It’s nearly the end of July and we have been open now for three weeks. The new ‘normal’ is gradually taking shape, albeit evolving on a weekly basis. Keeping up with the ever changing regulations, recommendations and suggestions isn’t exactly easy or cheap but most importantly they do seem to be working. All around North Devon businesses are opening up and customers are slowly getting out and about again and spending money in our local economy. Tourism is our second biggest industry, after farming, and it is estimated that more than six million visitors spend over half a billion pounds here, every year, creating over eleven thousand jobs. For a while it was eerily pleasant to drive down to the Link Road and find it empty of traffic, but to then drive through South Molton or even Barnstaple and see empty streets and shops and pubs and restaurants was somehow unsettling. Apart from the teams of National Health staff our farmers and food producers have kept working flat out to keep food going into the shops and supermarkets as and when required. Everyone involved in our local food distribution system has done a spectacular job of getting supplies to where they are needed, when they are needed.
Our own system fared well. Tracey had just stocked the farm shop up for the coming season when we went into lockdown. Never mind panic buying….we were nearly panic selling. In the middle of April we suddenly found twenty-four large bottles of cider with imminent ‘best before’ dates on them…..! In the middle of all that glorious, hot weather. Well…..we did our best. We couldn’t invite anyone in to help out. We met the neighbours on the bridge at the bottom of the lane a couple of times and had socially distanced covid parties. Eventually we managed to consume all the urgent stuff and what’s left is now being drunk by our guests. We had to send some of our pigs to the fat-stock market rather than hoard it in the freezers. We had enough pork, lamb and duck in stock to keep us and family and friends supplied. We are now in the barbecue season so our sausages and burgers and chops are flying out of the shop. The secret of any successful food production system is to be adaptable to market forces. If a crisis, or pandemic, comes along and you can ‘duck and dive’ accordingly it is possible to turn pending doom into a roaring success. Many of our small local suppliers have risen to the challenge and are still giving the supermarkets a run for their money, and good for them.
Our orphan lambs have done remarkably well this year. I suppose the weather and grass has been ideal or them. They all look in peak condition and having been hand reared are remarkably friendly and seem to enjoy interacting with the children without appearing to be greedily seeking out food. Last year we had one particular trouble-maker who kept escaping and taking all the others with it. This year they are all very well behaved, which is a bit boring, really.
The ponies seem to be happy that we are open again. At last they are getting out and about and getting some exercise and stimulation. They are both embarrassingly fat but Sampson is out with them and is looking fabulous, so their problem is basically not getting enough work early in the season when the first flush of Spring grass after a long Winter allowed them to suddenly fatten up. The goslings are now geese and there are twelve of them altogether, acting as lawn mowers and helping to keep the grass away from the ponies. Moo, our miniature Shetland pony, is out with Matey and seems to have reached maximum fatness level ( if there is such a thing ) and Matey is comfortably plump……( if there is such a thing….!) He has regained a bit of movement in his tail, following our accident in March, but nowhere near enough to keep horse flies off. That now acts as his diet plan because he can’t go outside in the sunshine so both of them stay in the field shelter during the day and go out to graze at night.
The Fairy Garden is a great success with the smaller children. The wishing tree is rapidly filling up with childhood dreams and fantasies and the new pond-dipping and den building area is very popular. There are masses of tad-poles in the stream at the moment which seems awfully late to me but must be because of the strange weather patterns this Summer.
We are rapidly selling out full weeks in September and October and won’t be doing short breaks and long weekends for the foreseeable future. Our new cleaning regime on changeover days takes so long we can only do it once every week. If you are thinking of trying a farmstay holiday have a look at our website or social media pages and then contact Tracey.
One last bit of breaking news – Tarka and Tangle are arriving today. That is what the eight-week-old Beagle puppies that we are walking for the kennels are called. If you want to follow their progress watch our social media pages. They should be with us until October.
Cheers for now, Farmer Chris.
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