Friday, 24 September 2010

Partridge season

The partridge season is excellent this year. Our unusually hot, dry summer suited these little birds and they've grown on well. They're strong on the wing and very fast. It's been challenging for the guns. It's hard to spot the bird in the photo (upper left corner, if you need a hint) -

It's so high that I couldn't get the gun and his target in the photo at the same time -

The pictures aren't going to win any prizes for composition, but I hope they give you an idea of how high these birds are. If you add the fact that each bird is travelling about 30 miles per hour, and turning on the wind, you can see how difficult it is to bring down your quarry. One good shot stays with you for a lifetime.

A red-legged (or French) partridge

The head keeper's job is to make the birds perform. Each drive brings its own set of worries to plague Mike -

That's his best 'worried keeper' look. I see that pose a lot during the winter. This is a new drive and he's probably contemplating everything that could possibly go wrong.

The dogs are glad of the work.

I know, they look attentive and even well-trained. But this is the first drive, on their first day out of this season. When I let them off the leads, they were like the proverbial headless chickens. They covered every square inch of that field doing nothing constructive, just burning off a summer's worth of pent-up spaniel energy. By the third drive they were calm enough that I wasn't shouting expletives at them. By the last drives, they were hunting the cover and cleaning up, making some lovely retrieves.

Even though it's too hot to be a hard-working spaniel, Dulcie and Jazzie manage to keep cool by throwing themselves into every available trough or puddle. They love their jobs and between drives the two dogs are overcome with the joys of it all, and roll about on the grass, tongues lolling -

Still on their leads, of course -

Spud came out for a half day last week, and she's enjoying it every bit as much. She starting to mature, physically and mentally, though she's always going to be a small flatcoat. A petit pomme de terre.

Her training sessions are getting longer. I fit them in between my daily baking jobs. It used to take the same amount of time as chilling pastry. Now her sessions take as much time as the first proofing of a home made loaf of bread. We're taking our time to get the basics right (Spud I mean, not my bread). She retrieved four fantastic partridge on her first day out, and she's staying steady when birds are dropping, unlike two spaniels I could mention.

From a small girl to a couple of big ones: both ewes appear to be in lamb and boy are they showing -

For comparison: Pregnant ewe on the left, next to the youngster (not for the ram until next year).

Their teats are starting to drop and they could be due as early as the 8th October. Unfortunately for the ewes, this is my first time lambing as well as theirs. I praying for easy births, a ewe lamb from each, and no complications. They say a good shepherd looks at his flock expecting the worst and hopes he won't find it. I don't think the sheep are that pessimistic.

Mike will make a final check on the sheep and horses tonight, before he goes to bed. He's had to sleep at the Manor these last couple nights, for security reasons, so I've got two large dogs putting his side of the bed to good use. He's just slipped out of the house now thinking I wouldn't notice. I know he's off to collect a couple of lobsters from a fisherman friend of his, as a treat for my birthday tomorrow. I'm practicing my 'surprised face' as I write this.

I made myself a birthday apple pie with a mix of homegrown and foraged apples. We're spending what looks like a crisp sunny autumn day in Exmoor (Lorna Doone country) with a couple of dogs walking the moors, looking through our binos for red deer and drinking coffee out of a flask. I half considered spending it at the local gun shop shooting clays, but that's where we spent our honeymoon. We save that kind of romance for our anniversary.


Maria said...

Happy birthday for tomorrow then! I hope you have a lovely day, enjoy Exmoor.
And thanks for another great post. The pictures of Dulcie and Jazzie rolling in the grass made me laugh out loud.

Panhandle Jane said...

Happy Birthday! I know exactly what you mean--the day my husband proposed, we were shooting prairie dogs. We haven't done anything like that in a long time--I have a feeling the trifocals might spoil my aim.

Frogdancer said...

It was interesting reading this.
Recently my parents left their Cavalier with me while they went to Bali. My two Cavaliers have ALWAYS left the chickens alone... never had a problem with them.

Murphy, however, obviously harks back to the kind of work your spaniels do.

No all that appreciated in suburban Melbourne, however, as I gazed on two dead leghorns...

martha in mobile said...

Goodness, what beautiful country and what happy dogs! Enjoy your birthday.

Terry Scoville said...

What a great post Jen, I love your English terms describing your field experiences. The Spaniels for sure sound like they are more than ready for what we call "personal hunts", that is taking off for who knows where or for how long! Yes interject expletives. Those Partridge do appear challenging with their high flying acrobatics. No wonder a good shot stays with you, well earned.
Have a wonderful Happy Birthday tomorrow, Cheers!

Karen Thomason/Gordon Setter Crossing said...

Happy Birthday Jennifer....I hope you get that lobster! YUM

Paula said...

Your tale of romance has brought a tear to my eye.

Happy Birthday! this is the second time I've extended birthday greetings in the blogosphere today, only the first's birthday was today. I guess you're in good company.

Enjoy your special day tomorrow!

Poppy Cottage said...

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Jen.....

Happy Birthday to you.

Hope you have had a really lovely day

Turned down the job, too much out of my self imposed reclusive hermit life to enable me to sleep at night!!

Lily getting ready to pop!!

Sara said...

Happy Birthday, Gwen!! It's late in the day here, so you'll get this in the AM of the 26th, but I hope you had a really nice day eating apple pie and looking for deer. If you're half as happy as your dogs look, then you're well off. Thinking of you and enjoying your blog. I'm often too at a loss for words to comment due to how impressed/astounded I am by everything you do, but I do "keep up" with your blog regularly. Did you ever know that you're my heeeero? (cue the music...)

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

It's such a time warp, your shooting season. Straight out of Trollope.

Happy birthday, happy lobster, happy shooting.

Jennifer Montero said...

Maria - Thanks for the kind wishes. I'm glad the spaniels made you laugh, they make me laugh every day. You can't be depressed around a spaniel.

Panhandle Jane - A proposal over a prarie dog shoot? That's the best one I've heard of yet.

Frogdancer - Some of those Cavaliers still have the spaniel instinct then. I'm sorry to hear that your leghorns paid the price though. Our spaniels respect the chickens, but unfortunately friends and neighbors dogs don't. We just saved Grandma Brown this week from the jaws of a bull terrier, who ran off from its owner to hunt our chickens.

Jennifer Montero said...

Martha and Colette - Thanks for the kind wishes

Terry - 'personal hunts' is a great description! We say they've gone self-employed. It happens to them all. We breed them for independence and brains, and sometimes it bites us in the backside.

Paula - I smell sarcasm with that romance comment...;-)

Sara - I know you're out there and that makes all the difference. I saved you some pie...

Tamar - Trollope-y I can manage, it's when it goes all Gosford Park that I struggle.

Karen - HUGE lobster, enough for dinner and for the freezer.