All Creatures Great and Small III: No Bug Left Behind

We take a break from harvest news to appreciate a little green friend.Farmers sometimes get bashed for not caring about the environment.  If you ever hear such a discussion, suggest a trip to Lower Dairy Farm to meet Farmer Humph...I bring you: "Conversations from the Combine"

Me [talking through dust mask]: "Why have we stopped?  Is something wrong??"

Farmer Humph: "I'm rescuing a ladybird."

All Creatures Great and Small are loved here on the farm.  I expect a bug escape ladder to be in place by the morning.

Big Butterfly Count

It is nearly August and this weekend, we're taking part in the:


It is not just big, it is the world's BIGGEST survey of butterflies!  And, an easy and fun way to learn more about butterflies.

All you have to do is find a spot of bright, preferably sunny weather, choose a place (records are welcome from anywhere) and spot butterflies and moths for 15 minutes.  Make a note of the species you see on the easy ID chart (downloaded here) -  there's even a smartphone app for those who can be trusted with modern technology.  Report your results online and see what else has been spotted in your area.

15,906 counts have been completed so far, so sit back, bask in the sunshine and enjoy the scenery with your butterfly counterparts!


To whet your appetite, here are a few butterflies we've spotted out and about this week:

Just be aware, they may stick their tongue out at you...http://www.bigbutterflycount.org

Brendan and Brian

Such excitement at Lower Dairy Farm!  Our hell-raising, marauding warrior queen, Bo-bo (the original Iceni nickname for Boudica), was not the only arrival this week.  She joined the less regal Brendan and Brian, our herd accountants.

Brendan is a wing-nutted, Hereford calf.Whereas Brian, does not like to be photographed...

...or to follow the herd.Brian's mother is "affectionately" known as 'Kicker'.

Any volunteers for a spot of castrating?

To recap, so far this year, the calves Bathsheba, Blossom, Betsy, Bingo, Bo-jo (Boris), Brendan, Brian and Boudica have joined the herd.  Cracking names so far, and given this is the year of the 'B', we're hoping our hive will soon be filled with Horkesley Honeybees.

One picky swarm decided not to settle in the lovely hive next to a field of clover and wildflowers (they must read the blog).  Whilst my Queen Bee complex says "How very dare they leave me!", I am working through this by donning my bee suit to sweet talk/waggle dance nicer bees into coming to live with Brian.Perhaps if I dressed up as a giant bee, I'd have more success?

If you hear of a swarm of honeybees, let us know! (shop@lowerdairyfarm.co.uk).  If you see a nutter in a giant bee costume, report them to Animal Control.

Multicolour farming

The grassland looks beautiful this year, not with grass, but flowers.  A variety of broadleaved plants have seized the opportunity afforded by the limited grass sward to populate the pasture.  Some may call them weeds, but it is a wildlife frenzy out there this year!

Alongside the self-heal and aconites, Lady's smock or Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis L.) is out in force on Side Hill, adding a little delicacy to the pasture.  In folklore, this flower is considered highly unlucky, so one to admire from afar!

In the woods next door, an impressive bluebell display is building  - Humbug and I took advantage of this on our way to vote yesterday.Best of all, the kingcups (Caltha palustris L.) are brightening up the river bank, making this one of my favourite times of year.  Without fail, however many floods and frosts are thrown at them, the kingcups return.They may not be exotic or unusual plants, but it is a lot easier to haul water for the pigs and clean out water tanks when there's something pretty to distract you!

Be not afeard...

Reports are coming in of a Yeti-like creature in the Horkesley area.  This rare image appears to show the creature gaining its winter coat.   

But worry not Valley people, the green gloves may seem sinister, but the Yeti is believed to be a peaceful being.  Rarely straying from his natural habitat, the farmyard:

..occasional reports have suggested collecting free key rings at Anglia Hose and Hydraulics is a preferred Yeti pastime.

We're monitoring the situation, and our crack team of protection agents are on hand in case it escapes:

All sightings should be reported with utmost urgency to: Don'tDisturbMeWhenI'mEatingHay@lowerdairyfarm.co.uk

Humbug, Fenton and the Owl

Great start to 2013 with Mum and Dad returning from mending gutters at Longmoor Farm (yep, that's Longmoor Farm Gutters +1, LDF Gutters one fascia board tied on with baler twine) only for the clutch to go - resulting in a sedate cruise in first gear for six miles before pushing the car down the lane to the farmyard.  I'm sure there's a moral tale in there somewhere about leaving to fix other people's gutters. Humbug, the abbreviated collie, continues his selective behaviour, and today's Fenton-esque escapade curtailed our walk but gave me a first-glimpse of a new inhabitant (I hope) of an owl box on a neighbouring farm.

Let's hope they are here to stay (and my photography skills improve)!  A much better start to 2013.

W-otter l-otter excitement

Look who's joined us on the farm!

Very excited at my very first otter sighting today on the farm.  Humbug (excellent but fortunately aquaphobic otter finder) and I rounded up the troops and work was abandoned to watch them play.  They have been living locally for a while, but this is the first-time we've seen them on our little stretch of the Stour - a definite highlight of 2012!