Christmas is now behind us, the turkey is finally finished and we are about to enter a new decade. The General Election is sorted – at last, a vote for common sense. Our stalled economy is moving again and the B- word is hardly mentioned. Hopefully, the BBC will give up with ‘project fear’, the tabloids will find other axes to grind and we can all look forward to positive progress. The weather can only improve and once the New Year celebrations are over and the days start to lengthen Spring will soon arrive. Our ‘ daffs’ and  snowdrops are all coming up, but not in flower yet. The Hazel catkins ( at least, the male ones ) have been out for weeks, and in January the female ones will open up. We will soon be having a Hazel reproduction fest, so watch out for that…..! Then nuts galore in September. Which has just reminded me….. I must get the tin out and finish off last years collection.

 

Christmas may be over but the festive season is in full swing. Having an evening to ourselves at last we are off to the pub for the annual pub quiz in a minute. I seem to be the token male in a ladies team at the moment. No pressure there then. We never take quizzes very seriously but some people treat it like a religion. We usually find that a few drinks help rather than hinder so randomness rules and fingers crossed is a good motto, rather than individual speciality subjects………….OK, back again…..we’ve been to the pub/quiz, and……yes…..we didn’t win anything, even in the raffle. And, tenth out of eighteen was very acceptable as far as I was concerned. Some of them were almost professional, and some of them had seven members on a team, compared to our four! A lot of money was raised for the village football club. George Friend donated a pair of old boots, which were raffled, returned and then auctioned off for Seventy five pounds. And we all had a reasonably wild time….! Listen, when you reach our age you take your kicks whenever the opportunity arises.

 

Two of our ducks are very ‘confused’ at the moment, and to be honest so am I. We have been keeping ducks for twenty five years and we have never had duck eggs in the Winter. Generally speaking they will start to lay in February, lay through the Summer and stop in Sept/Oct. This year, all of ours started laying on time in February. Two of them layed right through the Summer as normal. Two of them stopped laying during the hot weather in July and got rather hormonal, starting moulting and tried to go broody. They then started laying again in late September and are still laying an egg a  day now. And, yes……..we had two lovely fresh eggs on Christmas Day. I have now done some research on the old inter-web and there are two opposing schools of thought. Neither really allow for climate change, so I’m now just left scratching my head and ‘confused’ as well.

 

Sampson has had a bit of a rough month. He managed to punch a hole through the sole of one front foot whilst out hunting. He made it home without appearing to be lame but next morning he was stuck on three legs out in the field and couldn’t put his foot down. Great…..just in time for the Christmas break and the busiest month of the hunting season. He had to have a poultice on for a week and be shut in on a clean dry bed, rather than out in the wet , muddy, field with Matey. He was still on a crash diet so didn’t even have any hay to eat. This is Sampsons’ idea of purgatory and he kept looking at me reproachfully, as if to say ‘why are you punishing me now – what have I done to deserve this ?’ After ten days he came back sound ( stopped limping ) and we managed to put a thick leather pad on between his foot and shoe to protect his sole and start ‘hunting gently ‘ again – which is a bit like saying a ‘friendly game of rugby’….. anyway, we have had four days hunting with him and he is still sound and the grandchildren go back to school again next week. If we can avoid the stoniest ground we should be able to just squeeze another two days out of him. Then he can have a month off to rest and recover – and I could do with some of that as well.

 

The chickens are laying well now, despite being so uncooperative during the Summer. Fortunately, the farm shop in Barnstaple which sells our surplus hen and duck eggs has just expanded and they have people queueing up for them. The thing is there are free-range and ‘free-range’. Not all free-range chickens have as much freedom as ours do. Ours have a completely natural diet with lots of choice and ‘freedom’ to graze. We often hear people saying how ‘dark and thick’ our eggshells are as well as how ‘rich and yellow’ our egg-yolks are. A lot of supermarket eggs are brightly packaged with all sorts of wholesome claims, but you know what they say -‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’.

 

The goats are still being ‘difficult ‘ but are managing to stay within my tolerance levels……..but only just. The geese are relieved now that Christmas Dinner is over for another year. The ponies – Meggie, Echo and Moo – are happily reunited and seem to be enjoying the mud. Even Moo, the miniature Shetland, who you might say is somewhat ‘height challenged’ likes to gallop around the field bucking and kicking when I go to put their hay and straw out in the mornings.

 

Elsewhere on the farm, everything is ticking along nicely. Only two days left until 2020. With uncertainty over Brexit now diminishing enquiries and bookings have already picked up. Let’s hope that confidence in our economy and Great British lifestyle will now blossom for everybody’s benefit. Tracey and I would like to wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year, and are already looking forward to seeing many of you again next year and some of you for the first time.

 

Cheers for now, Farmer Chris.