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A couple of weeks ago Gordon and I went on holiday.  Well, I say ‘on holiday’ but we actually went away for a couple of days to stay with friends in their caravan at Durdle Door.  I’ve been there before but it was a first for Gordon.  The day we arrived it rained a lot, but the second day was better although still a bit drizzly on occasions.  We went into Weymouth and visited Nothe Fort, took a trip to Portland Bill as well as dropping into Lulworth Cove.  Photographs were taken, of course.

This squirrel saw there was food being handed out on the other side of Nothe Fort grounds and literally made a run for it.

This squirrel saw there was food being handed out on the other side of Nothe Fort grounds and literally made a run for it.

Once he was there he fought off hungry pigeons for the spoils.

Once he was there he fought off hungry pigeons for the spoils.

This overlooks the harbour of Weymouth

This overlooks the harbour of Weymouth

This was taken at Portland against a clear blue sea.  The seabed is chalky which gives the water a reflective quality.

This was taken at Portland against a clear blue sea. The seabed is chalky which gives the water a reflective quality.

I should have tried to get a person into this photo so you could see the size of this chunk of rock.  It was huge.

I should have tried to get a person into this photo so you could see the size of this chunk of rock. It was huge.

Nothing like a good old red and white lighthouse to let you know you're at the seaside.

Nothing like a good old red and white lighthouse to let you know you’re at the seaside.

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The clear sea crashing in on Lulworth Beach. I love the look of wet pebbles.

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Despite the calm looking water, boat trips were cancelled.

Since our return we’ve managed to do most of our second-cut silage.  The vintage (old) forager limped along in the continued absence of our newer one (clutch problems) until she developed a major leak of hydrostatic fluid this afternoon in the last field.  A contractor has once again been contacted and will be coming to round bale that tomorrow.

When I went in to feed the calves this morning, one was missing.  The front of her pen had been knocked out and she was nowhere to be found.  We started off by looking around the yard, behind and under things, but there was no sign of her.  We then extended our search to the ditches but didn’t hold out much hope.  If she’d fallen in a ditch overnight and wasn’t still bawling then the chances of finding her alive were fairly slender.

This afternoon when Gordon went into the workshop for the quad in order to fetch the cows, he came out with a big smile on his face.  She was asleep behind the quad bike.  She definitely wasn’t so obvious this morning and the very large sliding barn door had been shut all day, but she’d made no sound.  We led a much subdued calf back to her pen and gave her a bucket of milk which was gone in no time at all.  Tonight we’ve shut the door to the calf shed just in case she decides to go walkabout again.

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Calving Again

Excuse my absence, I’ve been busy doing nothing again.  Well, that’s not strictly true, but sometimes it feels like it.

Dan is on holiday in Portugal and I have to say, this week has gone very very slowly.  Since yesterday five cows have rejoined the herd following calving (three heifers, one bull, one stillborn) and two very old cows have gone on, one of which was born in 1997 and the other in 1999.  The old girls were barren and suffering with their feet so were taken away in the morning.  As usual, we both felt guilty but we can’t keep them in discomfort like that.  Two of the new heifers are coincidentally called Nancy and one is Margaret.  The bull calf is an Alexander.

Over the weekend we had visitors to stay.  Gordon has bought himself a motorbike – did I tell you this? – and we went to Newport to collect it some time ago.  We got on so well with the people selling it that we invited them to stay and I’m happy to report that after a weekend together we still get on well with them!  It could have gone the other way of course, but it felt as though we’d known them for years.  We took them to the East Huntspill Harvest Home which is always an interesting experience: five hundred people in a marquee with unlimited food, beer and cider.  To be honest, to me the organisation would be a nightmare but the Harvest Home organisers always manage pretty well.  There was meat – so much meat – and salad followed by home-made trifles – proper, like-your-granny-used-to-make trifles.  The only downside of the day was the sogginess of the ground as the marquee was erected in a field and I had a lot of trouble sitting evenly on my chair which sank about six inches into the ground on its skinny legs.  Every-so-often I had to stand up to pull it out and set it on the surface again and I noticed a lot of other people doing the same.  I’m convinced I got the boggy spot but I’m not sure how the chap behind me managed on a chair with the left side so deep in the ground that he was twisted throughout his meal and about two inches lower than the table.  The atmosphere was cheery though and we chatted to everyone around us.  We left at about 3.45 pm as we had to milk and by the time the evening arrived we were too tired to go back, but by then most people are fairly drunk and rowdy anyway.

