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New Boy on the Block


Today, we added a new member to our animal family, Haribo the collie.  As some of you may know, I work part time at Pawplay, a local day care and boarding centre for dogs.  One of the regulars is a collie called Haribo.  Over the few months, the owner has been looking to rehome him.  Collies are tricky dogs because they require to be worked otherwise they can easily become bored and destructive, so finding a new home was proving tricky.

In the week before Christmas, something made me think that maybe we should take him.  It’s hard to be specific, but I think dogs know when they are on the “rehoming list” so to speak.  Maybe I saw it in his body language.

Anyway, me and Mrs D trooped to Pawplay (Haribo was a Christmas guest) on Christmas Eve so that Mrs D could meet him.  She loved him straight away so we asked Richard if he could sort it.  Arrangements were duly made and we picked him up this morning.

Introducing a new dog is something to be done carefully.  As fans of Cesar Milan, we pretty much followed his approach.  The result was a very calm introduction to his new surroundings and our dogs.  Of course, they already knew him from Pawplay and indeed, George was delirious with happiness to welcome him.

haribot-collie-runningIntroductions made, we headed out for a walk.  It really helps the new dog to settle if they are tired out.  We headed to our field and let all three off to play.  Haribo loved it and charged around.  He and George played a little but Haribo was off running this way and that.  George still has a sore leg from an accident a few weeks ago so is a little reticient to run too much.  The only downside was Haribo found a nice patch of duck poo and proceeded to rub it all over himself.

haribo-collie-runningWe checked on his recall and, well, it needs a bit of fine tuning.  But once, he gets the idea he’s to come back, comes back quickly and happily.  It’s something he needs to master before we can trust him off lead.  There are pheasants, rabbits and even deer around – mucho tempting for any dog!

But, he had a good time and then we walked around the village to test his heel walking.  A tendency to pull, but being a collie, he soon worked out what was wanted.

Later in the day, we introduced him to our livestock.  First the chickens.  He showed only a passing interest – perfect.  It took us weeks to train our terrier they were not to be hunted!

sheep looking at dogThen the sheep.  Now, we had harboured thoughts about training him to be a sheep dog.  A test for a sheep dog is to let them see sheep and see if their herding instinct kicks in.  It’s pretty obvious when it does!  Well, our sheep were more interested in Haribo than the other way round! They trotted over to inspect him.  Haribo glanced at them and then discovered the tasty dog snack of sheep poo!  So, as a sheep dog he may need a little encouragement.  Not that we mind, it will be easier for us if we can take him in the sheep field and he doesn’t go racing off rounding them up!

And then, back to the house for a well deserved rest and a chew.  But that was not all, the smell of Duck poo was just too strong.  Soon Haribo found himself having a bath.  Haribo was a little uncertain, but the combination of warm water and a massage from Mrs D turned it into a positive experience.  He was even less impressed, at first, with the hairdryer, but some gentle rewards based training with our terrier as a role model and he was soon stretched out enjoying a full blow dry.  And it’s not long till dinner time :).


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2015 drawing to a close


It has been a few weeks since our last update.  That’s not because nothing has happened, on the contrary we have been busy as ever.  But much has been maintenance and stuff that is hard to write about, and probably harder to read about!

Given it’s approaching Christmas, we should probably have a suitably festive picture, but the fact is we can’t find the Christmas tree.  It was in the stable, but it has vanished into thin air.  The stable was cleared and now is a straw and hay store.  All the pipes and cables left hanging by the previous occupant have been tidied up and boxed in so it can be used for lambing if needs be.  But the Christmas tree disappeared in the process.

Talking of lambing, Ginge the ram has gone home.  We were sad to see him go as he was quite a character.  Quite laid back, not what I expected in a ram at all.  I think he was a bit miffed to be going home because he butted me for the first time just before we loaded him into the trailer.  Luckily, from only a step or two away.

