So, it's been a long time since my last blog entry and much has happened since then, but I will try and give a brief resume of the past year or so.
After the 'has-he-hasn't he?' antics of our bull in 2013 I found to my surprise that all our cows were in calf, and they all calved successfully out in the field last summer. There was only one who caused some anxious moments - Mary Ellen appeared exceedingly stout but had gone well past the last date to which she could have been in calf to our shilly-shallying bull. Even if he had had a Eureka! moment on the day he left it had got beyond the point at which a late calf was a possibility.
Further, when Nero our Longhorn bull had been put in with the cows some weeks later he showed no interest in them at all - and despite extensive observation from behind the bushes he hadn't been seen to do anything that could remotely result in the procreation of any offspring. Worryingly, it was looking almost certain that Mary Ellen's rotundness was due to a surfeit of good living and that pregnancy had evaded her.
And then it happened - she produced her calf like a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat. And Nero had every reason to feel very smug - it was a full term calf to the day that he arrived and nobody, for all their vigilance, had noticed.
We had more pigs in the wood last summer and in the autumn they replaced their predecessors in the freezer. The rewards of our labours are now being served up as sizzling rashers at breakfast time and as unctuous slow roasted joints for dinner. And for their crackling, Tamworths can't be beaten.
The hens have been doing their bit for the table too, and their eggs appear at breakfast alongside the bacon. Large or small they have a wonderful creamy texture and the most beautiful deep-yellow yolks.
We have somehow managed to accumulate a considerable number of hens from a variety of sources, including a few that we hatched ourselves, some of which were originally destined for the dinner table ... enter Cocky Locky and The Big Birds. (It's a long story). Also Precious (it was an only chick), and The Fluffybums. We have two hens called Betty-and-June, named after my long suffering mother and her friend, who thought it was a parcel they were collecting for me on their way down to stay with us. The hens are so alike that we have to refer to them as 'one of Betty-and-June' as we don't know which one is which.
It's wonderful to see the hens pottering about the garden and in the barns amongst the cows, scratching in the straw and continually rootling around for insects or scraps of food. Most of all I love to see them at this time of year sunning themselves in the open fronted south facing barn, out of the cold and the wind, comfortable on a pile of deep straw, feathers spread out to soak up the warmth of the sun's rays. A good life in return for a few eggs.
The ducks tend to hang around together and are often very comical, particularly the pair of Dog Eating Ducks that we seem to have inadvertently taken into the fold. They are actually two drakes who are very much a pair, but who seem equally happy to take on the lady ducks as well - there is huge potential for the more lurid kind of limmerick here.
But it is the dogs they are really obsessed with, harrying and harrassing them unceasingly.The dogs will generally show an enormous amount of forbearance but there is only so much, at times, that a dog can take.
Kithra was recently heard scrabbling frantically to escape from between two large bales of straw; she had entered at one end, the gap had narrowed and she had managed to get stuck. When she finally shot out of the other end, like a cork from a bottle, there was a duck hanging on to the end of her tail, flapping its wings in triumph. The triumph was short-lived however, as a clump of feathers blowing around the yard later testified.
But the boys remain undaunted, and tomorrow is always another day.