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Morning Star

So, it’s been a while and quite a lot has happened, but only in a casual kind of way.

We bought ourselves a new freezer in the end as the KnowHow repairman reckoned ours was a write-off.  The new one is shiny and black in the same style as the one we had before, but this time we took the optional insurance so it’s covered against faults or accidents for the next five years.

Our cows are calving at the rate of at least one a day and we are getting a heifer one day, bull the next.  It’s fine, we have enough followers here now to see us out.  If we decide to sell up we have a lovely herd of pedigree British friesians and that’s fine too.  This morning we decided to rename one.  You may recall they’re always named after their mothers but some of the older herd names have disappeared so we reintroduced Star to the herd.  Her mother’s name is Jenny and we have lots of those and since she was born in the morning I wanted to be fanciful and call her something beautiful so she’s called Withyend Floyd Morning Star.  It sounds like a proper pedigree name, doesn’t it?

Last weekend I went with friends to Cornwall where we spent most of the time dodging the rain, especially on Sunday.  Saturday was the best day of the three we spent there but we only walked along the coast or around the town.  It was a lovely weekend despite the rain.  We stayed in a B&B there called Bridgeside Guest House, which I can thoroughly recommend.  The only problem with Cornwall in the summer (other than the rain) is the noise of the seagulls, but then I suppose you have to expect that!

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Hare Hunting

My friend Caroline (the artist) wanted to take photos of hares, but didn’t know where, so I mentioned we have them here.  I’m not one hundred percent convinced she believed me, but she came on Tuesday with her camera and we set off around the farm.  Didn’t see a single one!

She was a bit disappointed until Gordon, always the voice of reason, pointed out that the best time to catch hares (not literally) was very early in the morning or in the evening, so she set off again on her own since I was helping with the milking.  When she came back several hours later she was very excited to have seen and photographed a group of three hares and a fox, not together, obviously.  After some discussion she asked whether she could come again and we arranged that her husband could join her here later so we could get a takeaway.

On Thursday we both set off with our cameras at five o’clock.  Our ‘silent hunting mode’ was slightly wrecked when Lola tracked us down and bounded around for the next couple of hours, but on the plus side she did stir up a few sleepy hares and when they weren’t outrunning her (easily) we were able to take a couple of shots.

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In this time the sun went down – very dramatically, it has to be said – so we were able to get a few good sunset shots too.

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Foxy Overload

I had a phone call last week from my friend Caroline who’s a very good artist, specialising mostly in animals.  She’d been in touch with Secret World to ask whether she could photograph some of their foxes in order to complete a few paintings.  They were very helpful and agreeable as they have four or five there as permanent residents; basically those that have been so hurt that they can’t be released back into the wild.

Being the good friend she is, she asked whether I could go too as her ‘backup’ photographer and below are the results of our morning’s excursion today.  These little foxes are completely tame and used to being fed by hand so had no fear when we entered the enclosure.  About an hour later we decided we probably had enough shots!  What a great way to spend the morning.

Just after we'd arrived and the foxes were fed.

Just after we’d arrived and the foxes were fed.

Such a cute little foxy face.

Such a cute little foxy face.

See how bothered I am that you're here.  Being fed is exhausting and it's so warm and sunny.

See how bothered I am that you’re here. Being fed is exhausting and it’s so warm and sunny.

The magpies were on hand just in case anything was left.  See how blue the sky is?  It almost felt like Spring.

The magpies were on hand just in case anything was left. See how blue the sky is? It almost felt like Spring.

Poser? Me? Surely not!

Poser? Me? Surely not!

But this is my good side.  See how beautiful I am?

But this is my good side. See how beautiful I am?

Smiling for the camera.

Smiling for the camera.

Is that a cat?

Is that a cat?

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I’ve decided that part of my new year should involve contributing to my blog more often, but of course being a farmer I don’t get out much (:D).  When I do go somewhere I like to take a gozillian photos as you’ve probably noticed so thought I’d trickle-feed them onto my blog for those times when I’m going a bit stir-crazy and have nothing else of interest to tell you.  These were taken on a woodland walk back in November.

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We were at Fyne Court, a National Trust property on the Quantocks on a cold and sunny day.

