Matt Baker: farewell summer and welcome Jenny

The countryfile presenter goes behind the scenes on his shows and family farm

5th September 2016
foal

The end of summer means that it’s time to choose the best ewes in our pedigree flock to go to the ram over the next few weeks, to begin again the circle of life on the farm. The swallows, sadly now on the Durham BAP Priority Species list, will be leaving around 20 September depending on the warm winds to aid their flight. We hope they’ll safely return to us in April.

It’s the final opportunity to bale the last field into hay for the sheep and donkeys to eat over the lean months. The pressure’s off, with the hayshed well stacked, so the pantry is almost full. We have enough to get by – the rest is insurance for what the northern winter may throw our way. 

At a recent family celebration, it was great to
sit and watch all the families’ kids charging around the cropped meadows lost in their imaginary worlds. It doesn’t seem all that long ago when I too was ‘King of the Castle’ or an Olympian crossing the winning line…

After a full year’s gestation, Winifred, one of our miniature donkeys, produced a healthy jenny foal. Standing a full 19ins at the withers (shoulder) she may be short in stature but she’s not short on X factor. Even our hardened vet, when she came to check her over, remarked, “This is very unprofessional but THAT is remarkably cute!” 

It’s all the sweeter as Winney’s first foal last year was stillborn, so, for the final month, my mum had been checking her every three hours through the night just in case. 

Yet in true equine fashion the donkey waited until after the 3am check and before the 6am slot to produce her own bundle of fun. After much head-scratching, the foal has been named Pavlova, as she dances and spins around on tiny tippy-toe hooves, like one of those ballet dancers on the top of a 1960s jewellery box. 

Coming home to roost

Our bantie hens have been quite a hit this summer, with lots of interesting people coming to choose from the selection of sleek-feathered Wyandotte varieties to the feathery mop like Silkies. 

The families selecting the chickens have been as diverse as the hens. The Mum of one family, whose children ranged from nine years to four weeks, wanted the kids to have the learning curve of responsibilities with fun, plus the eggy bonus reward. While the happy newlyweds of 70 years young were proudly fulfilling their ambition of their first allotment with homegrown veg and a little brood of hens. All the above really proves that whatever our age or situation, whether we realise it or not, we too are all entwined in Nature’s Circle.

 

Watch Matt on Countryfile on Sunday nights at 6.30pm on BBC One. 

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