Our time in Leicestershire is coming to an end…. .

Our time here at Best Buddies is now coming to an end.  Tim will have to say goodbye to all ‘his girls’! We went out together on Friday morning to do the feeding of the sheep, hens and ducks.  We have really enjoyed caring for all the animals here and love the routine and rhythm of it all. Sooo much more relaxing and rewarding than being cooped up in an office all day.

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Tim hand feeding Mabel.

The hens and ducks were, as ever, itching to be let out in the morning.  Tim had helped Dave move the ducks and build a new enclosure for them as they were getting into the vegetable patch and eating all the newly planted seedlings!

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Those hens can eat!

The ducks need to learn to go up the ramp to bed but they seem to have caught on pretty quickly.

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Release those ducks!

I have thoroughly enjoyed doing some cooking whilst I’ve been here and even managed to do some scones.  The first batch I’d done in our first week here were a pretty poor effort and had to be disguised with jam and cream before serving them up to anyone!  The second batch came out a treat thanks to a Mary Berry recipe and some hot tips from her!  Thank you Mary.  I’ve never been a baker as my first attempts when I was younger were never very good and everything seemed to come out either flat, burnt or rock hard.  I think now I have the time though I could get into baking a few cakes.

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Mariana and Sam (our Czech helpers) about to sample my second attempt at the scones!

Jan is currently away on a walking holiday with a friend so Dave has been left in charge!  Two new Australian helpers arrived on Friday and Dave cooked a slap up meal of home bred lamb for us all which had been running around their fields until three weeks ago!

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L-R Mark, Tim, Dave, Mariana, Sam, Shannon.

Saturday was our last full day here and we decided to go for a walk to Bosworth Visitor Centre and back which would have been about an 8 mile round trip.  Unfortunately, we took the wrong footpath so didn’t end up where we intended but we were rewarded with watching a ewe give birth to three lambs.  It’s ironic that, in all the times we have been walking over the last three decades, we have never seen a lamb born that we should see it now after working with a few sheep for two weeks!

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First one out….
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Then there were two…..
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And then three 🙂

All in all, the experience of coming to volunteer with Jan and Dave has been a really rewarding one.  We have enjoyed all the jobs we’ve done (even all the poop scooping) and we’ve learnt a lot.  For our first Helpx it has been brilliant and Jan and Dave have treated us like family and made us feel very comfortable and welcome.  They’ve gone out of their way to show us the local area and involve us in everything they do so a big thank you goes to them 🙂

But now it’s time for pastures new.  We are heading on up to North Yorkshire for a week to see family and have a bit of a holiday (!) before our next house/pet sit in Norfolk at the beginning of May.

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Leaving for our next adventure.

 

Time is just whizzing by down on the farm… .

Hello people, once again it has been a while since I updated the blog.  Doh!  I keep putting it off as we have been so busy – all this outside country living just eats up the time.  Since my last update lots has been happening.  We finally got the bikes out and went  for an afternoon tootle around the local area.

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The bikes finally get an outing!

We covered 27 miles but Tim and I disagreed with how far a ‘tootle’ is, or should be.  Tim’s idea of an easy bike ride is approx 20 minutes on the bike followed by a leisurely couple of hours at a village pub but my interpretation is somewhat different.  Three hours of gentle riding is more like it for me.  We did a nice circular route taking in Market Bosworth, Barton in the Beans, Shackerstone and Congerstone. We cycled past the area where Richard III, the last Plantagenet king, met his demise at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.  We found an interesting sign in Market Bosworth advertising the local fish and chip shop as the ‘batter of Bosworth fish and chips!’

P1050419.JPG Barton in the Beans is an unusual name which we believe originates from Leicestershire being a big producer of Broad Beans in days gone by.

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“Shake a Leicestershire man by the collar and you may hear the beans rattle in his belly”

 

Tim has cleared the side of the barn and laid a path so that Dave can put a gate in at the top and it gives access up to the agility field.  It was a big job clearing loads of stuff and sorting it and finding somewhere else for it to go.  It was all levelled then and some slabs laid.  Tim was obviously very proud of his work as he has made up a sign and named it The Bonvanageblog Walkway  2016!

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A proud man after a job well done!

Nobody else will understand it but at least we do.  I expect once we’ve left the sign will go in the woodburner!

We had a new arrival at the dog hotel who deserves a special mention.  Normally I wouldn’t update who has arrived but Teddy is a Lakeland Terrier so is obviously my favourite!

