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.