Sunday, 14 October 2012


I always find Autumn to be a peaceful time.  There is a sense of things settling down for a well earned rest and, to be honest, I would like to join them as I feel tired.

It would probably help if I could pull myself away from watching the badgers snuffling around under my living room window each night but I can't as it is a glimpse at a nocturnal world that I should not really be part of.  The cream badger is especially captivating as, besides his colour, he is different from the others.  My grandson says his nose looks like a mole's nose and it does as it is very narrow, pointy and looks particularly attractive when covered in mud from digging holes with it in my lawn:)))  He also has quite a shaggy coat compared to the others which makes him look rather cuddly except that his claws, being clear coloured, stand out like those of a lion.

The autumnal weather has been very evident while out on tasks with the Downlands Project.  I usually enjoy working with the Project's livestock regardless of the weather but I recently had a day which was just awful.

We were gathering in all the ewes to decide which ones to breed from.  The first group, taken from last year's lambs, were penned and sorted with no problem but the next group proved to be very difficult.  They were this year's breeding ewes so were well used to coming to a bucket of sheep nuts (they were the same ones that knocked me over twice with their enthusiasm for nuts during lambing).  However this time there were two groups of Beulahs and one Jacob that just did not want to oblige.  I blamed the weather as it was very windy and it can make prey animals spooky as they can't hear or smell so well.  We eventually got them penned late in the afternoon by which time it was also pouring down with rain.  By the time the job of sorting them was done it was late and we were all cold, tired, fed up and soaked to the skin.  Unfortunately hubby and I still had to stock check the goats which we just managed to do before nightfall...not a good day.

We have also recently had another frustrating day in the rain trying to catch the goats again.  After the last unsuccessful attempt we have spent a long time making sure that all six will happily go into the holding pen and not panic if the gate is closed but, although everything was just as normal and the trailer wasn't anywhere near the field, when we came to get them into the pen they would not all go in...I think there are a couple that are mind readers:))

The Project has also acquired some new additions as we now have a breeding flock of ten Herdwick ewes and a ram.  I am not too pleased about this as, although the Herdwicks have the potential to be an asset in the future, at the moment the Grazing Officer, who left in June, still hasn't been replaced so there is no one that is experienced in lambing problems and both the grazing assistant and the trainee are already overstretched with work and may not even still be employed with the Project come next year's lambing. It therefore seems a bit worrying to add to the situation with more breeding animals.  There are also a few other issues I have with this decision but I won't go in to that here and although I feel disgruntled I can't help but admire the very handsome ram.

Unfortunately, the already very tired assistant grazing officer, was called out last Saturday because of a dog attack at one of the sites at Chipstead, Surrey.  The victim was one of this year's beautiful Jacob lambs and was so badly injured it had to be humanely destroyed.  It seems people just don't get the message that whilst their dogs might be lovely at home, when they come across sheep even the smallest dog can quickly revert to being a predator:((

It is this time of year that hubby and I usually start regretting that we didn't get more done in the better summer weather but although it has been a busy year, we have not done too badly.  Hubby has sorted the leaks in the roof so we should soon be able to finish the new bathroom which we have been trying to do for the last two years!!:)).  He has also nearly finished painting the rendering and we have also at last ordered a wood burning stove which will be fitted at the end of the month...this has only taken us three years of planning and indecision!!))

It is also this time of the year that Monty Roberts does his British tour demonstrating his non-violent methods of horsemanship, so last night we sat shivering in the cold at Hadlow College, watching this great man work with horses with issues varying from a head shy horse, to a successful dressage horse that was incredibly spooked by lots of things, to backing a youngster and having a bad loader, that at first ran at the sight of a horsebox, happily walking on and off of it in a matter of minutes.  Regardless of what the horses are doing Monty stays so quiet and calm, it really is magic to watch and so good to see these horse's problems dealt with with such understanding and kindness.  Horses are wonderful, intelligent animals who are so willing to work with can anyone use violence to train them.  I am just so pleased that Monty Roberts has shown that there are more successful, easier, non-violent methods and that even at the age of 77 he is still teaching the world this better way.