Wednesday, 16 November 2016


4th November 2016
The new potting shed is up
We have gone up in the world! We now have a conservatory. It's a bit early to start off the tomato plants, but I will be moving the lemon tree and the lemon grass into it soon.

A chicken lost
On the smallholding, we lost one of the oldest batch of meat birds today. It had picked up a nasty thigh injury a couple of days ago. I have no idea what caused it, but had begun to hope the chicken might survive it. However I hadn't seen it eat since I noticed the injury and it gradually withdrew from the other chickens.

Late bird news
With winter making a good attempt at levering out the autumn, I was rather hoping that my birding might settle down for a while. But late on Friday afternoon, too late to get there, news came through of an American Cliff Swallow at Minsmere. The last one of these I saw was in 2000. As I was making plans to head over to Suffolk for first light, a photo appeared on a Facebook page showing a pristine Eye-browed Thrush somewhere in Northumberland. I need that!
But I have to say there was initially a strong suspicion of a hoax. The photo was just too good. This sort of thing has happened before. As the evening progressed, the sighting seemed more and more real until eventually the location was revealed, Bolam Lake, up near where Sue comes from. Problem was Sue was away for the weekend.

5th November 2016
Remember, Remember the Fifth of November - I'd rather not!
The alarm went at 1:40am.
I took the dogs out for a walk, let out the geese and opened up the chicken houses. Not ideal, but there was nothing else for it. I needed to be on site for first light as if by some miracle the thrush had stayed overnight, it could easily disappear at any point.
I drove through the night and through some pretty atrocious weather. All my instincts told me the thrush would be gone come daylight, but it was still worth the risk. The fact that I've not seen one yet shows how difficult they are to catch up with.
A storm had clearly swept through overnight. The road was a river of leaves.
I was first on sight and the park official was somewhat surprised to see me there when he turned up in the faint first light to open up the gates to the car park.
What followed was a whole morning standing around braving the intermittent showers. It wasn't just me. Many of my twitching friends were there. By midday we had given up hope. Long way to go for a social chat. It was a nice park though.
I was back home before dark. No harm done, just a day lost and some petrol money.
Many of my other friends had a much nicer day in a sunny Suffolk watching otters and the Cliff Swallow. That's the way it goes.

6th November 2016
Pumpkin day
I was not keen to repeat yesterday's early start, so decided to wait for news on the Minsmere Cliff Swallow. It did show first thing, but flew off straight away and never came back.
Instead I spent the day cutting up pumpkins and turning them into soup. Pumpkin and Sage, Curried Pumpkin, Thai Pumpkin, Creamy Pumpkin and Nutmeggy Pumpkin Soup. The reason for so much was that a few of the larger pumpkins had slight blemishes and would not last much longer.

7th November 2016
Dewy-eyed Sheep
Last year Rambo went in with the ewes on 1st November. Our aim is for lambing to occur during our Easter holidays. As we keep the lambs into their second year, there is no rush to get them born in the cold midwinter. This year Rambo will have his day two weeks into November. We will move out the sheep which will be going off this year as they could do without the stress. We'll bring them up to the top paddock and feed them on nice things for a while.
So today I moved the sheep one enclosure closer to the farmhouse. They love moving onto new grass. The grass growth has only just slowed down with the dip in temperatures and the first frosts, but there is still plenty for the sheep to eat.
The very good news is that all the sheeps' eyes have cleared up completely now without the need for any intervention from me.

One of the grey geese has a big swelling at the base of its beak. We had one like this before which eventually died. Whether it was anything to do with this I did not know.
It is certainly not worth calling out the vet, but today I managed to catch the goose. For all their bravado, they go very placid once you have managed to catch them. The swelling was very hard but I massaged it and it seemed to go down a little. I continued, applying as much pressure as I dared, and eventually a large ball of half chewed, tangled grass came up into the goose's mouth. I'm not sure if the problem will reoccur, but at least now I know how to deal with it.

We are always gaining experience, but there's still so much to learn.

8th November 2016
Encouraged by our recent visits to the beaches of North Norfolk, I decided to take the dogs for a long walk today. I took them right down to the end of the land and along the small dke known as the Lambert Drain. This leads across a couple of fields to the South Holland Main Drain. Boris and Arthur were loving exploring new sights and smells  and I was having a great time too. I really must make more time for this sort of pleasure.

Of course I took my binoculars with me. With the change of seasons there have been birds everywhere lately and I was over the moon to hear and then see a kingfisher shooting along the river. It was a new bird for the patch, though it is extremely unlikely I will ever be able to see it from the farm and get it onto the garden list. Same goes for the Little Grebes which swim around but never fly! Even the moorhens have only ever wandered as far as the farm once.
Boris, Arthur and I continued along the river to the bridge, stopping to pick out four wild Whooper Swans in with the winter flock of Mute Swans. From there we headed along the tiny back road where we did not encounter one vehicle and then back across the fields. Eventually we got back to where we started. We just had to negotiate our way back across the dyke at the bottom of the land. This was easier for Boris and myself, with our long legs, than Arthur, but he managed it on his own in the end.

9th November 2016
I woke up to the news that Trump had triumphed. What with that and the Brexit vote, I think I might just stay here on the farm and do my best not to interact with the outside world! (Apart from twitching).

Back at work today. For one reason or another I've not been there much recently.
When I arrived back home, I got out of the car to open the gate and I could hear Waxwings trilling somewhere above my head. These birds don't come every winter, but numbers are looking good this year. It's still a privilege to have them on the farm and they probably won't stay long.
My arrival scared them off, but I soon relocated them perched atop one of the roadside trees next door, dropping down into the hawthorn hedge to feed. There were 22 altogether.

A family flock of 12 Long-tailed Tits joined them in the same tree at one point. These have been around for a couple of days but are far from regular visitors to the farm.

I watched the Waxwings till they flew off presumably to roost as the light was fading and the temperature was plummeting. Winter is getting a toehold and I am looking forward to it.

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