The weather is not only bad, it's unrelenting. Day after day of rain, followed by another week of easterly wind that burns exposed fingers and faces. It's cold enough to freeze the pheasants' water system and break the plastic joins, requiring constant repair, but not cold enough to freeze the mud solid. There's no sun to offer any warmth, and every chore feels like an epic quest.
Wet ground has meant wet feet, with all the associated problems for our livestock. A couple of the sheep have footrot, which is responding to treatment. Then Kitty - Mike's horse - pulled up lame on a ride.
I called the vet who diagnosed an abscess in her sole. He says he's seeing a lot of this: the wet ground makes the hoof soft and allows a sharp stone to cut its way in and lodge in the hole. Stand foot with hole in mud for a few days and hey, presto, infection.
As Kitty lives outdoors, keeping her foot clean and dry is one of those "epic quest" chores I mentioned earlier. She needs her foot soaked and poulticed to draw out the infection, then bandaged to keep it clean and dry. This needs to be done daily until the infection is cleared.
Instead of an expensive, proprietary poultice boot, Kitty got the "Backyard Special" boot that all horse owners will be familiar with: a dry poultice, wrapped with clingfilm, covered with Vetrap, and taped over with half a roll of duct tape.
Look at those conditions underfoot, and that's on the hardcore track.
Did I mention the mud won't freeze?
The duct tape boot wasn't tough enough for ankle-deep mud, so I used an old trick with the inner tube from our ATV and fashioned Kitty a horse-sized wellie boot -
With an average sized horse, the tube just slides over and ties up at the bottom. As Kitty has feet the size of manhole covers, she got the split-front model with baling twine laces. It's working great, and with all that feathering as protection, the twine doesn't rub her skin.
Still, she looks as fed up as the rest of us. I hope she's on the road to a speedy recovery so we can get back out on the trail.
However, I draw the line at fashioning 104 sheep-sized boots.