Sunday, 30 September 2012

Nocturnal Visitors

The local badgers must have picked up on my concern for their west country cousins (see previous post) as since then we have had some very welcome nocturnal visitors.  We always used to have badgers coming to our garden until we got new neighbours who had several Rottweilers.  The three that are visiting now enter directly from the field.  They look fairly small so I think they are this years cubs and one is cream coloured which is a genetic trait of badgers around the Saltbox area. There is one problem, I am getting sooooo tired sitting up at night watching them but they come right up near the window, are totally captivating and I feel so lucky that I can't draw myself away:)))))))))

I apologise that I couldn't get my link to work for the e-petition against the badger cull on my last post but I urge you not to give up if you want to sign but go to the governments e-petition web site or use one of the other links on the many other sites of people that obviously understand computers a bit better than me!!!  Simon King and Chris Packham on Twitter also have some good links to other people's more scientific views as well as links to the petition. I can sort of see that, as a protected species with no predators, the numbers of badgers are perhaps too high and at some point there may need to be a cull to maintain a healthy population but I still can't see that just shooting a whole load is going to give a long term, sustainable solution to Bovine TB unless there is a vaccination program in place.

Enough of my ranting.  After watching an episode of Miranda (who some people liken me to !!??!!:)) I have realised that over this summer, which has been a bit intense with one thing or another, I have become rather 'serious' and this needs to change so, as I haven't included any silly jokes for a while, I thought it's about time I did.  I don't want to joke about badgers as their situation is just a bit too serious at the moment but other visitors to my garden, whose antics often make me laugh, are the squirrels. Soooo....

Q:  What did the squirrel say to his girlfriend?
A:  I'm nuts about you

Q:  What did the girl squirrel reply?
A:  You're nut so bad yourself.

Q:  What did the squirrel give his girlfriend on Valentines Day?
A:  Forget-me-nuts.

So how did I get in this 'serious' frame of mind?  Well firstly there was our spell filling in for the absent Grazing Officer...I enjoyed it but took it very seriously as I didn't want to make any mistakes.  Then there is my mother.  Her Alzheimer's is progressing and she flits form wanting to go into residential care, to wanting to stay in her own home, but I think it has reached the point where, whether she likes it or not, she will be safer  being looked after full time.  This is such a hard decision.  It was her who gave me the love of the countryside and the respect of all things a young child she would make the countryside come alive with stories of fairies and elves interacting with nature...if we passed a tree with a hole in it she would make up tales like a poor, cold fairy helping a hungry woodpecker to find food and the grateful woodpecker in turn making a hole in the tree for the poor cold fairy to live in:)) and any pool of rain water caught in the V of tree branches were always places where the fairies and elves went to bathe:)) I loved going for country walks with her so much and she has never lost that desire to be surrounded by nature but now she can't walk far and when she does she gets lost...very worrying when goes off to walk in the the fields!!!!  I feel so bad that by going in to a home her freedom will be restricted but at least she will be safe, have company and will probably be taken out more than we can manage so maybe she will be happy which she isn't really at the moment.  I wish I didn't have to make this decision:((

When my mother was first diagnosed with Alzheimer's we were helping with lambing and the then Grazing Officer and other volunteers were so supportive listening to my worries.  However the Grazing Officer has now moved on and since the Countryside Day, where some people got upset with each other (it is no easy task putting on such a big show), I haven't seen many of the other volunteers...hence I'm off-loading onto all you blog readers:)))

Right I feel better for that, so back to my resolution not to be to serious...well actually I can't think of anything funny at the moment but I promise I will start looking at life with a smile on my face and as we are planning to catch those naughty goats again next week,  I should soon have a tale or two to tell.

Lastly, for those who know our sheep shearer.  She told us that she should be shown shearing Alpacas in one of the episodes of the TV program, Kevin Mcloud's Man Made Home, channel 4, Sundays at 8pm.  From what she said it is quite different from shearing sheep so if you are interested keep a look out for her.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Gripes and Groans

I try to avoid moaning via my blog but several things have occurred that I feel I must mention.