We have finally tidied up our entrance too.  That’s what the picture is above.  There was a bit of a gap in the hedge and it was just overgrown with grass and brambles.  I dug all that out and planted another hedge.  And then we marked the drive with stones, partly to protect some manhole covers and partly to make it look nice.  Then we covered it with MOT.  At last, no more muddy experiences getting out to open or shut the gate.  I painted the milk churn as a birthday present for Mrs D.  If you look closely, you can see the little sheep on it.  I had to do it twice because the first time, the paint just peeled off.  Now I know Hammerite metal paint sometimes needs a primer!

Aside from that, plenty of mulching is going on in the veggie patch.  I’m hoping a local farmer will dump a trailer full of horse manure round soon.  It doesn’t go far – I emptied four large compost bins and that hasn’t even covered half of it.


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Bat box and deer

bat box

A couple of weeks ago, our friend Bernie stopped by.  Bernie likes to travel around the levels in his gypsy caravan pulled by his horse Shaman.  They camped in our orchard and at dusk we nipped over for a drink and a chat.

While we were enjoying our drinks, a small fire and a chat (and Shaman was tucking into the grass with relish), we noticed a number of bats flying around us.  All pipistrelles so far as I could tell.  Now, Mrs D had given me a bat box for my birthday.  My birthday was in May but I hadn’t put the bat box up as I couldn’t decide where to put it.  There was nowhere obvious around the house.  According to the instructions, it should be about 5m off the ground.

So, now I knew there were bats in the orchard, I chose a tree, scurried up the ladder and the bat box is now happily in place.

Then, as we headed off for a short walk around the field with the dogs, we noticed a deer in our little fledgling woodland.  The deer was in a bit of a panic as we were between it and its normal exit.  So we walked around to the other side as the deer did the same at the opposite end.  Then, in a bound, it was off to the field next to us.

I am looking forward to our trees getting a bit taller so that the deer will have a good place to hide.

I took my camera with me this morning in the hope I might catch another glimpse and maybe even get a wee photo, but it was not to be.  But we’ll keep a look out for it.

bat box

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Our first apple harvest

apple harvest

We bought our field a year or so ago.  It used to be an apple orchard and many of the apple trees have survived.  At the damper end of the field, all but 3 had perished.  We have planted our woodland at the damp end, put in a drainage ditch and started to look after the remaining apple trees.  This mainly involves a bit of pruning, removing of mistletoe and keep the sheep from eating the bark.

Today, we had our first harvest.  As already mentioned, we contracted this out.  I had a wee walk up there earlier this afternoon and found this large trailer full of our apples.  It’s great, and probably will lead to our first income from our wee farm.  No idea how much yet, no idea how many tons of apples there are either.  And there are more to come as the trees still have plenty of apples on them.  So the second harvest is planned for the end of the month.

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Tupping update


Ginger, the coloured ryeland ram we have borrowed, has been with us for three weeks now.  He was fitted with a raddle and yellow crayon so that we could see which ewes he has been with.  Once the yellow patch appeared on the back, we noted the name of the ewe and the date as this will tell us when she is likely to lamb.

changing-crayonI had read that the ewes can synchronise themselves so they come into season at roughly the same time.  Well, our ewes haven’t read that book and over the past three weeks, you couldn’t have spaced them out more unevenly.  And even now, we are not sure they have all come into season as four remain unmarked.  Mind you, yellow doesn’t stand out too well on dark brown wool.

Normally, ewes come into season every 17 days or so, so today we changed the crayon to a blue one.  Luckily, Ginger is a cool dude and likes being handled.  He’s also quite patient (unlike those born under the sign of the ram hehe). I don’t know if it was the new colour, the cooler weather or some other influence, but we got back from a dog walk to find one of the reluctant four had a lovely blue mark on her back.

ginger-and-ewesJust three to go, the three youngest as it happens.  Maybe they are a bit wary given it’s their first time.  Or maybe Ginger just doesn’t fancy the slimmer ewe.  If anything, he still seems more interested in the grannies.

The trials and tribulations of tupping.

In the meantime, we did some thinking ahead and realised we might have more ewes than space for lambing.  We were going to use the stable and have been steadily decluttering it.  But it’s not that big.  So, the tractor shed now has a nice new concrete floor.  And boy, that was hard work.  Almost as hard as shearing :).

