Tuesday, 14 September 2010

A new season starts

Tomorrow's the first day of shooting season for us, the culmination of the hatching, raising, and releasing of all the pheasants and partridge. I can't say shoot season is busier or harder than all the work that preceeds it, but it's sort of like opening night after months of rehearsal. As long as the birds don't get stage fright the day should go well. The first day is only to stir them up, and we're expecting to put 100 or so partridge in the bag.

Of course, as per the laws of nature (well, Murphy's Law anyway) everything on my 'to do' list needed to be done by today. Top in the list: Move both the horses and the sheep to Milkweed Farm.

By 9am all my chores were done. My friend Lynne offered to ride Kitty, and we were tacked up and on the road soon after. It was only five miles but the horses dragged their feet as if it was the Long March. The horses walked most of the way, but we still made it with an hour to spare. Enough time for the horses to get used to their surroundings while Lynne and I had a coffee at her house, so close to Milkweed that you can almost see the horses from her kitchen window.

While the coffee was brewing I could hear a strange tapping sound.

"Lynne, what's that noise?"

"Oh, the baby peacocks are hungry." she said. And there they were, dumpy looking little birds, staring in at us through the patio door. Until they heard us arrive they had been happily scratching up the garden.

"What do you feed baby peacocks?" I asked.

"Cat food." Lynne said. "They need a lot of protein."

So we drank coffee while the horses grazed grass and the baby peacocks ate their cat food.

I headed home to put my own lunch on. On the way in I checked the mail and smiled to see a cheque for winter grazing we let out last year, and a flyer for animal wormer reminding me that "It's Tapeworm Time Again". I also found a letter from the estate office to say that a contractor had accidentally cut through our village's water pipe so the water might be a funny colour for awhile and please could we go back to boiling our drinking water.

Lunch was leftover pork in leftover soup. I saved a few slices of pork for Spud. While the soup heated, I used the tidbits to teach Spud to jump in and out of the back of the truck. I'd forgot to do this earlier and I'm taking her for her first day's work tomorrow so I thought she'd better learn. By the time the soup was ready, Spud was too.

Sheep were next on the list. I hitched up the trailer to the truck and as I dropped the tailgate, Simon the gardener and underkeeper Pete were coming back from their lunch break and offered a welcome hand driving the small flock from the pen to the trailer. With some guidance on our part and a bucket of sheep feed, the sheep went in and were ready to go in minutes. I deposited them in their section of field next to the horses who were too busy eating to look up and acknowledge their new roomies.

worming the sheep, ready for their new pasture

It's been raining all day so although the animals have fresh grass they also have wet backs. Later I brought the horses their now meagre dinner rations and checked to see how everyone was settling in. So far so good. A neighbor pulled into the gateway of the field as I fed the horses to say hello and talk about fencing and the weather - two hot topics around here. Although the field is a few miles away from our house, I know there are people closer than us keeping an eye on the new residents.

When the rain and fog lifts, everyone can enjoy the view

We've bought two new field shelters for the horses, one of which will get used as lambing sheds when the time comes. They shelters aren't due for another few weeks (and the lambs just after!) so the horses will just have to brave the elements until then.

While I write this I've been cooking tomorrow's meal for the workers, helping Mike find his tie and sock garters, and generally organising small stuff I've overlooked. Mike will be awake long after me and I expect I'll hear his truck start up at midnight as he gives his shoot one last look around before the morning. No doubt the animals on Milkweed will get a late night visit too. The weather will turn autumnal, the dogs will start getting working rations, and Flossie the chicken will get turfed out of the porch so I can put the pots of food in there to keep cool. The house will smell of wet tweeds and labrador, and the nights will draw in too quickly. I'll never get my 'to do' list finished.

Good luck to all of you hunters out there and have a great season.


Poppy Cottage said...

Thank you for sparing the time to come and have a cuppa with me. The knitting patterns are fantastic, many are already ear marked!!

Hope you have a good day tomorrow, I'll be thinking of you guys.


Kevin F. said...

When Tamar and I first met I told her "I would give my eye teeth to have dinner with you." She in turn replied, "and what would I do with your eye teeth?!" To you and Mike I will use a different expression from my childhood... "I would give my left testicle to go on that first shoot with you guys!"
Some day perhaps.
Kevin F.

Cynthia said...

Lambs in winter?

Good luck tomorrow -- I hope your season starts well.

Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

Wow. I'm exhausted. Your day's list does not resemble anything on mine. Sure wish it did! I'd be happy to make the leap across the pond and help you out with yours.
"The weather will turn autumnal, the dogs will start getting working rations, and Flossie the chicken will get turfed out of the porch so I can put the pots of food in there to keep cool. The house will smell of wet tweeds and labrador, and the nights will draw in too quickly" It makes me look forward to fall in England... and here. :)

Paula said...

This was a really nice post. Made me feel like I was along for the ride.

I hope everything goes beautifully for you guys tomorrow, and that you'll get a good and well-earned rest afterward.

And now, I'm going out to dig the last post hole....

Maria said...

Well it's now two days later, so I hope Opening Day went well and no-one got stage fright. How did Spud do?
Lovely piece of writing in this post, especially the last paragraph :o)


Jennifer Montero said...

Colette - A cuppa and some female company is always welcome for me too. Glad the patterns are of some use.

Kevin - Are you kidding?!? With your turkey taming, stove building, chicken whispering skills, you and Tamar are always welcome here. No body parts necessary. (your story made me laugh out loud)

Jennifer Montero said...

Cynthia - The upside of our sheep breed is that they can lamb twice in 18 months, once at a time when the lambs will be ready early spring and the price is highest. The downside is lambs in winter. I'm not sure about this breed yet.

DHimC - Helpers are always welcome, especially this time of year. I'm with you, Fall is the best season. We haven't got the beautiful leaf change like in New England, but the cool weather is a relief (especially if it kills some of these flies!)

Paula - Thanks for the kind wishes, and good luck on your post holes, it's not a fun job. Be careful of your back.

Jennifer Montero said...

Maria - The first day went well, it felt a bit like 'back to school'. Spud did really well, and made 4-5 lovely retrieves. She's still a baby, and fell asleep on duty, halfway through the day so I took her home early and gave her treats for dinner. She'll be a good dog.