All of a sudden it’s the middle of December. Doesn’t time fly, especially when you’re  enjoying yourself. Well, we’re doing our best. We have the traditional Christmas tree up in the sitting room and some twinkling lights around the back door and porch. We seem to have become accustomed to not socialising like we used to, before the pandemic. We  don’t seem to get as many cards in the post nowadays but it is the twenty-first century so some people prefer to stay in touch electronically, which is fine, and better for the environment. Unfortunately, we can’t hang them from the beams in the sitting room. Also, we probably won’t be putting up the mistletoe this year, just to be on the safe side. We don’t know much about the Omicron variant yet but let’s hope that the threat of further restrictions will encourage more people to get vacced/boosted in order to stay in front of the R curve.

It is very quiet out on the farm at the moment. The lambs and pigs went off to market last month. The ponies, Meggie and Echo, went off to their new home together and have settled in to their new lifestyle quite happily. Sampson went away to his new home with a local hunting family. We bumped into him last week for the first time after seven weeks of separation. Having been inseparable for nearly six years we were very interested to see how he and Matey would respond to each other. They definitely seemed to recognise each other but were generally very relaxed. They both pricked up their ears and snuffled each other’s noses, but then rode away in different directions with no hesitation. Horses are described as the most biddable of animals and love being asked or expected to respond easily and willingly to instructions. As long as you are steady, fair and consistent with them they will trust you and respond willingly when you ask them for something. Matey and Moo, our miniature Shetland, are now buddied-up and do everything together, if possible. I would never keep a horse or pony by itself because they are herd animals. Some people use donkeys or sheep or even goats as companions but, just like dogs, they prefer their own species if possible. Moo has adapted to his new regime very well and absolutely loves going out exercising on the leading rein. It does mean that Matey has to walk for a solid hour and he wasn’t impressed at all to start with. We have five or six different routes and regular sections where we trot and canter, which are usually Matey and Sampsons favourite bits, so it has been tough trying to make him walk everywhere. However, following his accident in August walking is ideal, and there is one short stretch in the woods with Moo sized jumps where Matey trots and Moo canters and it turns out that he loves jumping. He pricks his ears and tucks his little legs up under him and gets his paces correct every time. Watch out Horse Of The Year Show, we could be up for the Shetland Pony Grand National.

Sadly, this will be Balti ( our Sanaan Billy Goat’s )last Christmas. He has always been one of our most popular animals and many of you will have posed for selfies with him over the years. He is six or seven years old now and has always been freakishly tall and gangly. He now has quite severe arthritis and struggles to keep up with Snowy so we have decided to ‘replace’ him with two young, cross-bred wethers ( castrated male goats/sheep….like Balti and Snowy. ) Balti has probably been the best hedge trimmer we have ever had. Being so tall he has cut a straight line nearly eight feet high around every hedge on the farm. ( No, he isn’t eight feet tall……he can stand up on his back legs and reach nearly eight feet. ) There isn’t a single bramble or nettle or bush coming through any of our fences so fingers crossed our new team will keep up his ‘high standards’. One of them has an unusual physical characteristic but I won’t go into details until they have arrived.

The chickens and ducks and geese are all ticking over quietly at the moment. With only about eight or nine hours of daylight at the moment their days are short and they spend most of their time roosting. Eggs are few and far between from the chickens still and we only managed to hatch out one hen, so replacements will be needed there as well.

Otherwise, the weather is mild and wet, so ‘same old same old’. Winter maintenance is progressing as usual. We had another errant articulated lorry that chose to ignore our signs and then drove all the way to the top of the lane, only to find there was no way out. I have spent most of the last week rebuilding the ditches and verges and now have to resurface everywhere. They have admitted full liability and are paying for everything, but we won’t have many daffs, snowdrops or primroses this season.

It looks like next year will be another busy year for the home holiday industry. We still have some availability, even in the school holidays, but enquiries are picking up now so we are expecting a flurry of bookings in January. If you are thinking of coming, don’t leave it much longer.

Tracey and I would like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and happy New Year and look forward to seeing you again next year, Very best wishes, Chris and Tracey.