West Ilkerton Farm News

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Christmas Day at West Ilkerton 2011 (the big red Case tractor is Chris' Christmas present for the next ten years or so, and the Exmoor Horn lamb was born a couple of weeks before Christmas).

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A happy New Year to all our friends and guests. I'm afraid very few people got Christmas cards from us this year. I just wasn't organised enough, but also I had a deadline to meet with the re-write of my Katy books. Many apologies, and I'll try to do better next year.
In case anyone hasn't heard, I've been taken on by Orion Children's Books. They're publishing re-written and updated versions of the Katy trilogy and Midnight, and have also commissioned another trilogy, so I'm now a proper writer! The other great news is that Chris is still doing the illustrations for the insides of the books. It's hard work, but I'm loving it and it's great to have the oppotunity to make the original books better with expert editorial guidance. Chris is doing some new illustrations for the new books too, and an artist called Angelo Rinaldi has illustrated the covers. The first two books: Katy's Wild Foal and Katy's Champion Pony will be published on 2nd February 2012, and they can be pre-ordered from bookshops and Amazon now! See http://www.amazon.co.uk/Katys-Wild-Foal-Ponies/dp/1444005413/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1325176015&sr=8-1
and http://www.amazon.co.uk/Katys-Champion-Pony-Ponies/dp/1444005421/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1325176151&sr=1-1

I named our only colt foal this year Orion

We also had two Exmoor filly foals this year, called Gaia and Demeter, and an Appaloosa x Exmoor 'surprise' filly foal called Hell's Bells (her mother's called Hell's Angel).

Some other good news is that Sarah graduated from Cirencester this year with an Honours degree in Agriculture, and she won the award for the best student on her course. Here she is surrounded by her male fan club (yes, rams are very well-endowed, aren't they?!)

Winaway (Rosie's foal) is turning into a really useful horse...

Another horse Sarah's training is Tommy, a piebald Irish horse we were given because he had injured his foot and it was uncertain whether he'd be truly sound again. At the moment he seems to be progressing well. He's lovely to look after, but quite a keen ride and enjoys bucking!

There are now solar panels on the roof of The Tallat (where my Mum lives) and we have a smart red Case tractor instead of the old 70 horsepower New Holland tractor we bought in 1994!
George surprised us by arriving to stay for a couple of days on Christmas Eve - the best Christmas present ever! I hope I'll have some photos of Christmas to put up soon, together with photos of the first calf and first lamb of the season.

It may be of interest to our guests who come and stay in our self-catering cottage that it's a possibility this will be the last year the self-catering cottage will be available to rent. Sarah may live there next year, or we may get a long-term let. Nothing is definite yet, though.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Summer time, and the living is easy (well, sort of, except there hasn't been enough dry weather so we've still got two fields of grass to cut, and other minor niggles). Anyway, here are some photos of West Ilkerton this summer:

Last, but not least, Anne (my mum, who lives opposite the farmhouse) is now a proud greatgrandma.

Our niece, Immy, and her husband, Dario, have had a son called Frankie:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

This picture says it all! Read below for full story....

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Sherman the Shire has come home to West Ilkerton Farm!
Sherman (left) and Spec (right) in 2005

Some of you may remember Sherman. He was with us for about seven years when we had the Horsedrawn Tour business. About five years ago we sold him with a younger black Shire called Spec and a set of harness plus a nearly new rides wagon which Chris had made (pictured above) to Mullacott Equestrian Centre. The reasons we sold the horses were that the Horsedrawn Tour business was no longer profitable and Sherman (then nearly 17 years old) was finding the hills difficult with a full load. We were assured by Mullacott Equestrian Centre that Sherman's workload would be light and that we would have first refusal if they ever decided to sell the horses. We also agreed that when Sherman became too old to work we would give him a retirement home here.
BUT just over a year later we heard through the grapevine that Sherman, Spec, the harness and the wagon had been sold on. Repeated requests for information from Mullacott Equestrian Centre were stone-walled, so I eventually managed to track the horses down through Sherman's horse passport number. The passport company told me to write a letter which they would forward to the new owners, and then it would be up to the new owners to contact us if they wanted to. Luckily, the new owners (Mr and Mrs Crocker from Bere Regis, Dorset) contacted us. It transpired that Mullacott Equestrian Centre had sold the horses to the Crockers unshod and untried on the strength of old photos of the pair working when they were with us! They also charged much more money that we had sold everything for, and didn't tell the Crockers that (although they had been fine for the first season) during the second season the horses had become increasingly unmanageable, which is why they were sold unshod and untried - a fact we found out from a former employee.
Moral: Don't trust anyone when buying or selling a horse. Get promises in writing. If a horse is really special to you, don't sell it!

