This February will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Storms, high winds, heavy rain and flooding have become the new norm. Our climate is slowly warming and warm air contains more water than cold air, so our Winters will inevitably become wetter. As consumers we are all guilty of encouraging Supermarkets and food retailers to produce better/cheaper food which in turn puts pressure on farmers and food producers to be more productive. This means that ground that historically was too wet to farm has now been drained and cultivated and surface water displacement has been speeded up as it travels down towards flood plains. Flooding being the inevitable result. Flood prevention schemes put in place by the Environment Agency (and paid for by the tax payer. ) don’t resolve the problem – they just move it on and make it someone else’s. On top of weather related issues we also have the threat of a global pandemic spreading around the World at a predictably alarming rate. Throw in the wildfires and droughts in the Southern Hemisphere and swarms of locusts in East Africa and that Biblical threat suddenly becomes an alarming reality. And……now……horror of horrors…….even the rugby might not happen ! Roll on March…..

 

Iggle and Piggle, our Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs, are ‘semi-hibernating’ at the moment. Having excavated all available corners of their designated area and turned it into a swamp of sorts they now just eat and sleep. Eating, (and ‘associated activities’ ) take less than an hour, night and morning, so they probably have about twenty-two hours of kip every day. They’ve had so many bales of straw during the Winter that their bed is now nearly touching the roof of their pig-arc. Certainly well above water table height, which is effectively ground level at the moment. They already have the highest and driest piece of ground on the farm, so there’s no point in moving them onto fresh ground. They aren’t at all bothered by the mud and water everywhere.  Hence the old saying ‘happy as a pig in …….muck’ .

 

As for the horses, they absolutely love it. Matey had so much mud on his rug this morning that I had to wash him from head to tail before getting his rug off to go exercising. Sampson has been in Sick Bay again with another foot problem……same foot, different problem. Again caused by constant wet and muddy feet. He is under more pressure to perform than usual, at the moment. Our grand-daughter, Etta, has put her name down for the School showjumping team. ‘Oh, right’, said I, ‘and how’s that going to work, then ‘?

‘Well, Gramps, Sampson and I are going showjumping’, said she.

‘And have you ever done any showjumping’ ? I asked.

‘Er, no….’

‘And has Sampson ever done any showjumping’ ?

‘Err, no…..!’

So, Sampson and Etta are now on a crash course ( that’s an unfortunate turn of phrase ) to learn another skill and that means he is isolated and out in the Chicken run/sand school which is the only dry, mud free piece of ground on the farm, until his foot recovers. Matey now has Echo – one of our female ponies – keeping him company, which he is delighted about. So is Echo because it means she is on unlimited hay and grass. Unfortunately, Sampson doesn’t understand his isolation or appreciate Matey’s new companion, so is standing around looking all forlorn again and wondering why he’s being punished once more…..!

 

Valentine’s Day was a bit of a non-event this year. Avoiding the romantic side of things it usually heralds the first duck and goose eggs. Finding and collecting and monitoring egg production is very much part of our daily feeding-up routine with the children and in turn leads on to hatching chicks and ducklings. The duck egg production system has gone awry, with two ducks laying all Winter. Another one has now started, I think, but there is no clear distinction between their seasons. The Geese started mating at the beginning of February which means that Ghengis has claimed Ghandi’s partner, Bianca, and driven him away from ‘the gang’ and the inherent safety net that that normally provides. Bianca, who is normally devoted to Ghandi, is swanning around (?) enjoying all the attention and Griselda isn’t bothered about sharing Ghengis with her. This sort of bullying is standard practice in the animal kingdom. Mating with the biggest, strongest, most dominant male ensures that the genetic pool stays strong. Once they have laid their eggs calm will return and Ghandi will happily protect Bianca whilst she incubates ‘their’ eggs. I did try to separate them into pairs a couple of years ago but that nearly caused a civil war, so now I just let nature follow its natural course. The only problem now is trying to find their eggs. They should have started laying by now, and I have put a pile of loose straw in one end of the field shelter. The only way in is wading through a large puddle and squeezing under a steel door, which prevents Moo, our miniature Shetland from destroying the nests and eggs, and hopefully may deter the unknown ‘egg thief’ that appears every year. The geese have their handful of grain in there every morning but at the moment there is no sign of any eggs. Which means that they may have decided to hide them away in a hedge somewhere.

 

Balti and Snowy, our two neutered goats, are very easy to look after compared to all the other animals. They spend most of their time ‘resting’ in the sheep-shed, happily munching on Matey’s race-horse hay, and occasionally pop outside to see if they’re in danger of missing anything – which they aren’t . If only they were all so easy…..!

 

We haven’t quite finished our Winter maintenance programme yet and our first guests arrive in two weeks time. No doubt we will have the usual last minute panic but it will all suddenly fall into place. I can’t see it yet, but by the time I write my next instalment I’ll probably be following the lawnmower around the gardens and Tracey will be suggesting turning the pool on…… and England should have won the Six Nations…..and Iggle and Piggle will be having flying lessons……!

 

Cheers for now, Farmer Chris.