I think the rain and flooding of February is now a dim and distant memory for most of us. The corona virus is now gripping the country and affecting every one of us. We have closed our farm holiday business for the foreseeable future and changed our daily routine slightly to live in complete isolation from the outside world. This is relatively simple for us. Sometimes we can go all week during the Winter and not see another living person, apart from possibly the postman. We are both classified as ‘vulnerable’ now, due to underlying health issues and our age, but our chosen lifestyle does have many advantages that most people can only dream about. However it does also make us totally dependent on each other.

 

Two weeks ago my horse, Matey, in a fit of exuberance, reared up and went over backwards on top of me and then thrashed around for a while until he could regain his feet. I was transferred to casualty by ambulance and spent twenty four hours in the medical assessment unit and after a series of X-Ray’s and some poking and prodding was declared battered and bruised but unbroken, and released. Our family and friends and neighbours rapidly stepped in to help out because Tracey is not supposed to lift anything and I was a bit limited with a Zimmer frame. Matey has some damage to his tail/pelvis/sacrum but hopefully will recover slowly. He is struggling with the flies now he is out without his rug on during the current glorious weather, as he has no movement in his tail at the moment. It does seem somewhat fortuitous that we have now closed because of the Corona virus – at least we have a breathing space and time to ‘rest and recuperate’.

Out on the farm the animals are oblivious to the national state of emergency. This time of year is always a hungry time for the grazing animals. Until the fresh and nutritious Spring grass becomes available they are all dependent on hay, straw and man-made rations to stay alive. Today we have wall to wall clear blue sky and glorious sunshine and a predicted high of sixteen degrees centigrade. The ground is drying up and starting to crack and the tractors are all out busily ploughing and getting ready to sow Spring crops and the grass is beginning to show. As usual, despite the general lack of grass where we really need it, the lawns are all growing like mad and desperately need mowing. As I am going to struggle with the lawn-mower for a day or two we have decided to put the ponies out on the lawn ! I tried that once with the sheep and before I knew it they had eaten all the bark off of the apple and plum trees and the Victoria plum tree has now died. I have picked most of the rhubarb, which is poisonous to horses (at least, the leaves are ) and covered up the rest and tried to protect the rest of the garden with an electric fence. Watch that space, then.

Iggle and Piggle the pigs have departed to the fat stock market and someone else’s freezer. With no guests here to buy pork products from our farm shop, for the foreseeable future, there isn’t much point in putting two hundred kilos of meat in our freezers. We have enough left from the last two pigs to keep us going for some time, and plenty of lamb and duck as well. We are trying to decide whether to get more lambs and pigs in now or wait and see what happens with the virus. With no guests and fewer animals we could have a relaxing Summer. Although I expect we’ll find something to keep us busy !

We made it to the middle of March without any sign of goose eggs, which was quite concerning. Then they escaped and disappeared for a day and night and next day Tracey spotted them in the distance but wasn’t able to field them in, so……Misty and I (and my Zimmer frame ) had to go ‘walkabout’ over the fields and eventually managed to get them back to the yard, just as it was getting dark. Rather than try to repatriate them to their own pasture in the dark, I put them out with the chickens for the night. Next morning, lo and behold, there was a large white egg in the middle of the chicken run. So, that would suggest that at least one of them was laying, and hiding their eggs in a hedge…..somewhere. The problem with that is that if they lay a clutch in a hedge somewhere and then go broody and decide to sit on them they will be totally vulnerable to predators. I have already given them a pile of straw in a safe corner of the field shelter, which they have completely ignored so far. I have been taking the geese in and feeding them beside the straw every day, to no avail. So, I put the precious goose egg in the middle of the straw, in full view of the geese and waited to see what happened. Now, two days later, we have three goose eggs buried in the straw. Partial success…….I will keep you informed.

 

We went to our first ‘virtual birthday party’ last weekend which was great fun. I’m not entirely sure how it works but it seemed like whoever spoke….(shouted !)……loudest gained priority on the screen. That led to a somewhat raucous atmosphere, with a one second time delay on lip-sinc, which was slightly surreal. Anyway, after a couple of hours Trace’ had to retire to her bed in a ‘tired and emotional’ state and woke up in the morning with a hangover. I suppose that could be adjudged to be a good night out…in !

 

Talking of technology, we are experimenting with videoing animal feeding and down-loading it on YouTube in order to stay in touch with our younger guests. You will find out more on our Facebook page.

 

I must go now and see how my new ‘lawn mowers’ are progressing,

Cheers for now, Farmer Chris.