Covid-19 is not an experience I wish to repeat. It’s so random the different way it affects people. Usually when ill, we still drag ourselves outside to carry out basic livestock duties. Not venturing outside is unheard of for us, but with Covid-19 it happened, so thank goodness for the younger generation who stepped up and kept the place running.
When we did emerge I was struck by the sounds of birdsong and cattle munching and by the fresh air, which lifted my spirits, essentially making me realise how lucky we are. I was shattered after my first day back beating, working Tilley (my spaniel), so I’m glad we’re not lambing until April as it gives us time to build up stamina.
The shooting season has been fun, but as usual becomes a little hectic towards the end. February will be catch-up time for all those jobs that have slid down the priority list.
This winter has been incredibly mild, which in some ways has been a blessing as it’s taken seven weeks to get replacement parts installed in our air heat source pump. Recent colder nights and drier, brighter days have been welcome. Finishing hedge cutting, carrying out new hedge maintenance and some hedge laying is on the list.
Bedding and hay stocks used this winter have now enabled us to create space for the Sussex cows that have out wintered within Herstmonceux castle grounds. They look well and we will fetch them home for calving. It will be interesting to compare their progress with those that were housed.
Flock wise, it’s time to take the tups out. When I last checked the Pevensey ewes, I discovered one of my new rams the opposite side of the dyke from the rest of the flock. He’s a bumptious character but not the brightest; with hindsight, not my best buy.
Had it been any other sheep I’d have left it to figure out how to walk around to the gate, but I knew I’d kick myself if I returned to find a drowned ram. I tried calling him to the gate, to no avail, and he wouldn’t be druv, so I returned to the truck to fetch an empty feed bag, I cursed my unusual tidiness for clearing them all out, but I did find ‘the scourge of the countryside’, a deflated birthday balloon which I’d previously removed from our land.
The balloon made a sufficient rustling sound, and with it I enticed a senior more sensible ram to follow me around to collect up the youngster and back, reuniting them both with the flock. When the older ram discovered it was a hoax, he gave me a tidy bunt and I can’t say I blame him.
Those politicians in Westminster could do with a bunt. I’m sure it’s not easy and I try not to be judgmental, but really what a shambles the political scene is. The farcical situation when porkie pies abound and the rule makers can’t keep their own rules. Partying is a no-no, but gatherings might be ok. Nibbles and cheese is acceptable, but requires wine to wash it down. I’ve lost faith in politicians’ integrity. I think they’re digging themselves a hole and I wonder how many worms they’ll find? How healthy is this system? Perhaps there’s too much pollution.
Farmers are frequently blamed for polluting rivers, and yet it turns out that it’s common practice for water companies to discharge raw sewage through storm overflows into our waterways. Farmers aren’t wholly responsible for pollution. I was always taught: “Clean up your own act before you pick holes in others’.” Just recently we’ve had several different agencies phone us up offering grant funding towards projects that could potentially help to clean up water.
It’s disappointing to hear that from 1 April 2022, silage wrap will incur a £200 a tonne tax. This is yet another financial burden for farmers to pay. Most farmers understand the need to reduce the use of plastics and would gladly use a more environmentally friendly, cost-effective product, if one existed. Food prices will inevitably continue rising, as farming businesses cannot afford to keep absorbing spiralling costs. I’m getting the feeling that today’s government doesn’t really care about our country’s ability to produce food, because they ain’t half making life difficult for genuine farmers and country folk.
Not only that, but there’s a diminishing amount of land available on which to produce food, by the time the likes of Ed Sheeran have bought up land for re wilding. Thousands of acres are being planted up with trees. Green field sites surrounding every city, town and village are having houses built on them, leading to more concrete and a greater demand for water supply, which is already struggling on present levels. Local opinions are disregarded and funding for improving infrastructure is negligible.
I’m concerned that the Government seem to be taking water and food supply for granted. Not only that, but should you wish to go to the local pub, drown your sorrows, discuss the sorry state of politics and generally voice your opinion on ‘putting the world to rights’ there is now less choice of drinking holes. Sadly, over the past two years, seven of our pubs within spitting distance have closed. I’m fearful that more rural businesses will suffer the same fate.
On a brighter note, Brie the mother of our collie pups is loving no longer being consigned to an outside kennel. While continuing to fulfil her outside duties, she’s relishing the advantages of also being a house dog. Thank goodness she is short coated. All ten adorable pups are flourishing, great characters and complete time wasters.
Interestingly Brie doesn’t spare the rod to spoil the child, but rightly commands total respect. The pups are certainly experienced in playing with grandchildren, which I’m sure will stand them in good stead during their working lives.
Three bitches left, if anyone is interested?