Although the weather has done little to cheer us up over the last few weeks, there have been a few beautiful sunny days. Otherwise the murky, damp days, with long spells of rain and wind have caused the fields to become increasingly wet. The temperature has remained fairly mild for the time of year, but there are still many winter months ahead. There is a positive amongst all the gloom, as before Christmas day the sun will begin to rise earlier and set later.

Restrictions on our movements and socialising have been further curtailed, but we can still enjoy the festivities. I have derived much pleasure from doing lots of traditional baking. Christmas cakes for many relatives, full of delicious fruit and nuts, made with plenty of brandy and fed with more while they were maturing. They are now covered with marzipan ,iced and decorated. Christmas puddings full of delicious ingredients, before being steamed and stored - lots of brandy in those as well! Must not forget the jars of mincemeat, also steeped in brandy, waiting to be made into tasty mince pies. This year we have decided to have a goose, that is with Melissa and family, also Kevin's parents. This will be a first attempt at cooking a goose, but hopefully I have found a recipe with two delicious sounding stuffings, so fingers crossed.

That's enough about food, as there is always work to do on the farm. The housed animals are fed and bedded up with fresh straw every day and checked for any signs of ill health, so treatment can be given quickly. Fortunately all the animals are keeping well at the moment, despite the damp, mild weather. The sheep out on pasture are having to be moved regularly, not always because they are running out of food, but the ground is so wet, that even they are making the fields muddy. Checking them is hard work, as it is too wet to use any type of vehicle in some fields and even walking round them is quite difficult.

The last flock of rams to come in have been checked over and sorted into two groups, those to be kept for next season and those to be culled. Lambing is getting closer, so all the sheep hurdles have been prepared ready to build nursery areas for the ewes and their new born lambs. Francis has also sorted and repaired the lightweight rings used to isolate the ewes when they are giving birth. This will keep them from being disturbed by the other ewes, also making it easier to give assistance should it be needed.

Recently 20 of our older Angus beef cattle were graded ready for sale by our agent. Once he had found an outlet and sorted transport they were collected, being taken straight from the farm to their final destination.

There were some jobs done which did not involve livestock. One was to change the blades on the power harrow before storing it until it is put into work again next spring. Another task was to level the floor of a building originally used to milk cows. It was in the days when dairy farms had cowsheds, where about 20 cows used to be brought for milking. They were tied with chains round their necks, before being fed with a concentrate ration which was put into mangers in front of them. They were then milked before being taken back to their barn. Now the cowshed will be used for ewes and lambs, so a level floor will be better. The third job was to de-dust the combine. Ian and Kevin did this using a leaf blower. It is hoped that a dust free combine harvester will be less attractive to mice, which seem to chew through some of the electric wires every year.

We recently held a Beaufort Pony Club Christmas Rally here on Manor Farm. The weather forecast for the chosen day was not good but after much deliberation, we decided to go ahead. It was a magical event, in which small groups of children on their ponies (following all the Covid regulations) set off to do a circular ride around part of the farm. Although the morning was wet and murky, the rain was light. All the children and ponies dressed up in festive costumes. Some like Santa, others like reindeer and of course there was lots of tinsel. The route took them along a bridleway, into a wood (where I was positioned) and along some tracks . When I asked the children what food was a special treat for their ponies, the unanimous answer was "carrots", but I was reassured to be told that they all needed grass. After the ride Santa was waiting in one end of a large barn, surrounded by two beautifully decorated Christmas trees, also lots of fairy lights, all brought by Sarah Godwin. It was truly magical! It just remains for me to wish you all A Very Happy Christmas.