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Teddy, my favourite boy!

He’s a lovely sweet boy who didn’t have a very good start in life but has a good home now.  Now he is a dog I could take home!

Jan took us out to Bradgate Park on Wednesday afternoon for a walk with Bluebell and Hattie.  Bradgate Park was the birthplace, and childhood home, to Lady Jane Grey who was Queen of England for nine days in 1553.

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Bradgate Park.

The park extends to more than 800 acres and is home to a herd of deer (I had to look up what the collective name for deer are)!  The house is one of the earliest brick built manor houses in the country although only ruins remain today.  We walked to the highest point in the park which gives views out over the whole of Leicestershire and probably into Lincolnshire on a good day.

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Highest point at Bradgate Park with Bluebell and Hattie.

Hattie and Bluebell enjoyed a swim in the river and we rounded off the walk with a ‘Mr Whippy’!

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Hattie and Bluebell enjoying a swim.

On Thursday morning Tim let me take a turn with feeding the sheep and letting the hens and ducks out whilst he exercised the dogs in the field.  The hens can’t wait to get out in the morning and are all pecking at the window.

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Feeding the sheep.
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Hens waiting to be let out – ‘them chickens is organised’!

Then it’s a feeding frenzy as they all go wild for the food.

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Those hens can pack away a lot of food!
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Greedy ducks.

So that’s it, the time is just whizzing by as we are nearing the end of our stay here.  It’s hard to believe it’s been two weeks since we left Trow Vegas!

 

Sadly, Shaun the lamb didn’t make it :(

Shaun (the lamb), as I had taken to calling him, had been living in the kitchen with the dogs for a couple of days when Dave took him back out to the trailer to Mabel (his Mum) to see if he’d feed from her.  He fed straight away and was left with her and seemed to be thriving for a day or so but on Friday morning when Dave went to have a look in the trailer he was no longer with us:(  We think he didn’t have enough colostrom from Mabel when he was first born so his immune system let him down.  The good news is that Mabel’s strongest lamb is doing well and is now out in the field with all the others.  I don’t think Mabel will be having any more lambs next year as she had difficulties last year and is proving to be too much trouble!  Apparently, she’s going to a really lovely retirement home with luscious green grass and a hot tub– not!

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Mabel (looking at the camera). I’m not sure if that’s her lamb though!
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The Hebridean ewes.
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More ewes.

 

I’ll get some photos of the lambs in the next few days as I don’t seem to have any yet.  The sheep, hens and ducks have been Tim’s department whilst I’ve been looking after the cattery.  I have a favourite cat in the cattery called Star who is very timid but now comes out now when I talk to her.

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Star and Chewy my favourites!

There’s another cat in the cattery called Socks who is my second favourite who was really timid at first but now likes to come out for a fuss.   I tell them all that they are my favourite though!

Ollie (the van) needs a helping hand…… .

On Thursday Tim and I took the Landrover and trailer up to the field to load up some wood to take it around to the wood pile in the barn.  They are the sort of jobs I really like doing and we were having a good old chit chat in the sun whilst loading up the trailer.

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Collecting the wood to go into the barn.

When the trailer was full Tim decided it was high time we moved the van as it had been slowly sinking into the ground since we had arrived.  On closer inspection we realised that the exhaust was pretty much sitting on the grass!  Not good.

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Preparing Ollie for a tow out of the ditch he’d created.

Dave had said that he would pull us out with the Landrover no problem.  I wasn’t so sure.  Our van weighs over 3.5 tonnes and was pretty bogged down but we had a go none the less.

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Ollie just won’t budge!

Well after several attempts we all realised we needed something more manly to get us out as we just weren’t budging.

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Oh dear, well and truly sunk 😦 

Dave went off to the next farm and spoke nicely to the farmer who said he’d be up in an hour with his tractor.  I went back to the house at that point as I knew Tim would be stressed about his van and wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything until it was sorted and me being in the way wouldn’t help!  So, half an hour later, after I’d knocked up a cauliflower and broccoli cheese I went out to investigate what was happening to find the van in another spot and the tractor disappearing down the lane!  I’d missed the photo opportunity but at least the van is now sitting on some wood at the top end of the field which is a bit firmer.

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What a mess Ollie made – it’s all patched up now though.

