Our big news-story this month has to be the arrival of Rosie’s eight puppies. After her brief ‘wedding and honeymoon’ with Ted, a Brindle Patterdale, we waited and watched her as she got bigger and bigger. Chandler and Chestnut, the Beagle puppies that we were walking for the local Harriers, had their Summer Camp with us cut short so they weren’t here causing chaos when the puppies were born. By eight weeks (out of a nine week pregnancy) she was so big we were seriously worried about her health. She actually got stuck coming through the dog-flap one day, which sounds comical now but was quiet traumatic at the time. She managed to wriggle so far through that she couldn’t go forwards or backwards. I was almost considering sawing the door in half! In the end we managed to squeeze/pull her through forwards, just. Eventually, she went into labour one day early, starting at about eight o’clock in the evening and finishing at six the next morning. Bit of a long night! Rosie, and all eight puppies are flourishing now. They are three weeks old, their eyes are open and they have just started wrestling. They are all different colours and getting personalities already and haven’t left their bed yet. It’s a shame to think that they will all be gone/going in four weeks time – hopefully to exciting new homes and lives. Rosie will be fed up with them by then and we probably will be too.
The new pigs have settled in nicely and seem to be enjoying the softer ground. It is much easier for them to excavate holes and tunnels and ‘child traps’ now that the Summer drought has ended. Following a massive entry for the last ‘Name the Pigs’ competition the winner was adjudged to be ‘Waste-not and Want-not’ and, needless-to-say, was won by one of our regular guests. The advantage being that regulars tend to remember most of our previous piggy names and suggest new ones. Waste-not and Want-not arrived just in time to start hoovering up the wind-falls in the orchard and have been gorging themselves on apples and damsons for the last month. They are Gloucester Oldspot X Oxford Sandy Blacks and I can sense some delicious, apple flavoured pork and sausages in the pipeline.
Rodney the Ram is in his customary, annual, head-banging phase. It’s that time of year again when the ewes are all in season and the Ram has to be confined to quarters to prevent lambs being born in January/February. Rodney obviously doesn’t approve of this forced separation. He is carrying out Health and Safety tests on the gates and fences that are separating him from his wives and some of them are looking a bit wobbly. Balti, the ex-Billy Goat who is keeping Rodney company, really doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. He is quite happy playing silly, boy games with Rodney – seeing who can head-butt the hardest or push the other one backwards. That has to be more fun than a field full of hormonal, horned, harridans…………..! No, not if you are a territorial, terminal sire. Rodney’s two main concerns at the moment are 1) to mate with and try to impregnate as many ewes as possible, and 2) to fight off any other Rams in the area who want to do the same thing. So, Rodney and I are on the same side and want roughly the same result, but I like to think that my fencing and gates will do the job and he just isn’t convinced ! Roll on October 10th…..commencement of Ovine nuptials.
Autumn seems to have arrived rather suddenly. Wet and windy weather is bringing down the leaves, and trees and branches in some places. The warm weather is keeping the grass growing nicely which has to be a good thing after such a lean Summer. The ground is soft and Matey and I had our first day hunting on Wednesday. Matey seems to have Summered better than me. He was up on his toes and fighting the bit all day. I was fine when we arrived home and after clearing up and doing the chores I collapsed on the sofa for a rest. Next morning, I could hardly walk. I had to take tablets just to get down-stairs and outside to start work ! Two days on and I have just taken the horses out for some exercise. I was hoping that he might have calmed down and possibly even be a bit stiff and sore. Not a chance……. he thought we were going hunting again ! It’s going to be a long eight months.
One of the great advantages of a long, hot Summer is it is often followed by a bumper mushroom crop. We have been picking them now since early August and they could go on until November. Apples and blackberries and wild damsons have been amazing but the hazel-nuts were non-existent – unless the squirrels were picking them off faster than they were growing. In which case we may have another looming squirrel crisis, like last winters ‘Squirrel Wars’.
It is nearly the end of September now. The weather is still good, in fact there is supposed to be a heatwave coming next week. Our pool is still open, the puppies are just about at their best and we still have weekends, short breaks and some half-term availability at the moment. Tracey has just posted our 2019 price-list and we are now taking bookings for next year.
Bye for now, Farmer Chris.