June has been a reasonably ‘benign’ month, compared to the rest of the year. It has been mild, we’ve had some rain and some sunshine, everything is growing like mad so the animals are all fattening up nicely – in fact, some of us that aren’t even dependant on grass are fattening up nicely, too. Surprisingly, it is now the last week of June. Mid-summers-day is behind us and the days are becoming shorter, not that you can notice it yet. We have been flat out with guests since we opened for business in April and judging by the traffic every one else must be as well. The economy is bouncing back and many businesses are thriving already, but we aren’t completely out of the woods yet. As we approach the crucial Seventy per cent milestone for double vaccinations we are also seeing public gatherings increasing in high streets and at sporting events. The infection rate is creeping up but the death rate isn’t. We will have to learn to live with some sort of a trade off in order to achieve a new ‘normal’. Scientists and politicians will now have to decide whether to vaccinate children – we must develop a different system in order to keep schools open. We work with small groups of children on a daily basis and can see at once how continued lockdowns and school closures have dramatically affected their confidence and social behaviour. The best way forward now has to be through increased vaccination globally and continuing to socially distance sensibly.
I hesitate to say we have great news from the goose field. Bianca the goose has religiously sat on six eggs for the whole month of June and bang on time, on day twenty eight, five of them have hatched out. We have kept them inside for two days because one of them was weak and wobbly and sadly hasn’t survived but this morning we have released Bianca and four thriving goslings into the great outdoors. They have already been across the field and into the stream for their inaugural swimming lesson and we will keep them in at night for a while. The problem is that geese are grazing birds and should be free to eat grass and insects and slugs and worms and roots and berries ad lib. Shutting them in can cause them to slowly starve. We aren’t entirely sure what happened to her first clutch but it was probably a combination of lack of grass and being abandoned long enough for the crows to steal them. Hopefully, Bianca and her team will have learnt from their earlier disaster and between us all we should be more successful this time.
The lambs have now recovered from their Orf outbreak and are out of isolation. They are really keen to interact with the children again, especially if it means being fed. Feeding time is a mad rush to see if the children can get the food in the trough next to the pig fence before Misty gets the lambs rounded up, drives them around behind the workshop, through the hole in the fence beside the dung heap and through the long grass in the back field which now resembles a rainforest. They look like a whole team of prop-forwards as they hurtle up the hill to gobble down a handful of food they really don’t need and if Misty the sheepdog gets a bit carried away and collects Balti and Snowy, the goats, as well ( who are quite partial to a handful of food that they don’t need, either) it gets more like the migration of the Wildebeest, every time.
The pigs, Frank and Furter, are thriving in the warm weather. We top up their wallow every day and they spend hours rolling and rubbing and generally thrashing around in the thick muddy water. Sometimes they even lie down and have a snooze whilst half submerged.They now have long, waving, two-foot high grass a bit like the African savannah in their enclosure and they can completely disappear in places, which can be a tad disconcerting when I am trying to check their whereabouts. Pigs have a sense of humour, rather like dogs and horses, and sometimes they will just lie down and hide and even play dead rather than give themselves away, which can be funny …if you aren’t in a hurry.
The chickens and I have completely failed to hatch out any chicks so far this year. I have to accept some of the blame for poor management, the weather may be partly to blame – last year we had chicks at Christmas. Fertility, ( or lack of it ) could be a contributing factor. Perhaps one of the cockerels isn’t doing their job properly, or maybe one of them is…..confused….! Apparently other people are having similar problems. In some cases rats are taking eggs away from under the broody hens. If we don’t manage to hatch out chicks this year we won’t have any replacements next year so our egg production will be severely curtailed. Normally by now we would have half-a-dozen clutches hatched out and two or three broodies sitting on eggs. Still, let’s wait and see…..
Elsewhere, out on the farm, everything seems to be ticketyboo. I’d better go down and shut the goslings in for the night. I’ll take a gun with me, just in case those crows are hanging around…..
Cheers for now, farmer Chris.