Sherman in the field this morning

Anyway, about three weeks ago we had a telephone call from Mrs Crocker saying did we want to buy the horses back? After much soul-searching (and bank account searching!) we decided we really couldn't afford to buy Spec, and the Crockers said they knew of an experienced Shire person who was interested in Spec, anyway. However, we felt that at 21 years old we had to buy Sherman back and give him a good retirement. He worked his socks off for us for several years and never put a foot wrong. Also, he's the kindest, gentlest horse you could ever wish to meet.

Sherman having a good roll. At 21 years old he can still roll right over and back again.

So yesterday a very smart and expensive horse lorry fetched Sherman from Bere Regis and brought him back to West Ilkerton (the trouble with Shire horses is they can't fit in normal trailers!). The lorry was too big to fit down our lane, so we unloaded Sherman at our lane end, and Chris walked him home. As I followed behind I couldn't stop tears from welling up in my eyes because it seemed so right for Chris to be leading a Shire (especially dear old Sherman) down the lane again.
Some sort of ESP must have been at work because Sarah rang at midday and said she was coming home with some of her stuff from Cirencester, and she would be here at around 5 o'clock. We hadn't told Sarah about Sherman coming home because we didn't want to disappoint her if anything went wrong. Sherman was always her special horse, and she was (rightly) very upset at us for selling him.
When Sarah arrived I told her that Winaway was in the barn and needed to be put out in the field. As she went into the barn, she did the best double-take I've ever seen! She really couldn't believe that Sherman was standing there. Needless to say, we went weepy again.

Sherman is now here to stay. For the moment he's settling in, but seeing how fit and well he is we may just get out the harness and potter around the farm with him sometime - just for fun!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The holiday cottage has just been awarded four stars by the ETC. Over the winter we made several improvements, including new oak furniture in the living room, new flooring in the bathrooms, new carpets in the bedrooms and a re-paint for the bathrooms and bedrooms. Oh, and the baths have been re-enamelled. The ground floor bath (with shower over) has had a non-slip surface, too - slimy bath mats with suckers are so last year!

The main bathroom

The twin-bedded room - less orange than before!

The sitting room. The new oak cupboard has new games in it,

including Monopoly, Snakes & Ladders and Scrabble

The second king-size bedroom

The master bedroom

The living room

Come on holiday to West Ilkerton, and see for yourself!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

We've finished calving! Primrose, our pet cow, held on for a long time, but she eventually calved yesterday. She's a very proud mum. We'll keep her in with two other cows and young calves for a few days, and then they'll join the rest of the herd in the fields.

The cows are sharing the barn with the hoggets (yearling ewes).

The hoggets have been shorn early this year. In the photo Chris is catching the sheep for Ian South to shear. We are going to keep the hoggets in the shed for a week or two so that they get used to being naked, and also so we can feed them some cake. If they get used to eating sheep cake now, they come up to eat it much more readily when they're in lamb and they really need it.

Sarah and Bramble
Now for some doggy news. Bramble the cocker spaniel is rapidly turning into Sarah's dog. She's so full of life that I can't keep up - actually that applies to both of them!
Beetle is still well, but unfortunately Ben, our young collie, was run over by the quad bike at lambing time. He was very poorly to begin with, and the vet thinks he may have cracked his pelvis. He's making a recovery, but he's still quite lame. Time will tell....very sad, as we're all so fond of him.

Our other bit of sad news is that Sam (the old scruffy collie) had to be put down before lambing. He's buried on the farm.

Beetle and Ben

We're fast becoming a vintage machinery refuge. Chris' brother, Nick, traced his old tractor and bought it back. Chris, Nick and Rupert have just had a lovely afternoon playing with their new toy.

Sarah's Landrover has been promoted to number one farm vehicle. Chris uses it every day to feed the animals: