Just before midnight on Tuesday night, we became the latest, and sadly not the last, victim of a serious spate of rural crime in the local area, when our ATV was stolen. We had not seen this as a risk given the fact that the Kobuto was not shiny and new, and when running is very very noisy and the noise is enough to wake the devil himself! It seems that it was a targeted theft and the thieves pushed the vehicle off the park, all the way down the long drive, and we assume, onto a low loader.
As mentioned, we are just one of a string of thefts here and about, and through the week other neighbours have suffered similarly. Aside from increasing security measures and feelings of paranoia, the impacts of these crimes on a community, and for us, a working farm, are significant.
With the weather so cold for the most part of the week, we have had the wood burner in the farmhouse operating for 22 hours of the day. Heavy frost in the mornings until Saturday, and blue skies making the world look a beautiful place.
Thibaut and Anthony spent their last days with us supporting Tim, and preparing the gardens for winter. On Friday they took off in our car for a tour of the south west. They are aiming to do a lot of driving – Stonehenge, Tintagel and the Jurassic coast – hopefully the weather will hold good for them. They finally leave us on Monday and as I mentioned last week, will be much missed. We are very grateful for their time and all their hard work.
All stock look well and this weekend another 17 lambs leave us. We have had one more calf born on the first advent Sunday. As the attached photo shows the cattle seem very content.
Checking the stock in winter is very different from doing the job at other times of the year. First of all, the cattle are straightforward since they are all in the barn. This is not the case with the sheep especially at this time of years when we have four flocks on fields spread across the farm. Going out on a cold frosty day has its obvious drawbacks but at least the ground is firm. On the other hand, mild mornings aren’t quite such a challenge, but the ground is heavy and claggy, so the walking is very hard going. So far, this year the pastures are fairly firm, but this won’t last!
My back means even more time than usual for me to read and listen to music. A recent afternoon this week showcased three different orchestras playing under three different conductors. Two Beethoven symphonies formed part of the programme – the Eroica and the Pastoral. The first played by a very famous orchestra under a very famous elderly conductor was flat and unexciting. The Pastoral on the other hand was dramatic and compelling, equally famous orchestra but a much younger conductor.
Given that we have young grandchildren, family life is becoming more and more oriented towards the coming Christmas period. Lines to be learnt for nativity plays and carol concerts; cupboards turned out for items for school Christmas fairs and tentative plans made for family events over Christmas.
Whether it’s age or back ache, my enthusiasm for listening to cricket from Australia in the small hours has definitely waned. As a child there was always a test march in Australia every four years or so over the New Year. Religiously I would listen to the crackling sound of the ball by ball commentary from the Test Match Special team. This Saturday there was the choice of two sports from Australia to listen to. The World Cup for Rugby League, and the first day of the Second test. Excellent sound now, of course, but I failed to revive enough interest to listen to either – wisdom at last perhaps?
There was a time when the sight of a mistle thrush was not unusual. Today they seem a rarity. We are lucky enough to have a pair that we see from time to time in our garden. Today I had the great good fortune to watch one hunting for worms. How they do it I have no idea, but I watched as the bird hopped around for a while then froze in one position before suddenly darting his/her beak into the ground and pulling out a long fat worm. It was not eaten at once but then just as suddenly the beak came down and the entire worm went down the bird’s throat!
At this time of year, blackbirds are very much more visible than in the rest of the year, even if they rarely are heard singing. Why they should survive and multiple while the thrush population is in decline is a mystery. What does seem very clear is that birds thrive on an organic farm which is also managed, or as our neighbour’s might say, not managed, with regard to habitat concerns rather than mere tidiness. Obviously, there are a number of ditches on the farm, two of which always contain running water with both flowing into the Bow Brook. Since these are not cleared out routinely they provide, feed, water and shelter even in the harshest winters as does the pyracantha which cloaks the farmhouse provides some warmth, food and shelter for innumerable house sparrows and a variety of small birds!