Tim has now patched up the giant divots in the field so you’d almost think we’d never been there – well maybe not!  Unfortunately, Dave’s Landrover was not to be revived and is now languishing in the field in need a new clutch we think!  We never did finish the job of moving the logs to the barn as we have nothing to tow the trailer with now!  Oh dear.

Our first Helpx and Tim realises a long held dream…. .

Sorry folks I’ve been a bit lax with the blog this week as we have been busy on our first Helpx experience and I haven’t had the energy to update it!  Must try harder!  We arrived at our first Helpx assignment a week ago and the time has just flown by.  We are at Best Buddies Petcare  which is in the Leicestershire Countryside.  Dave and Jan, our hosts, welcomed us and showed us around their small holding.  They have about five acres of land and run a dog hotel and small cattery.

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Our van parked at the bottom of the dog agility field.

They also grow their own veg and keep Hebridean Sheep which are currently lambing.  Hens and ducks also provide more than enough eggs for everyone plus some to sell. To add to the fun they also have three very sweet flatcoat Retrievers – Star, Hattie and Bluebell.  Star recently had a litter of ten puppies which are now coming up to eight weeks old and will be leaving for their new homes in the next few days. We were shown the ropes on what we needed to do and have been busy everyday helping to care for all the animals.  Hence the lack of updates.

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Star with her pups outside lapping up the sunshine!

Friday saw us helping to take the ten puppies to the vet for their microchipping (now a legal requirement).  It’s more difficult than you think organising ten puppies into the van and making sure none of them get microchipped twice whilst multi tasking clearing up wee and poo from the floor of the vets! Saturday Tim helped worm the puppies with Jan.

 

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Worming the pups!

Tim finally realised a long held dream of driving a landrover on Monday as Dave left us to it to put it away in the barn after he had been using it to pull out an old iron farm gate from one of the hedges.  This was a big event for Tim as he has never been allowed to have a landrover!  It doesn’t have any power steering and you need arms like popeye to turn the wheels but it was fun driving it.

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Just look at the joy on that face!
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I wasn’t to be outdone though!

Monday night was dog training night in the barn as Jan runs classes.  I had Bluebell for the first class and Hattie for the second.  To be honest, they are old hands and I didn’t have to do anything really. They knew the drill and got on with it making me look like a pro!  I could have taken home one of the dogs which was a little black terrier rescue dog called Lola which the owner thinks is a schnauzer/patterdale cross.  She was a typical terrier and a real character but would have been a complete nightmare in the wrong hands!

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Hattie in the dog paddock.

Jan took us with her into Melton Mowbray Market for the Livestock Market on Tuesday.  Melton Mowbray Market is the largest town centre livestock market in the country and has been in existence for 1,000 years.

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Fertilized egg auction.

We’ve never been to one before so it was really interesting seeing how it all works including the auctioning of wood, bikes, farm equipment etc as well as animals. I had to take a picture of a giant rabbit which must have been raised at Sellafield because it was enormous.  The picture doesn’t really do it justice but trust me when I say it was the size of a beagle!

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Mutant rabbit the size of a Beagle!

We watched the sheep and cattle auctions but it was all gobbledygook to us but interesting none the less.

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Sheep auction room.
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Cattle auction.

We also visited the Famous Pork Pie Shoppe.  Tim was in pork pie heaven or maybe pork pie torture as he has given them up since last August in a bid for a healthier lifestyle!!  It seems to be working as he is now starting to resemble a whippet instead of a greedy Labrador!

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Melton Mowbray – home of the hand raised pork pie!

We have been helping with the ewes and lambs during the week.  After a ewe has lambed we’ve helped move the ewe and lambs into the lambing pen where they are kept for a day or so.  That last sentence made it sound so easy didn’t it?  In truth it can take anything from 2 minutes to an hour depending on the ewe.  After catching the lamb and walking off with it the ewe is supposed to follow as their mothering instinct is so strong.  Yeah right! The younger ewes take more than a little coaxing to follow their lamb but if all else fails then out comes the shepherds crook.  We left that job to Dave as we didn’t want to be held responsible for strangling a ewe! The ewe and lambs can get undercover in the trailer and are easier to monitor for any problems and to make sure the lambs are feeding.  They are then moved into the adjacent field.

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Moving the trailer for the lambing pen.

