• Ponies, pigs and puppies

    Firstly I must apologise for the lack of blog posts over the past weeks. I have been so busy but with a new puppy sat at my feet finally have found the time to update.

    Where to start. We visited Edelsborough Lower School at the beginning of October and spent the day with 85 of their children from reception to years 1 and 2 teaching them about alpacas, rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks and Sapphy, our mini pony. The weather was good and the children seemed to really enjoy the day. We left them with alpaca fibre to use in their classrooms and duck feathers so they could get creative.

    Then on the 22nd October we ran a teaching day at the farm for Wood Green Animal Charity who have 3 alpacas but weren't really sure how best lto ook after them. There was plenty of home made cake and refreshments and all participants seemed to benefit from the theory and then the hands on practical in the afternoon. The boys were a little excitable to see so many new people in the barn but at least it gave our attendees some real life alpaca experience!

    And then the ponies came to live with us at the farm. Firstly, Buckthorn, who we rescued from RSPCA Donkey Sanctuary in Surrey. We (more like Amy, our 19 year old daughter!) had been wanting to rehome a pony for a while. We have a lot of land here at the farm that's not being used and the ponies and alpacas can rotate around the fields one after the other making the best of the way they graze. We visited Lockwood to see another pony but as soon as we met her knew she wasn't right for us at the farm. Then we met Buckthorn. He is a 14.3hh middleweight cob, just 2.5 years old with the dopiest eyes you'll ever see! I will attach a pic below of him looking all clean - he certainly doesn't look like that now with all the rain and mud. As we walked to his paddock he strolled over to the fence and was happy to receive lots of attention. He is really chilled for such a youngster and reminded me of our miniature ponies in the way he behaved. We arranged another visit to take the rest of the family and then awaited our farm inspection before we were approved to adopt him. He came to live with us at the beginning of October. He was only mildly interested in the alpacas, not too sure about the pigs and a bit freaked out by the ducks who wander in and out of his paddock at their leisure. He is lovely to handle and we have taken him off the farm for a few short walks to accustom him to us and the surrounding area. He needed a friend so a week later, Archie, a 13.2hh chestnut gelding came to share his paddock. Rosie, our 11yo, had been learning to ride on Archie and his owner had outgrown him so it seemed a perfect match for us at the farm. Archie is 13 and has had lots of experience teaching youngsters to ride. Buckthorn was delighted to see him, but Archie is definately the boss. The first couple of days consisted of Buckthorn following him around and Archie kicking out at him. But they have settled down really well and are now a bit too fond of each other! Buckthorn is on probation with us for 6 months to give us time to make sure he is right for us and we are right for him. The only issue he seems to have is that he is incredibly itchy! He has been treated for all sorts of creepy crawlies in case something is nibbling him but it hasn't made any difference. We are currently trying a natural remedy in his feed to see if we can help him from the inside but so far it's not made much of a difference. Clipping him might help but we need to get him used to the clippers first as he has never seen or heard any before.

    We have ordered the new barn and had hoped to get the concrete pad down before the cold weather set in, but we haven't. And that's all I've got to say about that.

    Shortly after the ponies arrived our little dog, Charlie, took a turn for the worse and we had to make the decision to have him put down. It was heartbreaking for all of us - they really do become part of the family and our girls had grown up with him. He hadn't been himself for a few months and had an MRI scan in September which confirmed Syringomyelia (when the brain is too big for the skull and the CFS fluid leaks out and puts pressure on nerves in the spine causing pain), a heart murmur and Intevertebral Disc Disease. He had been on crate rest for several weeks and wasn't allowed out on the farm to give his discs time to heal. Unfortunately, on the 16th October he had a really bad night and continued to be in a lot of pain throughout the day. That night was really hard and I cuddled him and slept on the sofa with him but everytime he or I moved he cried out. He was already on pain killers and the only option the vet gave him was diazepam to relax him. After a family discussion and lots of tears we decided that the best decision for him was to end his pain as there was no way we could fix him. I have never seen Rosie so upset. It was truly heartbreaking. He had been such a wonderful family dog. He was 8.

    Then at the beginning of November we said farewell to our pigs who had been with us since June. They had grown about 10 times bigger than when they had arrived and had the most fun completely destroying a paddock! The final month of their time with us had turned their paddock to mud soup with all the rain and it wasn't pleasant for them or us so we were actually quite happy to say goodbye to them. We had more requests for meat than we had available so we plan to buy more piglets next spring/early summer so get your orders in soon to reserve half a pig. We had roast belly pork for dinner last night and it was delicious! So we are thankful to our pigs for making us laugh, digging over our paddock and feeding us so well and know they had a happy life here free ranging on the farm.

    We aren't doing any alpaca experiences now until the weather improves and the ground dries out and our open days have finished for the winter. We had two of our walking boys castrated once the flies had finally gone for the season and at the same time, asked the vet to scan our girls to see who was pregnant. 5 out of 7 were which was pleasing but disappointing that Lulu, who we have had trouble mating this year, isn't. Will have to try again next season. Our cria are all due next May so we will plan an open day around that time.

    And then Pepper, our puppy arrived. She is so much fun but so much work! Her sister, Honey, has gone to live with mum and dad but comes for puppy play time and they have so much fun! She is a cavachon - a cross between a king charles cavalier and a bichon frise and we went for her as the cross breeding has hopefully eliminated some of the genetic issues that cavaliers are prone to and that Charlie had. I have already taken far too many pictures of her - will upload a couple now - particularly one of her sat at my feet whilst I type!

    We have sold some vouchers for alpaca experiences as christmas presents - don't hesitate to get in touch if you'd like to book one for your loved one - it's a lovely present!

    That's all the news for now - will try and update again sooner.......!

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