the wire-netting on the post-and-rail fences is completely clear of brambles and the normal bushy growth that would grow through has been nibbled back behind the wire. He also manages to stand up with his feet on the wire and trim the hedge about three feet above the fence.The whole effect looks remarkably professional.
As long as I can keep them out of the garden and window boxes…..
Must go and clear up some leaves…….
Bye for now, Farmer Chris.