Sunday, 28 February 2010

ONE Sunny Day

Friday was a remarkable day...the sun shone!! I don't mind rain too much but when it is cold, muddy and wet day after day it does get me down a bit. Guess is pouring with rain again today in the south, with a strong bitterly cold wind.

It has been a hard winter for the ponies grazing the SSSI land, especially for little Rufus as this is his first year without his mum or a herd of other horses to shelter him. He seems to be coping well though and as the picture below shows he has grown a thick winter coat. A horse's coat is double layered. The first layer is dense,warm and grease laden and the second layer is made of long shiny hairs which stick out and direct the rain away from the body. In addition, the skin over the loins and hindquarters is thicker so provides good insulation...this is one of the reasons horses turn their backs to the wind.

The ponies are doing an excellent job clearing the unwanted scrub and long grass in readiness for the spring chalk downland flowers. It is interesting to watch them pick out what they want to eat and how they shake their mouthful and bang it on the ground to end up with just the tasty bit they wanted. Very clever when all they have to rely on is their sensitive little mouth.

The wild plants are beginning to make an appearance now but this also brings a few problems as some, like bluebells and cuckoo pint, are poisonous to horses and both are beginning to make an appearance in the woody area.

Luckily they are not desperately poisonous, unlike the Yew tree that I also came across last week in the woody area, which can kill a pony within a very short time. Needless to say it is no longer there.
During our last few stock checks we have seen a person standing, motionless, in an area of neighbouring SSSI land that is in the process of being cleared. We have assumed him to be a keen bird watcher or maybe someone trying to photo the deer that frequent the area but as he was there again on Friday and as the weather was so nice we decided to investigate. We quietly crept along the track so as not to disturb his viewing too wonder he wasn't moving...he turned out to be a wooden man someone had cleverly made out of logs :-))

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Wildlife Returns

After commenting on the lack of wildlife visiting the garden in my last post, things have suddenly started to look up but sadly not altogether in a nice way.

A couple of days ago, I was just settling down for my lunch when I noticed something flash past the patio doors. On investigation I found it to be a very thin and very mangy fox who was searching the garden for food. Unfortunately I haven't seen him again so not much I can do to help him. I hope it wasn't the handsome fox that used to trot through the garden last year.

I think I have solved the mystery of my missing snowdrops. I used to have quite a few planted around the lower fish pond but this year only one has appeared. However yesterday I saw a rather plump vole running around the rockery that surrounds the pond and judging by his size I'm guessing he has been enjoying a snowdrop salad:-) I don't mind at all as I have quite a few primroses that are adding a nice touch of spring colour and he is very cute.

I am also pleased to say that at last we have some pheasants visiting us again.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Where's Our Wildlife Gone?

We seem to be missing a lot of wildlife just lately here in Biggin Hill. In previous years I'd open my curtains in the morning and there would always be pheasants in the garden or a deer in the field but this winter I've only had 2 pheasants visit us on one occasion and three sightings of deer. The fox that regularly visited the garden to drink from the wildlife pond has gone and even the heron hasn't bothered to stop off lately to grab a fish from the fish pond. Hmmm...all very strange.

Thankfully there is plenty of wildlife to be seen when we are stock checking the ponies and the sheep. The sheep have just been moved to graze another area of overgrown chalk downland. It is quite difficult walking through the scrub to check the fences but very entertaining as nearly every step disturbs a mouse, vole or rabbit.

I also love checking the sheep as it gives me a chance to give a very friendly Jacob Ram (I call him Rambo) a scratch behind his horns. He loves it and pulls faces of pure ecstasy:-)

I have been very busy just lately producing some course notes for a friend who is running a course in stable management. The area around my computer is now covered in horse reference books and magazines but at last I have finished with them so I suppose I should now tidy up. It was enjoyable doing the notes though as it refreshed my memory of all things horsey and I also learnt quite a few new things.

Talking of learning new things, my husband and I spent Valentines day attending a Monty Roberts demonstration. He is an incredible man, the original horse whisperer. After suffering many beatings (and broken bones) inflicted by his father and hating the way his father used to inflict similar beatings while training horses, he followed the mustang herds and came to understand their 'language'. He then used that knowledge to train horses without the need of inflicting pain. He has since spread this knowledge throughout the world and it has made such a difference to the way horses are treated. Monty is now 75 and is still going strong in his mission to leave the world a better place for horses. A great man and an honor to see him work.