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Summer 2018

Having complained throughout the Winter and early Spring about the wet and cold weather, there was no option to moan about the extraordinary Summer, no matter how hot and dry things became.

Three fledgling Tawny owls, still soft in their downy fluff took up their positions each night on the roof of the farmhouse. Shrieking loudly and repeatedly throughout the night, every night, they successfully ensured our household avoided a good sleep. The swallows arrived a little later and in fewer numbers this year, but we were still treated to a breathtaking display each evening as they swooped and darted around the yard hunting down summer flies. My special treat this Summer was spending time with three fledgling swallows each morning. They watched me, showing no fear and allowed me to get so close to them while I mucked out the Shetland ponies (who were both spending time away from grass to trim down their tubby tummies). Equally spectacular were the squadron of swifts that circled the farm buildings at high speed, screaming as they went. Each year a pair of swifts has nested above a bedroom window of the house and their family generally builds to around eight before they leave us.

We set ourselves a goal of opening South Town Camping at the beginning of August, piling on the pressure to get the composting toilets and shower built and fully functioning. Construction took place from around 8p.m. onwards each evening, following a good day's work on and off the farm. Sometimes by torch light, Murray just made it before our first campers arrived! Thank goodness for Dennis and his digger, expertly crafting our car park. We decided to keep our campsite small and special and we really enjoyed meeting all the people who chose our site. Lots of ideas for next year - watch this space!

The lambs grew on well in the warm, dry weather and the ewes looked good, which is more than can be said for some of our fields which became very desert like! I can't remember a summer like this. We've never eaten out in the garden as much as this year and it was lovely to wake up each morning, confident in the fact that we did not need waterproofs. Some of the calves haven't had a single day of rain in their lives yet! The cattle definitely noticed a lack of grass around the place and demanded regular moves to new pastures. On the odd occasion we were perhaps a little late with this change, they simply moved on themselves. Our cows know their way around very well and have no problem leading the herd to another suitable meadow. Mike the bull is happy to follow.

We have made our hay and although the quality will be good there wasn't much of it. A second cut, this time of silage, helped to increase our winter fodder supplies.

It was a family effort the gather up the sheep in the park at Arlington and walk them through the wood back home ready for shearing. To avoid the heat we left it until after 10 p.m. but even so the temperature gauge in the pickup registered 32 degrees at 11 p.m. Once the sheep were settled at home, we enjoyed the glorious night, so still and quiet, bats hunting all around us and a bright full moon shining as light as day. A big thanks to Nigel and Lyndsey who pitched up to help with the shearing yet again. The lambs were weaned from the ewes at the beginning of August, the nutritional benefit from milk is limited after 12 weeks old and the ewes need to keep condition to be ready for tupping in the Autumn.

One final note, this Summer has got to be one for the butterflies. The Silver Wash Fritillary in particular were stunning and ever present on journeys through the wood to check the sheep and cattle.