Thanks to Westcrete for mixing and delivering two tons of concrete, then it was up to me to level it.  I have only ever laid the base for a small shed, so this was a big ask.  And it was made harder by the fact that there are walls on three sides and our well in one corner so movement was restricted. And the well is our water supply so we couldn’t exactly concrete that over, hence the little wall I built round it round it first.

And of course, there’s a deadline as concrete sets, quickly!

But I got there and we are thrilled with our new lambing space.

lambing floor

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Apple harvest begins


While the summer doesn’t appear to have been that great, it has been quite dry. Nevertheless, we seem to have a good crop of apples in the orchard.  It was a bit of a puzzle what to do with them.  It’s hard enough picking up the apples from one tree let alone over 100.  Mechanised apple pickers cost thousands of pounds.  And there’s the transportation and so on.  And we need to harvest them as the sheep will be using the field in December and that many apples would not be good for them.

Luckily, we live in the heart of cider country and so Orchard Park Farm  are taking our apples to make cider.  This is great, they are harvesting, transporting and processing the apples and paying us for them too.  All in all a great win for all of us.  We are expecting the first harvest to take place in the next day or so and then a second harvest at the end of the month.

The interesting thing is that they wait for the apples to fall naturally (it is common practise to use mechanised tree shakers round here).  Apparently, it makes for a better flavour.

We may have to buy a couple of bottles and test that theory.

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Another day out on horseback


As I wrote recently, my wife treated me to a horse trek.  It was my first time on a horse and I enjoyed it immensely.  Well, Nicole’s uncle was visiting from Switzerland last weekend and so she thought that it would be great for all three of us to go riding.  Kurt had never been on a horse before.

horse-riding-in-country-laneSo, on Saturday moring, we were up bright and early (no different from any other day) and on our way to Quantock Trekking.  It helped that we had been before as it’s quite a tricky route through the country lanes.

This time, we were early and joined the general throng of people getting ready for riding out.  The stables were busy!  My horse, Gerty (she drew the short straw again) was looking a bit tetchy.  Thankfully, she became happier with a few juicy carrots.

Soon, we were all three on horses and off we went.  Kurt was a natural and after we reached the hills, our instructor and guide suggested a trot.  No training, but off we went.  I kind of got the hang of it, I think.  There were a few trots on this ride and they were good fun.mist-in-quantock-hills-on-horseback

At the top of the hills, the mist was drifting across the grass making it very atmospheric.  Quite mystical, in fact. We enjoyed it but the horses were somewhat concerned by a nearby dog (a husky).  The dog showed no interest in the horses but one of our riders had to get off and walk her horse for a bit.

Then we were on our back down, through the car park and down the lane back to the stables.  All in all, a great day out.


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Tupping Time is Here


Today is tupping day.  What that means is that we have collected a ram (called Ginger) that we are borrowing for the next few weeks.  Ginger has been carefully selected to ensure we have good lines (of breeding).  Coloured Ryelands are not rare, but they are not common either.  They did, in fact, used to be classed as a rare breed.  The upshot is there are not many that are not related to each other in some way.  So find an unrelated ram is a delicate task.

Fortunately, a breeder local to us has entirely different lines to ours and Ginger is the furthest removed.

So, today we collginger-coloured-ryeland-ramected Ginger who, for a ram not far from a field full of ewes, seemed remarkably calm.  He was easily led into the trailer.

A careful driver home and we were ready to deliver him to our flock.  We drove into the field as we thought that as soon as he smelled the ewes, the calmness would evaporate.  And we were right, he was Mr Impatient as we opened the trailer.

The ewes were also curious and trundled over to see what was going on.

ginger-coloured-ryeland-ram-runs-to-ewesWe opened the trailer and he shot out and straight over to the ewes, nose in the air and tongue hanging out.  It was a combination of male excitement and female curiousity as they met for the first time.  All the ewes seemed happy to see him, until he started focusing his attention on those he thought closest to being in heat.

