The pheasants, who would normally be enjoying the romantic advances of the boys, are spending their days sheltering from the bitter wind and rain under our fir trees...
and the badgers are turning the lawn to mush as they search for any left over bird food. This has actually been quite interesting as we have a new badger on the scene. It is fairly normal at the front then turns to a sort of creamy ginger on the back half (sorry it is not a better photo)...
Compare him to the other frequent visitors..
Most of the conservation areas that have stock on them are getting low on grazing but the animals are skilled at searching out enough to keep them going. Even the ponies were happily chomping on the long standing grass around the stems of the scrub during this weeks deluge of snow, even though there was little grass under the snow. This is a skill they would have learnt from their herd when they were young and wild on Dartmoor and one of the reasons why wild native bred ponies are used for conservation grazing. A domestic bred pony, who has never had to search for food, would probably not cope so well.
I absolutely love the Project's two Dartmoor ponies and have learnt so much about horses by just watching their behaviour in their natural environment with the minimal influence from humans..
The cold weather continues to make work with the livestock difficult. Recently we were helping to move some sheep from the bottom of the North Downs to near the top by walking them up following a bucket of sheep nuts. It was at a site that has really benefited from conservation grazing over the years, called Park Ham, near Caterham. It is a beautiful site even in the snow but walking up the steep slopes was hard as with every step one's foot slipped back, not to mention the rabbit holes hidden under the snow waiting to trip one up, but at least the effort kept us warm:)) The dots in the photo are the sheep and I was standing looking down from where they needed to go. They were incredibly obliging which is such a relief now we don't have a sheep dog.
Amongst this group of sheep was Granny Alice who follows us around like a dog (which is why we could lead them on such a long journey without catching them). The previous week we had collected some faecal samples to do a worm egg count. This involves standing around for ages waiting for 10 sheep to go to the toilet and during this time Alice stayed glued to my husband's side. She really is a special sheep:)
It is not long until lambing which begins in April so I have recently been on a lambing course at a local Agricultural College. It was interesting seeing things done on a large, commercial scale and I now can't wait for our lambing to start...from feeling quite negative about it in the Autumn I am now so excited. It has to be the best reward for being a livestock volunteer and I feel very privileged to be part of it. Lets hope the weather improves though.
It has been a hard, sad winter. My mother's Alzheimer's is deteriorating fast and there have been several deaths of friends and family but Spring is nearly here. I am looking forward to hearing news of the safe arrival of four babies that are expected imminently (not all by the same person..lol.) It sort of puts things right.
Whilst clearing out my mum's bungalow which we have to sell to pay for her care, I came across a very old tatty note book with the following poem scribbled in it... evidently one of my ancestors felt the same as me at this time of year..
I need the days of daisies,
Of sun and bumble bees,
Of sweetly scented marjoram
And a warm summer breeze.
I need to wear light cotton frocks
And let sunbeams warm my skin,
To see green leaves upon the trees
And feel the hope within.
Winter, your time is over
So take your bitter cold.
It's time for Spring to heal us
As its beauty it unfolds.