Firstly the immanent proposed badger cull in the west country.  I totally understand that something must be done to prevent the spread of bovine TB, however, I cannot see that culling is the answer. When our neighbouring farmer started having pheasant shoots, he shot all the foxes in the area but, within months, new foxes had moved in, which then had to be shot and so it went on until now I think he has given up.  Surely the same will happen with the badgers but worse still, I wonder if, because it is encouraging badger movement, it may cause TB to spread to areas not at present affected. Also every living thing has a part to play in the eco system.  When the farmer shot the foxes there was an explosion of rabbits which he then poisoned, this in turn killed off the birds and animals that fed on carrion (including a beautiful Barn Owl!:(  There was also an explosion of rats and mice which made life very difficult for us nearby residents.  I wonder what legacy the death of the all these badgers will leave.  I can't help feeling the cull is just a cheaper, short term solution so that the government can pass the buck to future governments.  Farmers, the cows and the badgers deserve better. The National Trust and various conservation groups are vaccinating badgers and this would offer a more permanent, sustainable and eco-friendly solution.  If you feel like I do then please sign the e-petition at

My nest gripe is about the export of live animals for the meat market.  Last week the RSPCA and Animal Health stopped a four tiered lorry full of sheep for live export at a ferry port. Two sheep were immediately euthanized, one had a broken leg and after inspection a further 41 were also euthanized. These animals were already suffering from painful conditions like foot rot but had further been injured in transit due to the bad state of the lorry.  Can you imagine how these animals would have suffered if their journey hadn't been intercepted!!!  Unfortunately this is not unique. Every day in Europe horses, cows, sheep and other animals have to endure long journeys of hundreds of miles, lasting days, with little or no water and often already ill or injured. Those that survive arrive at their destination just to be slaughtered.  In this age of refrigerated lorries it is so unnecessary to transport animals live.  It makes me feel physically ill to think what these animals go through. Please, please,please sign the petition against live export at

My last gripe is a bit closer to home. Our neighbouring farmer has part of the Saltbox SSSI which I have been informed is in a Higher Level Stewardship agreement, so, the farmer will be receiving a considerable amount of tax payers money to look after this important area of land.  However, apart from an initial clearance about 4 years ago he has done virtually nothing.  The site has not been grazed, there is considerable regrowth of scrub and areas that haven't scrubbed over again are covered in Golden Rod, Asters, Ragwort and brambles.  When we first moved here and before it was even designated a SSSI, this area was amazing with a bank of flowers adjoining the then cultivated field and going up to a small line of scrub, behind which the steep land opened up like a magical secret garden full of many different orchids, wild flowers and clouds of butterflies.  It could be like that again if only the farmer would manage it properly as he is being paid to do. Another part of the Saltbox SSSI is owned by the London Wildlife Trust and along with the Downland Project  this area is looked after properly and is coming on really well.  I wonder how many other farmers reap the rewards of HLS agreements without doing the work. The picture below shows the dense cover of Golden Rod... not what I call good management. 

I did come across one nice thing while visiting the site..a rather cute little field mouse taking in the evening sun.

Now for the groan.  I have a twisted my knee and it is very sore:(((  I first damaged it climbing over hurdles while carrying bales of hay and straw during lambing but I always feel that given long enough these things clear up on their own.  Trouble is this didn't and after carrying some heavy hurdles around and then going horse riding I have now properly messed it up.  It is very annoying as I have just taken delivery of the guide book and map for the Thames long distance path that hubby and I intend to do.  We are still going to do it but we will have to limit it to just a three or four miles a day so I doubt we will get to the more rural stretches in time for the Spring Flowers.

I am still trying to keep up my work with the Downland Project's Livestock though.  The Ewes and lambs have now been separated and neither seemed to mind...infact the ewes looked quite relieved:))  One lot of cows have been sold and another lot bought which are reportedly very friendly and as they don't have horns will be easier to work with. Some of the sheep were taken to the recent Countryside Day where they behaved very well and received a lot of attention.

On a happy note, we have just returned from a short break in the Aylesbury Vale where we had such a good time.  One of the places we visited was the Berks, Bucks and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust site of College Lakes and I really recommend it. The reserve was made from an old chalk pit.  There are lakes with hides all around, wildflower meadows heaving with butterflies, an area of standing bird feed crop, a visitors centre with cafe and more. It seems like a very pro-active site with lots of volunteering opportunities. In the afternoon we attended a very interesting talk about work they are doing investigating the propagation of old corn field flowers and we also saw some gliss-glis that were nesting in a bird box that had a camera in it. A very good day and can't wait to go back.

We also met up with our son and his partner and went to Dunstable Downs where there were masses of Autumn Gentian

Lastly, I have a new friend in the garden.  This beautiful Darter (at least I think that is what he is) had been flying around the garden for a while and when I went near him I was sure he was looking at me so I held out my hand and amazingly he flew onto it:))))))