The swallows and swifts have left for warmer climes but I am pleased to report the Tawny Owls are still around and have learnt to Toowhit and Too whoo. Even though the nights are drawing in, the night air must be warm as bats are still flying around the barns and yards at night hunting down their prey. Lying in bed at night we listened to three Red Deer stags roaring through the river valley and wood competing for the attention of the local hinds.
Early Autumn gave us a bumper apple crop, we had so much fruit the only sensible thing to do was to make apple juice and cider. This was a new experience for the South Town team so we called on the in depth knowledge and vast experience of our good friends Philippa and Jeff, who also happen to have an apple press. Several hours of chopping, pressing and some minor first aid resulted in litres of apple juice and 22 litres of cider - which shall be known as The Scratter. We are keenly awaiting early Summer for the first tasting.
We have needed to move the cattle to fresh grass very regularly as, following the hot Summer, fresh shoots of grass have been slow to grow. The older cows know their way around and follow the call, however they like to take their time and have plenty of little snacks on the way so it can take up quite a bit of time! Following the cows, calves and bull through the wood is a very satisfying and (usually!) peaceful way to spend some time, especially in the Autumn when the rich red-brown of the cattle blend perfectly with the dying bracken and golden Beech leaves.
The sheep, unlike the cattle, have done extremely well and are generally fatter than we've ever seen them before! This does have it's down side as carrying too much weight can affect fertility. The ewes have been brought in, condition scored (weight checked, 1 - 5 with 1 very poor and 5 obese), feet, teeth and teets checked and wormed if necessary. Their 'bikini line' gets a little trim to keep them clean at the back end and they are ready for their big date with the ram, around the beginning of November. The rams have had a similar check up, feet are checked to guard against lameness, teeth are checked to make sure none are missing and testicles checked for hernias or any obvious damage. Pleased to report all was well and Zoro, Peter, Dirk and McCleod were sent out with a group of ewes each. We fit a coloured raddle to each ram which rubs off on the ewe's back when mated. This can tell us which ram has served the ewe and also roughly when.
Finally, we said goodbye to Silver Princess, one of the ponies we have been looking after for the National Trust. Estimated to have reached 36 years old, her ailments began to take their toll and following a discussion with our vets it was decided that it would be unfair for her to face the coming Winter. Her best pal Edwina moved to a neighbouring farm for companionship.