Saturday, 18 February 2012

Happy Days Are Here Again

It is surprising what a few days away can do and last weeks grumps have well and truly gone. Besides seeing my son and his girlfriend again, we all braved the minus 6 temperatures of Saturday evening to see a brilliant demonstration by Monty Roberts (commonly known as the horse whisperer).  I have now been to several of his demonstrations, all have been interesting, informative and entertaining, but this one was the best ever.

Early in his life Monty Roberts developed a natural, non-violent, approach to training horses, after studying the ways of wild mustangs.  Since then he has demonstrated and taught his methods to people, worldwide, even to our queen who is a big fan, his mission being, ' make the world a better place for horses and people too.'  Inadvertently he is also changing the world for other animals too as many handlers are finding that a more natural approach works better.  He is now 76 years young so hopefully has many years left to spread his knowledge.

I have always found the way animals interact with each other and ourselves very interesting and it is one of the things I enjoy most about working with horses, as to me, this is the ultimate in animal/human communication. When one considers we are fundamentally a predator on a prey animal's back and we are expecting this animal to, not only carry us safely, but also to interpret the many subtle signals we give, to make it do all sorts of clever things.  It's amazing!! 

I always try to take a natural approach when dealing with other animals too and have found a lot of the tactics used by Monty Roberts work universally when dealing with any prey animals, from pheasants to sheep and make life a lot easier.   

Recently my husband and I were asked to check on the cows that are calving in the barn at the farm.  In general I am a bit apprehensive when it comes to cows and, as I was required to enter the barn and walk around amongst the cows and calves, I first spent some time just watching them so I knew what I was up against....Oh dear.... I think I have fallen in love...they are gorgeous!!:))

They are so tolerant of each other and of the calves.  Several times I saw cows giving another cow's calf a good lick if it approached...very different from the sheep, who tend to head butt any lambs out the way, that aren't theirs. After I'd been standing there a while, they seemed to want to investigate me too, so I held my hand out for one cow to smell when she came over and after giving me a sniff she started to lick me. I was soon able to reciprocate her friendliness  by giving her a lovely scratch on her head:)  They are inquisitive too and frequently messed up a photo by smelling the camera...

When I eventually went into the barn, they were totally unconcerned, apart from one.  I was just standing still reviewing all the cows/calves for any odd behaviour.  They were all happily sleeping or ruminating, except for one, that I had previously given a friendly scratch on the head to, but was now standing over the other side of the barn, giving me the evil eye.  I was a bit confused as she had a calf standing by her back legs, so shouldn't need to be protective, however, having seen how they mother each others calves, I wondered if the calf standing next to me was in fact hers, so I walked away a bit and sure enough she came over and told her calf not to talk to those smelly human strangers:)

I really enjoyed my time with the cows and can't wait to visit them again.  So now I am back to my normal happy and rather silly self I think some cow jokes are in order:

Q.   What do you call a cow in an earthquake?
A.   A milk shake:)

Q.  Why should you never tell a cow something important?
A.   Because it will go in one ear and out the udder:)

Q.   What are a cows favourite school subjects?
A.   Moosic,  Cowculus and Psycowology:)

Lastly, if you like seeing new borns, the following two farms have lamb cams... be prepared to get addicted as you wait for one to give birth!  Signs of labour are...separating from the others, restlessness, scraping the ground, turning circles, getting up and down, not eating or ruminating (although I have seen one doing both all through labour), a fluid filled bag or mucus coming from its backside, arching its head up or backwards and straining. Good Luck:)))))))))         &

Friday, 10 February 2012


I have to admit to feeling a bit grumpy just lately and even things that I usually enjoy haven't cheered me up.  This is unusual for me, for in general, life is good but I think hub and I have been so busy for so long we just need some chill-out time and it has certainly been chilly:)  With the first very light flurry of snow and bitterly cold temperatures we decided to forget all the things we should be doing and go for a walk .When I started this blog it revolved mainly around our walks in Biggin Hill but over last year we have had little time to just enjoy what is on our doorstep so this is what we decided to do. 

Our favourite walk starts from the back garden where we climb over the fence into a field that has been set aside for many years; then along a footpath, across the road and up a hill.  Many happy hours have been spent on top of this hill, having picnics while the children played or just sitting there with the dogs, taking in the view.  It looks down on our bungalow, across the valley to the Saltbox SSSI and further away, on clear days, distant views of London.

After catching our breath we walk round the ridge of the hill, back down into an off shoot of the main valley and up the other side where we follow an old bridleway sunk between ancient hedgerows which gradually slopes down to the main valley again; then over the road and up a track and we are back to our field again, looking towards home and a warming bowl of homemade Parsnip soup.

At one time I knew every badger set, every fox hole and lots of other secret habitats passed on this walk so it was lovely to re-familiarise myself..sort of visiting old friends:))))  A couple of days later it snowed with more vigour so we decided to take another day off and repeat the walk.  I like walking in fresh snow as it is so much easier to see what the wildlife has been up to by looking for tracks.  The view from the top of the hill was breathtaking.

Back at home the birds are flocking to the garden for a bit of extra sustenance and by adding a few extra fruity treats we have had Red wings and Field fares amongst the visitors.  Needless to say the female pheasants are permanent residents in this weather, spending most of the day under our trees and bushes.  However the male pheasants, being a bit thick, can't work out how to get into the garden now their gap under the fence has been filled in with snow...they walk backwards and forwards along the fence line for hours never thinking that they could just fly over into the garden:)) 

Although we have been busy with family problems, we haven't been doing so much work for the Downland Project just lately as they are in the midst of calving the City of London cows that are being overwintered at the Project's farm.  They are Sussex cattle which is a lovely docile and handsome breed that seem to make good mothers who are very particular about keeping their babies clean....

There have been a few sheepy jobs though.  One recent task was to help with moving the ten Herdwick sheep from Tatsfield.  It was a bitterly cold day, with below freezing temperatures, so once the trailer was in the field it was decided to start with a warming cup of tea/coffee (actually most tasks start with a cuppa regardless of the weather:) before rounding up the sheep, which is a job that can take ages when we haven't got, Jack, the sheep dog to help, but the sheep didn't want to hang around in those temperatures and all but two walked themselves into the trailer...I suspect sheep aren't as silly as they look:))

I can't really think of anything funny to end this post so it is going to be a favourite poem that sums up why we should take time out for a bit of leisure and then I am off for a whole weekend of leisure at my son's in Bedfordshire where we are going to see my most favourite animal person, Monty Roberts, the Horse Whisperer.  I think the grumps will have gone by next week:)))))))))))))

By William Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.