This is the time of year when a lot of the fun goes out of stock farming. Thankfully, it has not been very cold, but the ground is pretty well waterlogged with pools lying in the fields in places. The Rea has so far remained within its banks, but is running like tomato soup, as it cuts through the soft silt of millena here.

The sheep are moved from field to field pretty regularly to protect the grass from being trodden up too much. Last summer's lovely hay crop is diminishing fast, so a drier spell with some warmth to encourage the grass to grow would be welcome. Lambing is timed for April to take advantage of the new growth, so we help there will be no late snow this time, and the babies will be skipping about in the sunshine!

Outdoor jobs, at the moment, are of necessity limited to essentials, but hedge laying is one that needs to be done while the vegetation is dormant. This ancient skill has fallen out of favour to a certain extent. It is the traditional way of keeping a hedge stock proof, so, as the trend away from livestock and into arable has taken place, there is less need for it.

It is labour intensive too, and therefore a quick roll of pig netting and a few posts has become the cheaper option in many cases. However, nothing beats the aesthetics of a neatly laid hedge, and the habitat for wildlife is protected. The skill is in partially cutting through the uprights to just the right point so that they bend without breaking, and enough of the sap-bearing wood is left intact to start growth in the spring. The cut stems are all bent the same way and woven in and out to make a living fence. Nice job, boys!

As for the chickens, egg production has never completely stopped, and is on the up again now, as the "new chicks" are joining in. Two of them have turned out to be cockerels and each has his own harem! They wander happily about the yards and have several nests, which they think we don't know about! They are again confined to barracks until after lunch, since breakfast was disturbed one morning by Mr Fox, and two hens had to be snatched from the jaws of death! Both seem to have fully recovered, I'm pleased to say, thanks to Grampa's lightening response. Go Grampa! Omelette anyone?