Keith Challen’s sprayer has its annual service

We have 2,000 new Elder plants due any day and, hopefully now the snow and frost has gone, we can get them planted straight away.

I wanted a few more, but I’m told we’ve bought all the sambucus Haschberg in Europe, which is quite worrying and prompting me to investigate growing our own stock for future years. I suspect a polytunnel and secateurs are required.

With spring just around the corner, we’ve had the sprayer and bowsers through the workshop, old plastic taps have been replaced with 2.5in stainless steel versions to increase flow along with all the couplings and pipe work. Hopefully, being stainless steel, they should have another 10 years service. Brakes have been serviced and tyres re-grooved. This a trick I haven’t seen before, but John, with 40yrs experience, gave me a lesson – it just goes to show you are never too old to learn.

We made good use of the recent cold snap, clearing a few dead ash trees and cleaning a few dykes out – there’s something therapeutic about estate maintenance and I like to feel we do a reasonable amount each year. If you don’t keep on top of these jobs, they have a habit of getting out of hand.

Puppy training is going well, and we have got most of the basics sorted now. Millie attended her first shoot on the last Saturday in January. She watched her partner in crime Becky (my 12-year-old Labrador) do a couple of textbook retrieves. Being the last day for us, we went to the pub after to discuss the finer details of our shooting prowess, only to return to the Land Rover to find Millie had taken a shine to my LeChameau wellies. I say wellies; one now looks more like a slipper.

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