Driving the Tractor, Goodbye Geese and a very Merry Christmas...

Im feeding the creatures at Houghton. Six bales are in the trailer and two dogs are eager to assist. It’s a fairly simple process although with all the gates it does involve a lot if jumping on and off the quad. The bales for the cattle are put out in the water meadows, they are happy to see me and I have to dodge their horns as they come charging over for breakfast. Best place to be is in the trailer. The ewes are waiting too and theirs goes in the two hecks that are in the field. The dogs very interested at this point, can we round them up, can we can we? Not today thanks. On my way back I get a bit stuck, mud is pretty much a way of life at the moment and I’ve become quite blasé about it in my wellies and waterproof trousers. They every now and then you get caught out. There is an old drain I think in the side of one of the gateways and of course I step in it, up to my knee in very cold water and mud. I have a little difficulty getting out, partly because I’m laughing too much and partly because mud is not easy to grip to pull yourself out. I mark the spot with a stick, which Skye promptly steals and runs off with, enjoying this new game. I squelch back to the house to get dried out, that is what Aga’s are for after all.
I need to learn how to drive the tractor. We don’t have one at Houghton or Wallace Field but Liam has one at Willowford. Sounds simple doesn’t it? I drive two cars and a Landrover at the moment without problems, but have never driven a tractor. This is a particularly elderly specimen, only slightly younger than me. I manage to start it and get it in a gear; gear stick appears to be just that, a metal stick with no indication of where the gears are. The pedals seem to be a huge distance apart and I manage a few feet before stalling it. Start again, get to the deepest part of the mud in the yard and stall it again. At least I haven’t lost the bale off the back yet. Liam jumps off to open the gate and yells to be aware it turns quite sharply. Ill say, I round the corner and nearly run him over. On the whole not my best work, I think I’m going to need some practice. Possibly in a large field with no people or creatures in it. I pride myself on my driving skills so will not be defeated by a crotchety old tractor!
Time is up for the geese. It’s almost Christmas so early this morning the man came to kill the geese for us so that plucking and dressing could begin in earnest. I’m a little sad to see them go and decide not to go watch them meet their fate. I hover at a distance in the field for a while before getting on with other tasks. It’s done quickly, which is a consolation. We have twenty seven to pluck including the one I’m having for Christmas dinner. There is a plucking machine which rough plucks, I get a chance to have a go with it them then our little team gets to the harder job of pulling out the stubborn ends of feathers and the hard to reach areas that the machine has missed. I become somewhat engrossed by getting all the little bits out. The end of the lambing shed is soon full of clouds of little feathers, which we collect in bin bags. I’m going to take some back to home to Leeds with me at Christmas in the hope that my ever-creative little sister can make some pillows or something; it would be a shame to waste them.
Merry Christmas everyone, hope you all had a fabulous festive time, next blog in the new year…

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