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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.


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Merging the Hens

merging hens

As I think I mentioned in an earlier entry, we got four rescue hens in June.  We have kept those apart from our existing hens because hens are not very welcoming to new members to the flock.  In fact, they will most likely try to kill them.  There’s all sorts of stuff on the web about how best to merge new hens, but we have worked out what (seems to) work for us).

The hens have been co-existing in adjacent runs for the last few weeks.  This way, they can see each other and get to know each other, but with a barrier that prevents physical contact, so no pecking or outright attacks.  As I also mentioned before, we have separated our mother hen and chicks into a separate run as mother hen was getting very aggressive.

hens-merging-1Anyway, we have been letting one set of hens (the greys) out in the mornings and the rescue hens (the browns) out in the afternoons.  Then Mrs D came up with the brilliant idea of leaving the cockerel out all day.  Cockerels don’t attack new hens, they welcome them with open wings and our cockerel was delighted to have 4 new ladies.  And they took to him big time (they’d never met a cockerel before!).

This weekend, we finally let them all out together (except mother hen and chicks – the chicks are still too small and could easily get through the stock fence and there are dangerous dogs next door).

It seemed to go OK. At first!  With things looking good and no all out physical attacks, we headed in for lunch.  Plus I had a bedroom to paint.  However, when I popped out to check, I found 3 of the browns huddled in their house.  They looked a bit scared.

hens-merging-2So we locked up the greys.

Today, we let them out again but stayed in the garden with them.  We were prepared – we had the hose ready and set on jet.  When Petal (bottom of the grey pecking order but the most aggressive to new faces) launched her first attack, she was hit broadside by a jet of water.  That distracted her.  In fact she only attacked one more time and after getting another jet of water, she calmed right down.  The same went for Bim, the other grey – two interventions and then she settled.

So, all in all, a successful day.  We will keep this up for a while with the goal of ultimately opening up the adjacent runs into one large run and letting them out unsupervised.

Then, just the mother and chicks to re-integrate.  You can see them in the photo below (on the left, watching on.

merging hens

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Hay causes sheep rumpus


With autumn approaching faster than we’d like and the grass losing its nutriemts, it was time to put some hay in the field.  There’s plenty of grass (thanks to the recent rain), so I thought the sheep would most likely ignore the hay for now.

Not exactly.

On seeing the wheelbarrow with 2 bales of hay trundling across the field, they were over straight away and pulling hay out even as the barrow was moving.  We put one bale in the large aluminium feeder and all the sheep crowded round.

We put another bale in the other feeder (which is the other side of the field) and turned tound to watch.  Well, there’s not quite enough room for 11 sheep to all feed at once, so we had a bit of a rumpus with much headbutting, nudging, shoving and general scrapping for space.

At last, one of the sheep (Selene) noticed we had a second feeder and come running over.  Clever girl, she had a feeder all to herself while the others jostled.

Soon, the others noticed and before long, there were 4 on one feeder, 7 on the other and plenty of space to go round.

Still with the odd bit of headbutting, though it always stopped whenever I pointed the camera in their direction.

But they are happy, and that’s what matters.

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Little Owl Drops By

little owl

When we moved here two years ago, we could hear little owls and tawny owls calling in the evening and during the night.  So, I did some research and found some good quality owl boxes.  We put one tawny owl and one little owl box up.  That said, since we bought our second field, we have also got a little owl box in the orchard in that field as well.

Anyway, in that time we have seen one tawny owl sitting in the veranda of the tawny owl box, and one little owl flying out of the little owl box.

No nests so far.

Today, after lunch, Mrs D left for work and phoned me from the bottom of the drive to say there was an owl in the tawny owl box.

I nipped down with the binoculars and there it was, having a wee nap.  I went and got my camera, but even with my zoom lense, it was far away and so only tiny in the above picture.  I didn’t want to get any closer as I didn’t want to disturb it.  Besides, the sheep in the field would have been curious as to what I was up to and would have made keeping a steady hand pretty tricky.

We are delighted to see an owl using our facilities, even if it has the “wrong” box.

little owl