Here we go – August Bank Holiday weekend starts tomorrow and the M5 motorway is nearly stationary already. The weather is fabulous……if you’re a farmer or a gardener. The drought is still with us and will be for a while but we have had nearly an inch of rain over the last two weeks. The combines finished harvesting the wheat just in time so much of the fire risk has diminished and steady, gentle rain is much more beneficial than four inches in twelve hours. Especially as much of it has fallen at night and day-times have remained warm and sunny. Summer will be with us for a while yet. Despite the news-hungry media predicting all sorts of disasters, after a few days of searing heat it all settled down to what will probably be remembered as a glorious Summer. For those of us who remember the ‘great drought’ of 1976, things were much worse. I recall road surfaces melting and great, black, lumps of Tarmac lifting and sticking to rubber tyres. We had large swarms of ladybirds pursuing  clouds of aphids and interfering with light aircraft. Many farm animals were dying from Hemlock poisoning which was one of the few plants that seemed to thrive along the dried out rivers and streams. Personally I can remember it as possibly the best ever mushroom seasons. We were picking huge field mushrooms the size of side-plates, from the Winter Barley stubbles, after the combine had passed over. One of the hard pressed water authorities, faced with the prospect of stand-pipes and water rationing, famously coined the phrase,  ‘Save water….bathe with a friend ‘. Here we are, fifty years later and much progress has been made. Let’s hope that in a months time we can still turn a tap on and fill a glass of drinking water.

 

News from Ukraine is beginning to improve. The invading Russians are virtually stationary and in places retreating. This is encouraging but not yet definitive. The support from NATO and most of the rest of the civilised World is slowly turning the tide against Putins aggression but the sanctions imposed on Russia are hurting us all. This Winter the weather will be crucial to all of us but as long as innocent women and young children are dying from Russian rockets all we can do is grit our teeth and carry on. The cost of living/cost of Covid crisis is here for the foreseeable future so let’s all just get on with it.

 

Out on the farm all is well. The lambs have just decided that there isn’t much lush green grass in our fields and because the two streams have completely dried out they have suddenly become escape routes to our neighbours fields, where there isn’t much lush green grass either. Apparently, ‘the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’ and actually I think they quite like the excitement of escaping and getting out to explore the neighbourhood before getting re-captured. Anyway, I am now trying to repair and replace failed fencing sections which would be much easier after some decent rain to soften the ground up a bit. I’ve no doubt that by the time the ground gets soft enough to bang in new fence posts there will either be so much grass that they won’t bother escaping or the lambs will all be in the supermarket somewhere.

 

Our Kune Kune or grass eating pigs are looking quite slim at the moment, which is probably a good thing, unless you are a pig. We aren’t short of grass. It’s just a bit long and straggly at the moment and so not very nutritious. A lot of farmers are desperately short of fodder and have started feeding Winter rations already which will obviously exacerbate the cost of living crisis even more, soon. Fortunately for our slimish pigs we have a ridiculous amount of apples in the orchard this year so as well as picking up windfalls we have started picking and thinning out the crop before the trees collapse under their weight. The pigs get four each per feed.

 

The plums have been fabulous as well this year but unfortunately, because there is no water in the stream beside the bee-hives, the bees have been visiting our swimming pool to find water. The plum tree is right next to the swimming pool so after having a drink they then have a feast on our delicious, sweet Victoria plums. The wasps used to make a mess of them but the bees have nearly ruined  them. Hey ho……we aren’t going to declare war on the bees. If there was any water in the stream they wouldn’t be up here.

 

The chicks are thriving this year and the hens are still going broody and insisting on sitting. I have no idea why we had none last year and no apples, and this year we have an abundance of both. Nature is a weird and wonderful phenomenon.

 

Alpaca and goat walking is proving increasingly popular on the morning feed runs. Even Moo the miniature Shetland pony is taking his turns now and as a reward he gets groomed and plaited and generally fondled and just feels more appreciated. He is rather in limbo since losing Matey and although he and the goats and alpacas all mess around together it’s not the same as having a horse for company. I am looking for a replacement horse but at the moment there are very few ‘good cheap horses’ on the market.

 

Snowy the goat has taken to being ‘walked’ down the lane like a proverbial duck to water. As long as we can get him past the window boxes and out through the yard gate he then marches along a bit like a big dog. He does know where all the tasty bushes are though.

 

The school holidays are nearly over now and then we are having a week off. We still have some late availability in September and October so if you fancy an Autumn break in glorious Devon check out our website.

 

Must go and open the swimming pool, Cheers for now, Farmer Chris.