Christmas is now behind us and the year-end is rapidly approaching. 2020 will be one of those unforgettable years for most of us, for all the wrong reasons, and 2021 is obviously going to be difficult for many of us. Here at North Bradbury farm we should be opening up again in February, so we are already on a final countdown with jobs and maintenance work that will have to be completed before guests can arrive. Eight weeks will fly by and no doubt we will have the usual last minute panic and broken deadlines to look forward to. With the days being so short at this time of year everything does tend to take longer than usual, even on the inside jobs. It is still raining most of the time and apparently the forecast is snow, here, for tomorrow. We haven’t seen much of that in recent years, which is just as well, really. Snow always seems like fun when it first arrives, but after a few days it just means extra work, unless you are a horse or a dog, of course. For some reason the dogs absolutely love deep snow and run around and around in circles chasing each other and even chasing their own tails if necessary. The horses roll for hours, even with their rugs on, and then gallop around bucking and kicking and grabbing mouthfuls of the strange white stuff which isn’t normally in their fields but might taste nice and have some strange nutritional value. They are generally creatures of habit and tend to mistrust sudden changes.

Of course there is another issue with any significant fall of snow, (anything over about five or six inches)  , and  that is that we have a mile of unclassified road in either direction before we get to the main road. That means that the council doesn’t send the grit-lorry and snow-plough in to clear our road so it is up to us dig ourselves out, which is fine because we have enough tractors and loaders etc. to take care of ourselves and our neighbours. Most isolated, rural areas have a natural community spirit that enables us to survive and thrive in adversity, despite any ongoing local issues. Anyway, it’s not even snowing, yet.

Apart from the adverse weather forecast we also have a national poultry lockdown, due to an outbreak of Avian Flu………also known as Chinese bird flu…….!  So, all of our free-range birds are shut indoors, in buildings that we have tried to make bird proof, to keep Sparrows out. In some parts of the country Sparrows are described as endangered due to their declining numbers. On farms, due to their constant access to ad-lib poultry feeders, they are so numerous they are in danger of being culled. Anyway, we now have a lot of very hungry sparrows and very bored chickens and ducks. This will inevitably lead to mental health issues and self-harming, murder and suicide rates will undoubtedly increase. The geese can stay outside because they are grazing birds, but they are now happily imprisoned in the duckless duck ponds. Having completely failed to sex the young geese I eventually kept the one with the broken wing and released the other six to their new owner before the lockdown took effect. As luck would have it ‘She’ has now paired up with Gandhi on one pond leaving Bianca and Genghis paddling contentedly around on the other pond. I expect that will all change when they start mating and laying eggs in February, but for now all is peace and harmony.

The ponies managed to open the ‘pony proof’ gate into their feed store and eat and  trample/destroy nearly a months supply of hay and straw. Their daily ration now has to be scraped up off the floor. I can see them looking at me as if to say ‘What….is that it ?’.., but no long term damage was done, really. Matey and Sampson haven’t done a lot of hunting because of Covid Compliance and the rule of six, but we did take them down to Braunton Burrows and rode through the dunes and cantered along the beach in the surf. Matey was convinced that the waves ‘ were coming to get him ‘ and kept trying to run away from them, but when he eventually calmed down and realised they were harmless he thoroughly enjoyed himself. Maybe I should get him a surf board.

Misty and Rosie also love going to the Burrows so we seem to be spending more and more of our time-off over there. Our local walks are now so waterlogged that it is barely enjoyable trying to exercise at home. At least the sand is clean and dry so even if the wind is blowing the rain horizontally across the beach, as long as we have the right clothes on we can keep exercising.

It is nearly New Years Day  so this is probably a good time to remind you that our reserve list for 2022 opens on January 1st,2021. For all of you who didn’t get what you wanted this year the sooner you contact me the higher up the list you will be so the more chance you will have of getting exactly what you want. By going on the reserve list there is no obligation to book .Tracey will then contact you in September when we start selling 2022 holidays to see if you would still like to visit. Reassuringly we still have bookings trickling in for this year. We all need something in the diary to look forward to !  I think more than ever holidaying in the UK will be most families first choice. For prices and availability for 2021 please go to our booking page. The plan is to re-open in February. We have everything crossed that the hospitality industry is up and running by then !

So I think that’s about it for this year. It hasn’t been a great one for any of us but now we can consign it to history and do our best to improve things for everyone in 2021. Happy New Year from both of us to all of you,

Cheers for now, farmer Chris.