I've dug up my onion crop from the garden and moved the haul to the spare bedroom to dry, a la Tom and Barbara Good. It works great but it's making the house smell like feet for some reason. I’ve dug up the small potato crop to store, but that just goes into a wicker potato hopper in the pantry.
Outside I can hear the clunk-clunk rhythm of a baler, baling up barley straw. I’ve split and stored half of our winter wood. Small talk with neighbors turns to who’s already put their wood stoves or Rayburns on this season.
The washing machine filter logs the changing season too. In summer it catches plastic S-hooks, the kind that are integral to holding nets over the pens that protect young pheasant poults. In autumn, the filter is full of spent .22 and .17 rounds from rifles now protecting more mature pheasant poults from predators.
September 1st is also the start of partridge and duck hunting season. I was invited on opening night to shoot ducks on a flight pond. I missed all five that I fired at, a poor showing even by my low standards. My companions brought down 5 between them.
Pete, Ian, and a selection of happy dogs
One mallard was ringed as part of the British Trust for Ornithology scheme. I reported the number to their website, and I’m looking forward to reading the migration report they promised to send me. When asked, I admitted that the bird was alive and well, until we interfered, and that said subject was going to be eaten. I’m not sure how the BTO will use that bit of data.
Spud the flat-coated retriever opened the season for me as my peg dog on the duck shoot. It was her first time as a peg dog, and retrieving duck. She was patient and interested and, though I gave her nothing to retrieve, she recovered a wounded duck for one of the other guns that we wouldn’t have found without her.
Autumn means a change to working rations for the dogs, which need to start building up reserves for a long season. A once-over from the vets is useful too. Our friend and trusted vet was supposed to stop by on his way to the office to give all of shoot’s dogs their kennel cough treatment (A house call is easier than having 15 rowdy dogs in his waiting room.) It was fortunate that he had to cancel as Brandy - one of underkeeper Pete's spaniels - went off on a personal hunt, and only just returned home for a late lunch. We'll try again tomorrow, and hope all dogs are present and accounted for.
I've moved the sheep to their maternity paddock across the street, where I can see them from my bedroom window. Man alive, are they pregnant. They're huge.
The first one is due as early as the 18th September; Eudora is bagging up already (i.e. her teats are filling with milk). I hope the ewes will all have easy births. If not I'll have to put my hands in the mothers, and move heads and legs around so babies can come out noses and front feet first. The ewes can get on with the business of pushing then.
I had to vaccinate all the sheep again, their annual top-up. And mine as, of course, I jabbed myself by accident. Again. This time I only caught the empty needle before I jabbed a sheep with it, so I'm not counting this one.
As I was cleaning up the spent needles I must have dropped one. Out of the corner of my eye I could see one of the chickens running, with its head poked out in front, the way a chicken does when it's found a worm or mouse and the other chickens are in hot pursuit to rob it. Instead of a worm, it was a needle. The chicken must have seen me drop it and assumed it was more of the delicious stuff I usually drop for them (Sometimes, I throw toast crusts out of my bedroom window and shout 'Manna from Heaven!' at them.) I got it back, but only by exchanging it for the last digestive biscuit in my cookie jar.
I came home from picking blackberries with Mike and found a letter had arrived from the British Wool Marketing Board. They bought my wool and enclosed a cheque for the princely sum of:
63p. And to think, it only cost me £30 to shear them. At this rate I could be bankrupt by next Tuesday. We might be living on what we can hunt and gather. Oh wait, I missed all those ducks. Blackberry jam on toast, anyone?