This led to some “games” of chase and some half hearted mounting.  But, it would seem none of the ewes were particularly receptive, and Ginger soon gave up and started eating some grass.

We will be checking for yellow stains on the back of the ewes over the coming days to see who the ram has found ready and willing and so enable us to calculate the date the lambs will appear.

And this week, two tons of concrete arrive and I will be spreading and levelling that to make the floor of our lambing shed.


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Blackberries and dogs


As the seasons march on and autumn descends up on us, more quickly this year it would seem, the berries begin to ripen.  And now, in the fields and lanes around us the blackberries are ready.

Now, we have quite a lot of mature brambles on our patch.  Most of the year, this is not good news, but now they are laden with tasty fruit.  All of a sudden, brambles are good.

So, with dogs in tow, I set off for our orchard and woodland.  Covering over 3 acres, it’s full of adventure for dogs.  Moles, pheasants and all sorts of wildlife leave exciting smells and trails to follow.  Paradise for dogs.  And they love it.


you stop to pick blackberries!

Then this happens:


Off lead, no restraints, wide open space, but no, so much better to sit with a face like a slapped kipper.  I have never fully understood this, nevertheless, I carried on picking and left her to it.  Our other dog, George, also lay down but seemed more content to wait for me to finish.

Net result, a tray of lovely blackberries to help flavour our apple crumbles throughout the winter months.  Yum!

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Doyles go trekking


For our recent anniversary, Mrs D bought me a two hour horse riding trek.  Now, I have never sat on a horse before, so this was going to be an interesting challenge.  I know next to nothing about riding horses.

adrian-and-gertySo, this morning, we found ourselves (after some deft navigation through county lanes in the Quantock Hills) at Quantock Trekking.  Within minutes we had completed the forms and I was given a hat.  I am not sure what I was expecting, but seconds later I found myself sitting on Gerty, a large mare (well, I am quite heavy).  Nicole was on Billy, a young gelding.  I got a quick demonstration on turning left, right, starting and stopping and we were off.  My only extra tip was how to stop Gerty snacking on every passing bush.

Next minute, we’re walking down a hill onto a road, round a removals lorry, past a couple of cars, our instructor in front and myself at the rear.

Having worked with dogs a lot, I basically came to the conclusion that I just needed to sit tight and relax.  I figured that the more calm I was, the easier Gerty would be to handle.  This was not helped by the fact that my legs were already aching.  So, I had a quick mental word with my legs muscles telling them to relax and that helped.

nicole-and-billySure enough, Gerty was attracted to many passing bushes, but before long I was able to sense when she was about to nibble something and intercept.  I was able to just sit as Gerty walked along and admire Nicole’s more expert handling ahead of me.

Soon, we turned off the road and headed up the hill.  We had to dodge into a field to avoid a tractor and somehow I managed to get Gerty to turn round, go back through the gate and wait!  Then, up a narrow path through woodlands.  It was quite steep but the horses were surefooted and had probably been this way many times.

The scenery was magical and soon we were riding along the top of the hill with views over both farmland and the Bristol Channel.

By now, I had channelled all complaints from my legs into a mental waiting room.  They soon gave up and seemed to get used to it.

adrian-gertyI found it harder coming down, at first, but soon got the legs right and the rhythm and we walked happily down.  Well, I was quite happy but Gerty seemed miffed about something, I’m not sure she liked being the last horse.  More cars, lorries and so on to dodge but we were soon back in the stables.  Gerty made straight for the hay!

Somehow, I got my legs to work and returned to terra firma.  I rewarded Gerty with some hay and then a carrot or two.  I think I might have won her over a little.  I sometimes wonder how horses put up with us beginners on their backs.

After that, we took the dogs for a short walk where we met a horse with her foal in a field.  They were very friendly and got lots of pats and scratches, which they seemed to enjoy.

nicole-and-horsesAnd then it was back, into the car and home for lunch.  All in all, a great day out and I am sure we will do more horse trekking in the future.  A lovely anniversary present.