Monday, 4 July 2011

Glorious Summer, Sun Affected Cattle, Leeches & Other Pond Llife

Dappled shade on a summer's morning...we have been having such glorious weather these last few days, though apparently it is not set to last, with rain forecast for the middle of the week. Ah, well!
Hay has been made while the sun shines though; the Boys having been off turning hay for a couple of neighbours and its been perfect weather for the digger work that has been going on in Elder Son's garden.

This morning I helped the Farmer & Elder Son move one of the Hereford cows and her adopted Belgian Blue X calf out of group of very young heifers to join the rest of the Herefords. The calf seems to be suffering from a reaction to the sun whereby its white hair is dropping out. We have seen this happen before; it does no lasting harm and looks worse than it is, though it will probably retard the calf's growth somewhat. The worst case of it we had was many years ago in along hot summer when one of the black & white dairy cows lost all her white hair and was left looking very strange with pink skin  patched with black hair. That case so severe that the Farmer would leave her in shed during the day and put her out to graze at night. She did recover.

It has been wonderful weather for the insect life around the farm with giant dragonflies zooming around like miniature helicopters and a better show of butterflies than I've seen for a couple of years. The Farmer & I walked down to check some cattle at the bottom of the valley & I saw a common blue, which is not so common here and many little brown fritillaries and commas. Outside Elder Son's cottage every year there are Red Admirals which spend much time sunning themselves on the sun soaked gravel, while up in the polytunnels the Farmer is greatly excercised in keeping the activity of the cabbage whites to the minimum before their caterpillars colonise our brassicas. The other problem he is having to contend with is rabbits...they have eaten all the leek seedlings and I think there is a sacrificial row of cabbages! Stalking rabbits with a shotgun is not easy in a polytunnel...the risk of puncturing the plastic being one problem and traps just don't work.

Back to insects and suchlike, yesterday I was down dabbling my toes in one of the ponds, it being so hot, and saw a rather revolting creature clinging to piece of pond weed and waving itself around in the water. It was a leech and quite horrid in the way it stretched iteslf out to length of about 3inches and then contracted down to about 1/2 an inch in its search for another anchor point. The Farmer has been swimming in the ponds these hot days but somehow I just can't make myself join him & the more repellant inhabitants of the water. Whilst I quite appreciate the place of the leech in the great scheme of things and its use in medicine, which has been revived, I really don't fancy swimming alongside them.
Squidgy, stretchy, sucking creatures apart I love watching the other life-forms of the ponds; the water-boatmen sculling about in the clear shallows and the other creatures known as whirligig beetles that look like drops of mercury skimming across the surface of the water. The dragon & damsel flies are spectacular in their aerobatics and compete with the swallows in their displays. The labradors make full use of the ponds in this hot weather and don't even bother to ask for a stick to be thrown  before they leap in and swim around just for the sheer pleasure of it...they don't know about those leeches!.

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