Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas Post

When I first started this blog it mainly described my exploration of the flora and fauna of the lovely chalk downland valley in which I live but a year later I had discovered the work being carried out by the Downlands Project to restore and maintain chalk downland sites in and around Surrey (which included some of my area) and I quickly became a livestock volunteer helping to look after the conservation grazing animals. While doing this I was introduced to many other wonderful places and thanks to the Grazing Officer learnt a lot about conservation and livestock management.  It was a good time and so featured regularly in my blog posts. However over the last few months, because a lot of my time has been spent supporting my mother, my garden has begun to feature a lot more.

The chair I sit in to watch TV  looks out to the garden bird feeders and while watching a film the other day I was distracted by a Parakeet that was hunkered down in a cleft of the cobnut tree. There were no other Parakeets around which was unusual and this one looked odd as it was not moving. After about half an hour another Parakeet flew in and went over to the dormant one and gently got hold of it with its beak and pulled at it, very obviously trying to get it to move off with him.  It was interesting and touching to see this level of concern between birds outside of the breeding season and even more moving when the dormant bird fell off its perch, showing that its left foot was completely missing and its right foot was hanging useless and deformed.  There was nothing I could do to help this poor bird as his wings were working well and he flew off and I haven't seen it again but they rely on their feet to grip while they feed so I don't expect it will survive for long :(

My mother is beginning to settle in to her care home a bit so I have been able to get out to do some livestock volunteering again. During my absence I seem to have lost the ability to stay on my feet and have managed to trip over in brambles, fall down a rabbit hole, slither down a bank, trip over absolutely nothing and on several occasions slip over in mud :)))))

One of the worst places for catching me out is an area of Hutchinsons Bank called Slimming Down.  This has recently had the biggest scrape dug out that I have ever seen. It was done using heavy excavators so, with the recent wet weather, it is now quite gloopy to walk in and very slippery, especially the approach to the field.  This is unfortunate as after Christmas we need to move the sheep off this field and we won't be able to get the trailer down, so will have to put up loads of netting to run the sheep up...oh well that's what us volunteers are for :)  The scrapes have been put there for plants like Kidney Vetch to grow in as they don't compete well with other plants.  Hutchinsons is very rich in Kidney Vetch which is the host plant of the struggling Small Blue butterfly so it is probably worth while if it doesn't get infested with ragwort first.

It has been lovely to get out and about again and over the last couple of weeks I have helped with....

A pony move....this is Rufus enjoying his new pasture on a very cold frosty morning...

A goat move....our trainee seems to have a special relationship with our notoriously difficult to catch goats, as he caught them first time...

And hoof trimming of this year's female lambs. Unfortunately the very wet weather in early summer and the present wet weather has taken its toll on their hooves all of which needed a lot of attention to try to prevent future problems.

The only sheep whose feet were fine was Granny Alice.  This is an older and very sweet natured Jacob that we put in with the lambs after they are weaned to basically act as granny and show them what to do, e.g. come when called with a bucket of nuts to make catching them easier...she's my favourite :)

Now for a little Christmas amusement.....

It was a cold snowy day when Tiny Tim, wrapped up nice and warmly, was taken to visit the sheep in a nearby frozen field, "Happy Christmas sheep," the little boy called out to them.
The cold sheep were not amused and crossly replied, "BAAAAAAAAA...Hum Bug!!" 

Well I found it funny:))))))  The poor sheep just wanted to go in a cosy baaa..rn :)

Have a Very Happy Christmas and a 
Great New Year


Orchids and Nature said...

Lovely to catch up on your latest blog. Have a very Happy Christmas and New Year.
Best wishes from
Audrey & David (orchid) Crossley

Helen said...

Hello David,

Thanks for your Christmas wishes. Hope you and Audrey have a happy time and I look forward to reading of more of your adventures in 2013.


Anonymous said...

Hi Helen

I do love your jokes..they always bring a smile to my face. Pleased your mum is beginning to settle. Have a good Christmas. Sam

Helen said...

Hello Sam...Thanks for your comments. Enjoy yourself over Christmas. Helen

Alice ~ writer, boater, dreamer, traveller said...

Bit late in catching up... but lovely to read your updates and I love Granny Alice! Wishing you (and your family) every happiness for 2013 x

Helen said...

Thanks for your comment Alice. Hope 2013 is good for you too :)