That's a cock pheasant on the left and 5 fallow deer legs on the right. Dulcie retrieved the pheasant, probably ill or injured if it was caught by the dog. And Jazzie brought me the first deer leg, shortly followed by the others in turn, each with a leg in their mouth. Podge didn't want to give hers up and chose to carry it proudly the rest of the way home.
It's worrying to find deer parts like this cut off and left in the woods. It can be a sign of poaching, a big problem in the countryside. It turned out the underkeeper had shot 2 fallow for the larder so the legs were accounted for.
Even in the off season the dogs are providing services - clearing up sick and injured birds, and helping catch out potential poaching. I don't know what switches on in the dogs' heads but if they find anything of interest, they seem compelled to bring it back to me. Deer parts, pigeons, rabbits. Pip brought me a lamb's tail this morning. The lambs' tails are falling off (rings are put on which constrict the blood flow and eventually 'dock' the tails). Pip was excited to find this treasure and carried it into the kitchen to show me, tail wagging (hers not the lamb's).
We were down at the vets early this morning. My sick hen didn't make it to the log pile yesterday. I was concerned about the high mortality we've had with that strain of Barbu D'Uccle, and I began researching the symptoms. This was a terrible idea. Can you get hypochondria by proxy? By the time I'd finished looking at all the poultry diseases it could be, I'd convinced myself it was potentially a notifiable disease, that I would have to tell the Ministry of Agriculture and the flock would be destroyed. Plague, pestilence, death...
Terry, our sensible friend and a partner at our local vet surgery talked me down. I brought the hen to him for examination. Marek's disease. Which is what I thought before I spiralled into a panic. Terry kindly put the hen down for me with an injection (no logs were involved), and we devised a vaccination program for this year's hatch to combat the disease. Terry tells me that Marek's disease, which is a virus, is prevalent in nearly all smallholders' flocks. Vaccines which must be administered to day old chicks are not 100% effective. Older birds cannot be vaccinated.
While at the vets learning about chicken diseases, Mike mixed up the lamb's milk for me...to be helpful...
How one man can make so much mess from a litre of water and 200g of powdered milk? There was laughing and teasing over spilled milk. No crying.
He made it up to me though. No of course he didn't clean up after himself, but he did find me two really cool things: 1) a hermaphrodite pheasant
From the neck up it has the coloring of a male, and the chest is darker. But the rest of the body is hen-like. It has underdeveloped sex organs so cannot lay eggs or fertilise them, so it's asexual. Mike's put it in the laying pens anyway because he knows I love anomalies, especially medical ones.
2) A large ammonite
Podge is happy with her deer leg, I'm happy with my fossil, and Mike's just happy I didn't make him clean the kitchen. It's great when your needs are small and easily fulfilled.