Thursday, December 30, 2010

Near Christmas 2010 Newsletter. Year 2009-2010

The farm and research centre continues to develop. The good news is that we have almost finished the infra structure, hurrah! We have built a small dam for a little lake this summer, which nearly lost us Jake and the Mini digger falling off the wall, and then the whole thing was nearly was washed away in the October storms after repairs, we await with baited breath, it’ s filling up in the new year.

The grass grew quite well in a wet spring, and we made our first silage, only to find that all the plastic covers of the 10 bales (compared to the easy of making over 100 @ Little Ash) had holes in from all the thorns in the grass (patching up with tape seems to have worked, but will have to await the grand opening after Christmas to see). We made around half the needed hay, and have planted wheat and oats this year. Last years oats was not a great success, the wild boar dug most of them up and the plants were not happy to set oats, but, nevertheless, we have a sack to winnow and then grind for porridge, we hope. The garden continues to improve, but it
was a poor fruit year.

There was erratic weather in the summer, and the swimming pool was not used a great deal, this may have been encouraged by the presence of a family of garter snakes that took up residence in the bull rushes, they were very good swimmers, and provided one did not trespass on their domain seemed friendly enough!

We had many WWOOFERS & people for courses of all kinds from many countries, ending with a US family who stayed for 2 months and helped make the lean too on the side of the big barn/manege so we can have the horses and cattle nearby and done have to shlep up in to the mountain every day to feed them. However the wind has been so strong in the last few days , the final touches have been abandoned and we are just hoping that the roof does not blow off.

We have completed the Observation room so can study the Chamois without freezing to death outside, and have had several researchers, in particular a couple of Italian vets doing their projects and doctorates on the horses, and 2 post MSc students who are working with the centre on welfare questions of captive elephants in South Africa. Marthe has been off to SA several times with circus and elephant work, and at last the courses on the science of educational psychology are getting off the ground while Jake and Sarah have helped finish & present a backlog of research papers whose abstracts are now available on the internet site.

We are really aiming to obtain some South Devon heifers next year, meanwhile the cattle herd is cut down to 6 with Velue the Jersey.
Her grand daughter Ulma is giving us milk and some not bad cheeses too. The sheep reproduced so we have the beginnings of a half merino flock, but will get a Suffolk ram next year for better fat lamb. The dogs are reduced to 3, with Kongo excelling himself as a gun dog in Suffolk, and Kananga ( last years pups) going to live in London with Jake after the new year. Kaz and Bear continue to be themselves, and certainly Bear although a little short on confidence, is a great help with the cattle and sheep, Kaz a useful hot water bottle and finder of lost things.

This year we have taken part in a number of 30 & 60km competitive rides in some beautiful spots. The high light was Shindi, Lilka and Shimoni doing a 60km at Alp d’ Huez, a ski resort right up in the Alps. Of course they got out and ran off into the Alps just before the event, but the organizers kindly let us do it the next day, and even though not official our times and recovery rates were first second and fourth overall… not bad for Shimoni’ s first! Shindi has won every one she has done this year, but Lilka has not always been sound and she is gradually changing disciplines to dressage and cross country. Shiraz had a superb colt in June, Shatish, 4 white socks and black like his dad. He has received plenty of attention and will have a serious educational programme this winter. However, the most terrible and most important event of the year has been the loss of Oberlix who had a terrible accident in September. Somehow
nothing seems the same, he was such an ikon for what we do. The Arab Horse Society have published his obituary, and I will always continue to relive those great days with him.

All that remains is to wish everyone a very happy new year, and invite all who wish to visit us next year in this beautiful place.

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