Has May been yet another month of extremes ? After the driest, coldest April ever we’ve now had the wettest, coldest May for years. We have over the years had the swimming pool open in March and guests lying on the beach, sunbathing at Easter. Now, we just have to expect the unexpected, and grin and bear it. Hey-Ho, at least (at LAST!), the grass is growing and has enough feed value and digestible matter to keep the lambs, horses and ponies happy. The swimming pool is warm and open and we have some very excited children staying, some of whom have never swum before. Some of them have had long and boring ‘lockdowns’ and are now lacking in confidence because of their lack of social contact. Some of our younger guests are in their second year and haven’t even met their grandparents, yet. So many habits and activities we used to take for granted are still just out of reach. Fingers crossed then for the next four weeks to try and contain the Indian variant that is now creeping across parts of the country. The forecast is good, though, the Barbie is out and we have mates coming over for lunch tomorrow……yippee!

The lambs were a huge success initially and we had hours of fun bottle feeding them. They then developed a nasty sheep disease and had to be isolated for three weeks. They are now well, weaned and up to their knees in lush young grass and some of them are enormous. They had a brief spell of escapology but now the Winter gaps are repaired they are happily munching and sunbathing. On Monday they will have their first of two annual lamb vaccinations to protect them against a variety of sheep ailments. They won’t be quite so happy then but fortunately they have very short memories. Unlike the pigs, who are virtually impossible to handle, have long memories and can harbour grudges for several days. If a pig needs medication, usually in the form of antibiotics in an injection, you have to put some food in front of them, creep up behind them and stab/inject them, a bit like they do in Bond films. You then won’t get near them for about three days, which can be a bit of a problem if they are on a five day course of jabs…..! As for harbouring grudges I wonder if any of them will realise that I’m doing sausages and lamb cutlets on the Barbie tomorrow.

Hot off the press is good news from the Goose field. Nelson, the one-armed-gander, has been on the duck pond, recovering from a damaged leg for the last three weeks. As he has been getting a bit pecky now his leg has recovered, we moved him back into the Goose and Pony field this morning. That caused a full scale revolution with much honking and pecking and flying of feathers and ended up with Nelson cowering in the far corner of the field in a bedraggled heap, all by himself, possibly thinking that it had been quite nice being a duck for a while. So, I went back a couple of hours later to see if the dust had settled and found two geese had disappeared. After an extensive search I ended up inside the field shelter ( probably should have looked there first !) and…..surprise surprise …… There was Bianca, sitting on her old nest, hissing frantically, with Genghis sitting proudly beside her……and after some life threatening investigation I discovered six eggs underneath her. Never before has one of our geese laid a second clutch of eggs but, after last months disaster, nature has decided to give us all a second chance. Fingers crossed on that one, then. At least we now have lots of grass.

The chickens are all laying well this year but have completely failed to hatch out any chicks so far. We have one broody hen that was sitting on six eggs and is now down to two and they are due in three days time so fingers crossed there. At the moment only one of our swallows has returned and until it finds a mate it won’t start nesting at all, which doesn’t bode well for the horse fly season. Normally we would have twenty or thirty pairs nesting and as soon as they start hatching we have a frenzy of swallows swooping and diving through the air as they hoover up vast quantities of unwanted insects. Perhaps the horse flies won’t like the weather, or maybe the swallows will arrive at the same time.

Misty the sheep dog has had a traumatic month. She was off her food and looking peeky enough for me to take her to the vet. She is ten years old now so we were both thinking this could be a one-way journey. The vet ran some tests and said she had a pyometra ( serious womb infection.) and needed an emergency hysterectomy, which would probably cost the best part of one thousand pounds. Is it worth spending that much money on an old working dog ? Fortunately for Misty, Collie puppies are now making around two thousand pounds as a result of Pandemic buying. So, we bit that bullet and said go ahead and now she is nearly back to normal. The trauma for her has been being confined to barracks on bed rest, with an annoying lampshade fixed firmly around her neck to stop her worrying the stitches. As an outdoor, working dog she normally goes everywhere I go and helps with endless sheepdog duties, followed by any free time spent collecting tennis balls with the children followed by an hours walk around the countryside. None of which has she been allowed to do despite being able to hear me running around the farm barking and shouting manically at wandering livestock. At one stage she was sitting by the Rayburn, howling like a wolf, while Tracey was trying to cook dinner. At last she is now back on gentle exercising and recovering well.

The goats, Balti and Snowy, are extremely busy with their hedge trimming. I can honestly say that there isn’t a single bramble or bush poking through the stock fencing anywhere on the farm, or even hanging over the top. The goats, who are browsers rather than grazers, create an eight foot high strip of perfectly trimmed hedge around every field. In a perfectly controlled experiment, the fencing around the garden, which is a ‘goat free zone’, needs pruning every time I get the lawn mower out. Keep up the good work, boys.

Enough for now. It’s a sunny Sunday bank holiday and I’m going to get the Barbie ready,

Cheers for now, Farmer Chris.