Monday, 21 July 2008

The Badminton Horse Trials

(Wednesday 7th May)

The past few days before and over the weekend have been pre-occupied with The Badminton Horse Trials at the Badminton Estate a few miles from here. It is an amazing equestrian three day event which has been going for many years and we are so lucky to live so close to such an event and such a beautiful estate and it is a busy few days for us all. Our walking sticks are made from wood which comes from the estate.

Wonderful warm sunny weather has arrived and it is just so lovely to be outside in such weather.
The flock seem surprised by the change, as are we, and I have already phoned the sheep shearer to set a date. We normally shear at the beginning of May.

It is always quite a decision – if you leave it too long the flock gets loss of weight and fly strike and if too soon and the weather breaks and gets cold and wet you get loss of weight and drop of milk supply to the lambs. Flystrike is when the heavy fleece gets wet in warm and humid conditions and the bluebottle fly lays its eggs on the fleece and the resulting maggots eat the sheep and can kill it or make it very ill if the condition isn’t noticed immediately. So you have to try and get it right! Not always easy. A bit like the decision of when to cut the grass for hay in the summer!

We have different classes of stock, ages and gender, in different fields and they all have to be gathered up and taken to the barn for shearing, and all kept separately in order to take them all back again!

I also have to plan it with Faye as it is a long and labour intensive day. Faye is very good at organising the movement of the sheep to the barn, into the pens, out of the pens, and keeping all the different groups separate whilst keeping everything and everybody safe and accident free. It is a time when things can go wrong if they are not properly planned and set up and the flock has to be kept moving through to the sheep shearer and not have hold ups.

The pond is looking very good with all the new planting at the back of it beginning to grow and flower and the wildflower patch is budding up and getting taller. The fish have been basking in the sun and lying on the top of the water and grazing around the edge of the pond on weeds. The Golden Orf are pretty big now and their scales are outlined in black against the gold and they look quite magnificent. The herons think so too and take up position in the bulrushes and on the pontoon and are ready for action.

Yesterday I heard frogs croaking which was very pleasing as last year we had many fewer than normal and I hope that we will get the numbers back up again this year.

There has been a lot in the news about honey bees getting disease. Ours are very fortunately flourishing and have produced lots of honey this season and seem very happy so I hope they continue to do so.

Now I am going to fix the sheep shearing date and hope for the best!

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