My apologies for failing to Blog in March. We had a very busy month and despite lots of news to impart, I just didn’t get around to writing. Much has happened since February so let’s get on with it. Covid has been replaced in the news media by Putin and Russia illegally invading Ukraine. Putin is in charge but Russia is equally to blame for allowing it to happen and it is now up to Russia and Russian people to put an end to it. Russians can no longer claim to be ignorant of their leader committing war crimes and genocide against women and children by constantly targeting schools, hospitals, apartment blocks and humanitarian convoys. Twenty first century systems of communications are unstoppable so Kremlin misinformation can always be verified or disseminated somehow on the Internet. It may seem unfair to brand Russia and Russians as global pariahs along with Putin but any and all means of applying pressure to achieve Russian backed regime change must be used. If that means Medvedev being banned from Wimbledon, so be it. It might not be his war but any influential Russians that can help, must be encouraged to help. For years our consecutive governments have been criticised for having an immigration policy that is almost ineffective…….now, having introduced more stringent regulations, they are being condemned for not letting urgent and genuine Ukraneian families into the UK. Who’d be a politician ?

 

Covid hasn’t gone away but we are learning to live with it. Our Covid compliant changeovers have now reduced from eight hours for three people to five hours. Linen no longer needs resting for three days before we can process it so our working week is almost back to normal. We no longer do weekend and mid-week breaks which means only one changeover every week. Alleluia! Fingers and everything crossed but our vaccination program seems to be holding up. Unfortunately, the situation in China and Hong Kong is rapidly deteriorating so we mustn’t become complacent and let our guard down too soon.

 

After a fairly quiet Winter the farm is getting busy again. No horses and ponies means the fields haven’t been poached at all so we actually have grass as we come into the Spring. We have replaced the ponies with three Alpacas. Cosmo, Chico and Coco have settled in well and are making great progress with leading rein training. We will be doing Alpaca walks as soon as they get used to the hustle and bustle of families with small children. Alpacas are curious, shy, ┬ábut willing and biddable animals. Initially nervous, they quickly adapt to new routines and often follow us around the fields just to watch what we are doing. They murmur to each other constantly as if exchanging information and have strangely dexterous necks that give them seemingly ‘alien’ or Giraffe-like stances. They are herd animals and quickly accepted Misty the sheep-dog as she rounds them and the goats up and drives them into the field-shelter. They make no attempt to escape, unlike the goats who jump over fences and gates for fun.

 

We have also acquired four Kune-Kune pigs. Two older sows, Primrose and Petunia and two young, castrated, boars, Rooter and Rusty. They are grass-eating pigs from New Zealand and we are planning to keep them, rather than eat them. Apparently you can eat them and as with many traditional breeds that haven’t been hybridised they will produce much tastier pork. However, in order to reduce our workload we are not doing home produced meat in the farm shop any more so Primrose, Petunia, Rusty and Rooter are here to stay and will hopefully keep the long grass in the orchard and chicken enclosure nice and tidy without rotovating everything.

 

We now have twenty orphan lambs to look after. At seven weeks old they will be weaned and turned out onto fresh Spring grass and will virtually look after themselves. At the moment, however, they are quite demanding. Their ‘automatic feeder’ needs filling up every four hours so one of us has to be on duty all the time. With two sets of kit, one is in the steriliser constantly. They are great fun and the children ( and parents !) love bottle feeding them at every opportunity. But, it is going to be a long five weeks……..

 

The ducks and the geese all started laying on Valentine’s Day. Bianca, the Embden goose, has now laid twenty-two huge eggs but has shown no desire yet to sit on them. This could be partly due to ‘Storm Eunice’ lifting the complete roof off of the barn next door and dumping it very neatly in the Farm lane. Biancas’ nest is in the adjoining shed and I have put a sturdy old table over it to give a semblance of safety and privacy, but there has been a lot of re-building activity since February 18th. Ghengis the Gander is doing his best to ‘protect’ her and their eggs. He actually chased one of the builders out of ‘his’ field at one stage. They have now had to erect goose-proof fencing around the site and Ghengis has been mentioned in their requisite risk assessment……!

 

Moo, the miniature Shetland pony, is a bit lonely now that Matey and the other horses have gone. However, he and the goats and the alpacas have all bonded into one large herd and tend to do everything ‘en masse’. They graze together, bask in the sun in one large group and all come in to the field shelter and curl up together on cold, wet nights.

 

We still have availability right through until October. Bookings have been slow for a while because of the general global situation. North Devon is still a fabulous holiday destination with masses of choices for family days out and our family friendly farm holidays are always very popular. Happy children mean happy holidays.

 

Oh yes !……..having had a last minute cancellation, we are now not working Easter week-end for the first time in twenty three years……..apart from feeding the lambs, of course. So, Happy Easter from both of us to all of you.

 

Must go and mix up some more lambs milk so,

Cheers for now, Farmer Chris.