What does ‘Brexit means Brexit’ actually equate to? Let’s face it nobody knows. Mr Cameron started the ball rolling, skipped off pretty quick. Boris has lots of bluster but turns out to be gutless. May voted to remain, and yet is trying to implement the democratic vote to leave. Corbyn wants to spend, spend, spend and tax anyone who owns anything, particularly land. What a pig’s muddle! In fact I think pigs could make a better ‘trotter’ of it than the politicians. An unbelievably worrying situation, which is affecting us all. Many are justifiably disenchanted and bored with politics. On the news this morning they featured a gentleman snoring, he’d phoned into a chat show discussing Brexit and had fallen asleep!

Sleepiness was soon blasted out of us when we emerged from our truck at Black Robin Farm. The wind greeted our arrival at the farm dispersal sale held on the Eastbourne corporation land situated off the road to Beachy Head. Wow, did that wind blow, taking our breath away, pummelling and buffeting us, making it an effort to stay upright. I’m sure the sea views look stunning on a fine day, but a bleak place to be in winter time. There were a few items in the sale catalogue we’d thought might be handy but with many people, good prices were fetched. No bargains but I had wanted to see the farm on which my mother had learnt to drive a tractor during land army days. I was happy to visualise the windswept landscape, which was the setting of many tales.

Talking of tails, our canine friends have done much wagging recently. The three spaniels were particularly pleased with themselves when they managed to tip 24 freshly made mince pies onto the kitchen floor. I’d removed them from the cooling rack placing them in a tin, but then stupidly didn’t put the lid on because they were slightly warm. Leaving them on the kitchen table while I nipped into the garden to get the washing off the line. I returned to a scene of devastation, hardly a crumb left. This was concerning as grapes and raisins are not good for dog’s kidneys. My wrath was so intense that I banished them from the kitchen. But next day we worked together flushing and picking up birds, they were so diligent and even the seven month old pup retrieved a pheasant, so I forgave them.

My ‘no dogs in the kitchen’ rule didn’t last long. Bonnie (the cocker) managed to catch her leg on some barbed wire gashing a wound which required my A&E skills to patch her up. The best lighting is in the kitchen, black sutures in dark hair is challenging and then what better place to recuperate.
Brie and I spent a day at a sheepdog training clinic held in West Sussex. We stayed overnight with my daughter in Chichester, thus Brie got a taste of urban living. Normally a kennel dog she was fascinated to be allowed in the house. We thought she could sleep in the kitchen but she howled. So up to the bedroom she came, on the slightest movement there was a thump, thump of her tail.

The training clinic was both useful and enjoyable despite the fact that it pretty much rained all day! The advice received from Jed Watson, a full time shepherd and international handler, was well worth the soaking. Building a working bond with a collie is incredibly satisfying. Brie was pretty chuffed with herself too, of course it helps if the sheep are compliant.

I do spend some time working on the farm too! We were all very relieved to get a clear result from our TB testing. We were allotted a ‘late in the day slot’, so required extension leads and had to rush out and buy some moveable lighting equipment, to help us see what we were doing. Mr ‘Crack on’ was unavailable to assist, too busy playing in the Yorkshire dales, so I’m grateful to Mr ‘Steady as you go’ for helping out. Handling cattle freshly returned from the Pevensey marshes in confined spaces, requires good team work. An anxious time for man and beast.

I’m sure that the shepherds in the Scottish Borders are relieved that Mr Gove has rejected plans to release lynx into their area. We had an interesting evening listening to Charlie Burrell telling us how he set about handing his 3,500 acre estate back to nature. This successful re-wilding has achieved a flourishing environment, benefiting the rural ecology and biodiversity. The estate is now home to endangered species including turtle doves, peregrine falcons and purple emperor butterflies. He has made money out of it, receiving payments and by tapping into the tourist trade.

I congratulate Charlie Burrell on his achievement but find it sad to hear him say that previous to this project he had struggled to make a living out of conventional farming. During the evening he said: “it’s much easier and cheaper for the Romanians to grow corn, we can’t compete.” This might be true, but there’s a part of me that feels uneasy about this statement. Somehow with the current UK population standing at 66.57 million, all needing to eat, it seems morally wrong not to produce food. I’m all in favour of conservation, it has an important place in our landscape, in harmony with good quality, great tasting home grown food production, for the British public to enjoy. We just need to persuade the urban population to value our produce and pay a fair price for it.

I hope my Brexit chat hasn’t sent you all to sleep! Wishing you all good health, happiness, and prosperous farming in 2019.