I recall in last month's piece I mentioned that it was raining? Well, it might have been where we were but unfortunately it wasn’t where we needed it, at home, where it is about as dry as a night out with Brad Pitt! I am not sure I have ever seen the farm so arid - even the thistles are dying - but thankfully we cut our sheep numbers right down last year. Having said that, we sent 8 lambs to slaughter this month and their weights and grades were up by 20% on previous years. Some of this can be put down to improvements in our breeding stock but it just shows that animals - not unlike humans - prefer a bit of sunshine to the prolonged dreich days further North.
On the same subject, we have just invested in a new breed of sheep, well for us anyway, a 'Ryeland' ewe. I say new breed but they are, of course, one of the oldest established breeds in UK tracing back to the 12th century, their traditional home being along the Teme valley on the Worcester/Herefordshire border. As Ryelands are conventionally a wool breed, there is no way these smaller animals will stand the exceptional heat we are enduring here in France so, once we build up our numbers a little more, our flock will possibly relocate to central Scotland. A longer term plan might even be to venture out to the agricultural shows once again, after a long absence, following in the well trodden footsteps of my father and mother, although we may replace stock-trailer living with something a little more salubrious. That is, of course, if the shows are resurrected after this year's closures.
The above mention of more upmarket mobile living is still something of a stigma to us, as we have not yet been able to venture to UK to collect our new camping-car, whilst a quarantine order is in place. Hopefully we will get it soon before the wheels seize up! Our old one, not happy about being replaced, managed to fail its 'Control Technique', the French equivalent of an MOT, but she is booked in next week for some minor surgery and should come out smiling on the forecourt by the end of the month. I have to admit, we will be sad to see Libby go as we have been through four good years together. The new one is also German but has a few added features like electric windows and aircon!
As predicted last month, the 14-day quarantine ruling in UK kicked in a few days before our end-of-term party, which prevented a number of guests visiting us last month. However, not to be done out of her 30th birthday party, my niece, Emma, along with her intended and another friend did make it over and enjoyed a few weeks in the sun. The party still went ahead, all choreographed with social distancing, and a couple of dozen folks managed to eat their way through a whole double gigot of lamb and a barrel of wine, and damn good it was too.
The other visitors we have hosted this month have not been quite so pleasant as they buzz around in large groups, up our chimney. Yes, after two years absence, the blessed hornets are back. Each day a few of them drop into the living room, scare the dog - even the partially-blind Louis can see them - and hang around waiting to pounce on innocent passers-by. They are, I am assured, European hornets, not the more vicious Asian variety who are the insect equivalent of Saddam Hussein, such is their war-mongering. Never-the-less, these b*ggers are as big as mice, I swear. After a week of this I took evasive action, and lit the log-burner. They didn’t like that. Within less than a minute they started filtering in to the house in squadrons, only to be countered by me and my trusty aerosol of toxicity, wrapped up like, err, the aforementioned Iraqi leader. The first day I hit of 100, second, 142 and third 52 - yes I counted the carcasses! I have no idea how many there are in a colony but surely their depleted numbers must be indenting their economy by now. All we need to do now is get that damn Queen. Methinks that may require the help of professionals.
Only other news this month is that we are due to have another wedding in the family. After some months of stalling, my younger son finally popped the question to his lovely girlfriend, also Emma, and a date has been provisionally set for 2022. Unfortunately, the next day he headed back to Peru for work, but they will hopefully be re-united over there soon. My heartiest congratulations to them both. As the announcement was made within hours of us purchasing the above mentioned sheep, the ewe will also be named in Emma in her honour.
There could be some confusing times ahead!