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Foot And Mouth, Beak And Claw

2nd of April 2001

As I write these notes (4 March) the country is gripped by Foot and Mouth Disease and, for the first time since I went back to work at the farm, I am glad there are no pigs in the old cowshed or bullocks in the farmyard. It strikes me how quiet it is as I walk through the barns and I have missed the cheerful grunting of the pigs as they hear the food buckets rattling. Pigs are wonderful timekeepers and would always wake from their afternoon sleep at around 4.15, ready to be fed at 4.30pm. If their tea hadnt arrived by 5 oclock, loud squeals of complaint would soon remind one. I used to like to creep through the big barn door and listen to them snoring in the middle of the day, lying in their straw bed like so many pounds of sausages. In winter time, the yards would be full of bullocks and they soon got used to the daily routine. My father would feed them and the pigs in the morning, while I collected eggs and saw to the poultry, but I would always do the tea-time feed. On a cold afternoon bullocks have a wonderful warm, almost sweet smell and often a great big bullocks head would come over the stable door to watch the pigs being fed, breathing warm air down my neck as I bent over buckets of water by the tap. Now the yard is full of other peoples ponies and the old cowshed is empty and now I am glad it is.

My sheep and our old goat are the only susceptible animals we have and I have moved them as far away from the footpath as possible, as Foot and Mouth is so easily carried on the feet of people and dogs. I pray that, by the time you read this, the situation will be under control but please think carefully about where you walk as farm machinery can pick up contaminated mud and take it to livestock in other places. Just because there are not any animals in a field does not mean there is no risk.

My melancholic mood has just been broken by a couple of woodpeckers! The great spotted is on the peanuts on one side of the bungalow, while the green woodpecker is probing about on the lawn at the front! The spotted has been proclaiming his territory by drumming on a piece of dead wood for a few days and this always seems to make them hungry and he now visits the peanuts 4 or 5 times a day. The green is after grubs, ants are his favourite, but at this time of year he cannot be choosy. I must away and buy some more peanuts!
Wendy Bathurst

This page is edited by Tony

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