Ignoring the global political situation for now let us all celebrate the fact that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has now reigned over us for seventy years. What a wonderful example she has set for all of us. Long live our noble Queen.

Having just survived three of the driest months on record we are finally getting some much needed rain. Obviously, if you are on holiday you don’t need rain quite as much as if you are growing crops and flowers but to those of us growing things it is essential. As is always the case it generally rains at the wrong time of day.  Fortunately I’ve got plenty of indoor jobs to get on with so I’m happy to see it, anyway. Ideally, gentle persistent rain every night would be perfect. Having finished the new roof on the tack-room and feed-store I am slowly rendering the walls inside so that they can be white-washed. Not that I’m a slow renderer……I tend to only do it when it’s raining and do outside stuff when it’s dry. The builders are ‘slowly’ getting on with rebuilding the barn at the bottom of the lane. Not that they are ‘slow’ builders, but……….!   In all fairness to builders, getting materials at the moment isn’t exactly easy and they can’t do some jobs when it’s raining. Still, fingers crossed, the sun will be back soon and so will the builders.

Our orphan lambs are all weaned now. They had seven weeks on the milk bar, which is also called an ‘automatic feeder’. One of us has to fill it up five times every day so it isn’t really automatic. It certainly makes life easier but now they are all munching grass happily at least we can both go out together and leave the farm for more than four hours. Lamb is probably the most naturally produced meat in British butchers-shops and supermarkets, having been reared outdoors on a diet of grass. Sheep will do well on Highland and Moorland grazing and traditionally graze steep and less accessible land and therefore are largely responsible for many of the wonderful rural landscapes that we all associate with the British countryside. When I was at school it was claimed that there were more sheep within a twenty-five mile radius of South Molton than the rest of the British Isles put together. It’s worth remembering that both the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions were driven by the wool trade and the extent and success of the British Empire was ‘built on the backs of sheep’, which is why the Speaker of the House of Lords still sits on a wool sack. So, South Molton has much to answer for……

Our alpacas have settled in well and are proving very popular with the guests. They are very gentle and trusting creatures and they love to keep an eye on what we are all doing. Every day we catch one of them and walk it down the lane to see what the geese are up to so all guests, big and small, get the opportunity to ‘walk an Alpaca’. Some with more success than others. Chico disappeared in a cloud of dust this morning with his leading-rein flapping in the breeze behind him. Fortunately, Misty the sheep/alpaca dog managed to get in front of him and gradually brought him back to me, albeit in a high state of excitement. Needless-to-say he was quite happy to be recaptured and complete his ‘daily constitutional’. All three of them look healthy and plump at the moment. Once it warms up again I’ll have to think about separating them from their woolly jackets. Now, I’ve been looking into this on the Internet. It appears that you don’t shear their heads, feet and tails. Which means they will suddenly look like skeletal French Poodles. Watch this space then…….

On the subject of shearing, Misty the sheep/alpaca dog had her Summer trim a few weeks ago, during the last heatwave and I have to say I think she looks fabulous. I always leave a ‘Pom Pom’ on the end of her tail (French Poodle-esque ) rather than going for a thin, whippy, rat-tail effect. I also leave as much hair as possible around her ears because Border Collies have extremely sensitive hearing. Rosie, our Patterdale terrier, gets very envious of Misty, as she stands on the forty-five gallon oil drum having her long, shaggy, Collie coat removed. She begs for some of the same treatment despite having a nice, short, flat, black coat. I usually end up putting her on the barrel and rubbing the horse clippers all over her for a few seconds, just to pacify her. Interestingly, the sheep usually run a mile the first couple of times that Misty rounds them up in her new team strip. I’m thinking that as she gets older and slower maybe I should get her a couple of different doggie ‘onesies’ just to keep the sheep on their toes…….!

Primrose and Petunia, our Kune Kune pigs, have adjusted to their new routine quite happily. Along with their nephews, Rusty and Rooter, they are busily munching their way through the grass in the pig pen and the chicken run. Having no horses and ponies on the farm at the moment we have a surfeit of grass and I’m wondering what to do with it. The buttercups and daisies are running riot at the moment. Normally I wage war on all pernicious weeds because they suppress the grass whilst being inedible to livestock. In fact, buttercups are toxic to grazing animals. However, now we don’t actually need so much grass, the birds and bees are obviously delighted with all the blossom and seeds. Next year we’ll have twice as many ‘weeds’ and half as much grass but we won’t worry about that yet.

Bianca the goose has been sitting on her eggs for a couple of weeks now. It’s a bit difficult to say exactly when she started because she is quite relaxed about the process. Perhaps having four of last years goslings in the flock still has given her second thoughts about hatching a new clutch. She started out sitting on twenty-four eggs but I think she has somehow reduced that to about eight or nine. With all the disruption of the building work going on in her bedroom I have tried to leave her undisturbed as much as possible so let’s see what happens.

 

Moo, the miniature Shetland, and Snowy, Jethro and Denzil the goats are all fit and well.

We still have unsold weeks throughout the Summer so if you fancy a ‘family friendly farm holiday’ in glorious North Devon, check our availability.

The sun is shining again so I’d better get the swimming pool ready for the guests to use,

Cheers for now, Farmer Chris.