Bella Hall: Warmer weather means busy, busy, busy…

My husband Dave doesn’t know which way to turn.

We’ve had to wait a long time for things to warm up and feel spring-like but, at long last, it appears to have done just that.

Fertiliser, spring beans or emptying the slurry lagoon? Then there is the bull situation to sort out and all the bluetongue vaccinations.

The fertilising gets done, but everything else has to run simultaneously while the weather stays dry.

After all these years, Dave treats the weather with the utmost respect. If you relax and take your eye off it, it will change and you will have missed the window of opportunity. If it is dry, get on with as many things as you can and don’t let up until it rains.

Nelson the new bull was ready for collection, which meant moving Lucky Sam out first. Apparently even though they are brothers, they wouldn’t get on if left in the same shed together. A conflict of interest, maybe?

On arrival at our farm, poor Nelson had to undergo a series of procedures. A blood test, a sperm count and a removal of his rather large horns.

The blood test is routine to check he isn’t carrying anything, the sperm test is to check he can perform the “necessary” and the horns had to be removed for the safety of all concerned. The vet arrived with a student.

Dave said he had to admire her professionalism as she carefully felt and measured Nelsons enormous testicles, explaining what she was doing to her student and collecting the samples that were needed. Not for the faint-hearted.

The horns were removed, leaving a large splattering of blood and two enormous horns. Ben suggested that Dave should mount them on the front of his Land Rover.

The list of jobs for immediate attention – and yet another case of pneumonia in one of the heifers – continued to preoccupy Dave’s mind. So much so that, when visiting friends on Mothering Sunday, he realised that he had not paid the slightest bit of attention to the date and so was unable to produce a single card or gift.

We had arrived at our friend’s house the night before and, amid great excitement, the children finally sorted out who was sleeping where.

It was decided that Charlie would sleep in our room on a camp bed. He’s been having a few problems with bad dreams, so has developed a need to go to sleep with the light on. Having him sleep in our room was not conducive to a good night’s sleep. Every time we tried to turn the light off, he woke up even though he was snoring loudly minutes before.

Dave and I got very little sleep at all. It was no surprise, therefore, that everyone was up, dressed and ready to leave the house for a walk by ten o’clock. No mean feat for five adults and six kids.

Back home in Suffolk, we discovered that the hens had escaped. The latch on their house is a bit flimsy and so with a small amount of encouragement the hens can break free, a bit like a scene from Chicken Run.

We still have three hens; although Rocky is still Rocky I, we now have White Star the Second and Ginga Ninja II. Their predecessors fell victim to a wayward dog.

Apart from this setback, the hens have been a great addition and keep us well supplied with three beautiful eggs daily. They have been low maintenance as we let them out of their coop in the morning so that they are free to roam about and then they go back in at night. However, things have recently become less idyllic since they discovered my flower beds.

Not content with wrecking the plants at the front of the house they began sneaking around to the back, the only area where I have got proper beds. I have finally conceded to the concept of a proper run which is very frustrating.

The run is going up soon but in the meantime the hens are still running amok. Today, they escaped and I got home to an empty hen house and no hens to be seen. I immediately dashed around to the back garden. No hens.

As I came round the corner this brought me past our oil tank for the central heating. I noticed that there was a dark pool on one side of the tank and water seemed to be dripping off it. I ran past, chasing the hens, and after several minutes thought that we haven’t had any rain for a few days. On closer inspection, it became apparent that the tank – which had just been refilled a couple of weeks previously due to the continued cold weather – was leaking badly.

This really made Dave’s day when I phoned him in the middle of drilling spring beans to tell him that his full tank of oil had a split right at the bottom of it.

I always like to look for the positives in any situation. If the latch on the hen house hadn’t been faulty, then I wouldn’t have been chasing the hens around the house. I wouldn’t have spotted the leak in the tank and then all the oil would be in a big puddle on the ground and not just some of it.

We have the hens to thank.

Bella Hall lives on a farm at Metfield on the Norfolk/Suffolkborder with husband Dave and their three children, William, Evieand Charlie.

The family farm covers 1500 acres and has 200-plus milkingcows.

Bella designs and runs The Southwold Maize Maze during thesummer.

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