Sunday, 24 June 2012

Garden Jungle & Naughty Pony

With our busy life that we have at present, the garden has turned into a jungle, but the wildlife is loving it.......

I have had so many families of baby birds in the garden this year that it resembles a big birdy nursery full of fluffy bundles with beaks open wide, while their rather battered and tired looking parents try to keep up with their demands...

Bees busily visit the self sown corn flowers and geraniums and a group of Foxgloves that we grew from seed but didn't have time to plant in the flowerbeds, so were dumped rather quickly into an area of the veg plot, have grown up to provide a busy buzzing pollen bar for masses of bumbles

The veg garden, including the polytunnel, has been taken over by many of the weeds/wildflower seeds that have migrated from the adjoining field and the whole area seems to be a mecca for Hover flies.  The only veg planted in the plot are some early onions which are on the verge of flowering. 

Slow worms are to be found in any warm patch, anywhere in the garden but especially under some old weed suppressant covering on the bank.

The whole of the back garden looks awful but I have to say I am rather enjoying it:))  We have never really gained control of the garden since the adjoining field became set aside land around 17 years ago. The field is now mostly covered with invasive weeds that can look quite pleasant when in full flower....

Increasingly though we are seeing more and more typical chalk grassland flowers springing up between the invasive plus quite a few Pyramid and Common Spotted Orchids. The next field along now seems to have more chalk flowers than the section of Saltbox SSSI that it adjoins. This section is privately owned and not managed as it should be, so has scrubbed over again (another letter to Natural England required!). The bordering edge, however, is covered in swaths of Horseshoe Vetch, the plant food of the Chalkhill Blue and Adonis Blue caterpillars.  Sadly with the cool wet and windy weather we've been having this year there have been fewer butterflies and moths around here but usually the two fields are filled with many varieties, especially the blues.

I have not had much time to walk in the fields behind us and I also haven't had the energy as we are doing long days of physically demanding work while filling in for the staff absences in the Downlands Project (see previous post).  We have also had a few extra tasks such as the 'Open Farm Sunday' that took place last weekend.  We were very fortunate to have a sunny day for the event and had what we estimate to be in the region of 300 visitors. Firstly I was involved with a demonstration of how we do our sheep health checks (trimming hooves, checking teeth, condition scoring them and sending them through a foot bath) then I was sent up to the lambs field to tell people about our sheep as visitors followed a trail around the fields. Back at the farm there were a variety of children's activities, including face painting, all themed around nature.  There was also the information trailer, displays, refreshments, our cows and some more sheep, one of whom was recovering from a dog attack.

The lambs field was unfortunately covered in a lot of tall grass so it was very hard to actually spot any lambs especially as they all tended to be on the far side of the field where the shorter grass was or sheltering in the shade of a tree covered dip.  However the Project Manager valiantly led groups of interested people over to visit the lambs throughout the day, taking them into the field and then gathering the sheep with the help of a bucket of nuts.  By the end of the day the sheep had begun to get rather bored with this and were not so willing to come over but the P.Man. persevered and even the last group of the day managed to see at least some of the lambs:))

It has been a busy week gathering in the sheep from their various grazing sites around Surrey ready for shearing this coming week and then giving them all a health check.  Unfortunately, one of the days involved an early 7am start as the grazing assistant needed to be at a meeting by 9am and in the hurry to get the job done I made my a very silly mistake...I won't go into details as it's embarrassing but suffice to say if the old grazing officer had still been there he would have exploded like Vesuvius!!  I certainly won't make the same mistake again.

The next day was not much better as we had the farrier visiting to trim the ponies hooves.  We were at a team meeting all morning and by the time we got to their field it was pouring with rain and the wind was blowing.  Rufus allowed us to catch him with no problem but, although we had been catching Tavey with no problem on previous days, he decided he was not going to allow anyone near him and not only that, he was determined to get Rufus to join him, so he kept storming past Rufus at the gallop, who by this time was having his hooves trimmed.  Rufus was soooo good and only tried to pull away a few times which was very good for such a young, relatively un-handled pony. The farrier eventually left saying if we ever managed to catch Tavey he would come back.  It took a long time to calm Tavey down enough for us to put his headcollar on and I am very grateful to all the hints we have picked up from reading Kelly Marks' books and going to Monty Robert's demonstrations as we needed to use quite a bit of horse psychology to win him over and to keep Rufus calm all this time.  We couldn't let Rufus go as he was the only thing keeping Tavey near us.  Eventually we were able to call the farrier back and the job was done by which time we were all very wet and not too happy.  So next time you see this beautiful little pony in the field you will know he is not as innocent as he looks!! Lets hope he behaves himself next Friday when we plan to move them to another site.

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