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Prague

Our trip to Prague was great.  The flight was slightly delayed but the driver I’d booked on the internet was still waiting in the airport with my name on a board and the name of the hotel.  He drove us directly to the hotel which took about half-an-hour and when we arrived he stopped outside so he could carry our bags to the reception.  The hotel itself was small but had a nice atmosphere.  We were allocated a suite with two bedrooms, a lounging area, a bathroom and separate toilet.  Thankfully it was warm, although during the night it was slightly too warm and we had to open the windows to let a bit of air in.  We ate in the hotel’s restaurant and found we were having trouble with the currency when we expressed shock at the bill, worked it out and discovered that in fact we’d paid about fourteen pounds each.  That included two bottles of wine!  Prague is definitely a cheap place to eat very good quality food.

Terri waiting to cross the road in front of the Powder Tower, just a short distance from our hotel.

Terri waiting to cross the road in front of the Powder Tower, just a short distance from our hotel.

The famous clock in the Old Town Square which attracted huge crowds on the hour.  Personally, I was a little disappointed as I expected it to do more!

The famous clock in the Old Town Square which attracted huge crowds on the hour. Personally, I was a little disappointed as I expected it to do more!

Detail on the clock.  Most statues in Prague are netted like this - perhaps they have trouble with bits falling off.

Detail on the clock. Most statues in Prague are netted like this – perhaps they have trouble with bits falling off.

The Church in the Old Town Square.  You can see how many people were milling around for the markets.

The Church in the Old Town Square. You can see how many people were milling around for the markets.

A view through the entrance tower of the Charles Bridge on a very hazy day.

A view through the entrance tower of the Charles Bridge on a very hazy day.

Photobombed by a seagull!  This is Prague Castle which looks down on the city.

Photobombed by a seagull! This is Prague Castle which looks down on the city.

It wasn't so foggy once at the Castle and this detail is on St Vitus's Cathedral which is sat atop the hill.

It wasn’t so foggy once at the Castle and this detail is on St Vitus’s Cathedral which is sat atop the hill.

Janine and Terri in a lovely restaurant near the Castle.  We had the Goulash special which was three courses for a very reasonable amount of money.

Janine and Terri in a lovely restaurant near the Castle. We had the Goulash special which was three courses for a very reasonable amount of money.

The Old Town Square once night had fallen.  The atmosphere here was lovely.

The Old Town Square once night had fallen. The atmosphere here was lovely.

This was taken at dusk on the way down the funicular railway before we were accosted by armed guards.

This was taken at dusk on the way down the funicular railway before we were accosted by armed guards.

Our last meal before leaving for the airport.  It was outside and we were surrounded by heaters.

Our last meal before leaving for the airport. It was outside and we were surrounded by heaters.

We were very close to the Old Town Square and set out to explore the following day.  Although the weather was cold, there wasn’t any snow and it stayed dry.  Throughout our stay we walked across the Charles Bridge, visited the Castle, saw more than one Christmas market, went to a classical concert in the Clementinum’s Mirrored Chapel, strolled around Wenceslas Square and ate out a lot.

The only bad thing about the break was when we were scammed on the funicular railway and almost arrested by the guards.  Eventually they were ‘happy’ to settle for a fine and although we weren’t too keen on handing it over the alternative sounded much worse.  I think they may have been keeping an eye open for vulnerable tourists as they seemed to leave the groups with men in well alone.  Suffice it to say, if you ever go to Prague make sure you get any public transport tickets stamped at the barrier rather than doing what we did and going through the barrier kindly raised by the ‘helpful’ member of staff who waved us through and told us we needed to hurry.  You need to put your ticket in the barrier machine regardless of whether the barrier is up or down otherwise your ticket isn’t regarded as valid and they will fine you 800 kc!  It works out to be about twenty-five pounds so at the end of the day it isn’t all the world, but we still felt cheated.  The joys of foreign countries and their laws, I suppose.

We had a fantastic time and I can thoroughly recommend the hotel, which was called Hotel Salvator.  The rooms were clean and spacious and in total it cost us about a hundred pounds each for four nights including breakfast so we really couldn’t find fault.

This will undoubtedly be my last post until after Christmas so I hope you all have a good one, see the people you want to see and get the gifts you’re hoping for.  I don’t know what I’m hoping for, but I do know I’ll be seeing people I love especially since both the girls will be home for four days.

Merry Christmas.

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