Back to reality

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A walk on Exmoor

It’s the start of a new year and its back to reality after the Christmas break; ie. being very busy!

I have been rather active on the writing front over the last couple of weeks, with a deadline fast approaching for a scheduled feature with Grow Your Own magazine, an article on the British pig industry handed in for the farming section of one regional newspaper and a couple of short promotional pieces about the various Potato Day events taking place in the South West submitted to two others.

The on-going debate surrounding proposals to rescind the EU wide ban on the use of pig swill was the topic of another feature that made it into this weekend’s Western Daily Press (http://tinyurl.com/ngpq7zy) ; highlighting some of the downsides that a relaxation in the laws could bring as well as the supposed benefits.

All in all it’s been a busy start to 2014, made more challenging by an unhelpful dose of ‘man-flu’ and some truly atrocious weather.

The whole of South West England has been battered for weeks now by heavy winds and rain; with many areas near my Somerset home badly affected by severe flooding and falling trees.

The Somerset levels have been hit particularly severely, destroying the repair work that many farmers had carried out on fields badly affected by the flooding that took place in 2012. Ditches had been cleared and fields reseeded in an attempt to rectify the damage inflicted by the flooding; now all that hard work has been wasted.

What’s more, because of last year’s flooding many cattle and sheep farmers on the Levels were forced to destock and reduce their herd numbers due to high levels of damaged pasture. The hope was that this year, once pasture had had the opportunity to recover from the previous bout of saturation, these farmers would be able to increase their livestock levels again and get back to the secure footing that they had before the flooding in early 2012.

It is looking very unlikely that this will now be case.

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A break from the rain

So whilst the bad weather has made the daily chicken chores a deeply unpleasant experience and resulted in the odd ‘interesting’ journey to work, I have so far (touch-wood) been largely unaffected by the weather and don’t want to complain.

That being said, the chickens have certainly not enjoyed the weather and spend the majority of their time huddled around the back door of my cottage looking grumpy and squawking their discontent. Wet feathers, muddy feet and howling winds do not make for happy birds.

My wife and I spent an entertaining hour the other night in the pouring rain when we returned home from work only to find some of our birds missing during one of the worst days of wet, windy weather.

I had images of birds propelled over gates, squashed against walls or splattered by falling trees; who knew what had become of the chooks whilst we had been away and a gale tore through our garden.

A very blustery chicken hunt ensued and eventually, having become absolutely drenched by rain, the missing birds were located; happily snuggled up in a thick bit of hedge, totally unaware of what all the fuss was about and very unhappy at being harassed by a six foot four mass of wet hair and soggy clothes. But at least they were safe and I could retreat to the warmth of a log fire without any pangs of guilt.

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A less windswept chook

So I am hoping that this coming week proves to be a bit more relaxed, that the sun magically appears and that I finally get the chance to head outdoors and see to my very sad, storm savaged garden. I have got a lot of tidying up to do and am longing to get outside, stretch my legs and get my hands dirty.

I’ve been stuck inside too long; role on spring!

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