Hebridean’s, apparently, generally have only one lamb but sometimes two and rarely three.  Mabel, their oldest breeding ewe, had three lambs on Monday but it didn’t look like she was feeding them.  One lamb was really tiny and we had to tube feed all three of them to try to get some milk into them.  Unfortunately one of the lambs died the next day and another one is currently in a dog bed in the kitchen being bottle fed but it doesn’t look like it’s going to make it:(  Mabel is with the last lamb and that one seems to be doing ok so far.  It is strange to be letting the lamb out last thing at night with the dogs for a last wee though!

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Taking a break for lunch in the sunshine.

Tim has been enjoying letting the hens and ducks out first thing in the morning and collecting the eggs. They are characters and know when you have food because they come racing across the fields at break neck speed to see what there is.  They seem to eat pretty much any scraps from the kitchen (although I did draw the line at any egg mayonnaise because that surely would be cannibalism?!?  It would be wouldn’t it?)  The hens and ducks also put themselves to bed just before dusk and Tim just has to shut them in.  They’re not stupid!

The good thing about staying here is we have made the most amazing duck egg mayonnaise  sandwiches.

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Now that’s what I call an egg sandwich!
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Another puppy pic.

So that’s it so far.  We are having a great time and it’s such a refreshing change after working in an office environment for so many years.

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Oh go on then, just one more puppy pic!

 

 

Final day at home and first day on the road……. .

Wednesday saw my final day at work as a postie with Royal Mail.  Whilst only there for a short while from November last year I have really enjoyed having a physical, outdoor job and lost 10 pounds in the process!  Getting paid to exercise – what’s not to like??!!  Tim did his final gig with the DS Big Band at The Farmhouse which was a good night.

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Poor quality picture but you get the idea!

We had a fair few friends turn out to see him off including Sam and Chris who came all the way from Inverness – in truth they were down seeing family in Swindon but we like to think they like us that much to travel all that way!  So that’s the end of an era for Tim after 16 years with the band.

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Go Tim!

Thursday morning was busy with the final clear out and clean up of the house before handing the keys into the agent for our tenants.  One final trip to the charity shop and a last scoot out to the storage container to drop a few bits and pieces off and we were on the road.  It all felt a bit surreal but we felt relieved, excited and pleased to finally be on our way.

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On the road at last!

We were due to be at our first Helpx near Leicester on Friday morning so we drove up through the Cotswolds making a pitstop at Lidl in Cirencester for some provisions.  That will be the first of many Lidl stops in the coming months!

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First Lidl stop of the trip!

We had lunch in Bourton on the Water – in the van, parked up on a side street to avoid parking fees naturally!  Our first night was spent at a Britstop behind a pub near Rugby.  The landlord came out to welcome us and moved his car so that we could park up adjacent to the canal.

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Our first Britstop next to the canal.

We had a stroll along the canal and local quarry.

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Pleasant stroll around the disused quarry, now a nature reserve.

We then availed ourselves of the free wifi in the pub accompanied by a couple of pints of real ale and some food.  Not a bad way to spend our first night on the road.  After a quiet nights sleep it was up for a leisurely cup of tea and breakfast before setting off for two weeks of volunteering with a Helpx Host.

The map of Europe arrives…………… .

When we travelled to Normandy two years ago we were parked up next to a Dutch van which had a map of Europe transfer stuck on the side of it.  It’s an outline of Europe with all the countries on it that you can ‘fill in’ as you visit each country.  We said at the time that we would definitely try to get one before we left for our trip.  So after a little Googling I managed to source one from Germany from here and, what with the wonders of Google translate, I ordered one which duly arrived 5 days later!  That t’internet is just amazing!!

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Look at that concentration trying to get the transfer on without any any bubbles!

Getting the transfer onto the van proved to be a bit tedious.  Tim, very kindly, tried to help and all was going really well until half of it was on and he decided to run off and get the camera to take a few pictures.  Well, that just interrupted my concentration and the lower half of it ended up with several air bubbles in it.  A minor domestic then ensued with Tim shushing me hoping the neighbours wouldn’t hear my language and me telling him ‘don’t you *&%$£* shush me’!  We then had to carefully rip it off and try again.  The second attempt wasn’t much better and I had to resign myself to imperfection and pass the bubbles off as mountainous regions in those countries!  It’s not too bad if you don’t look too closely and it gives the idea I suppose.

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Those pesky bubbles just wouldn’t come out!
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Before we added the countries we have already visited in the van.
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After – Mmm we’ve not been far!

We have been to a few other countries but not in ‘the van’ so they don’t count.  Hopefully after a couple of years it will be a bit more colourful if it stays stuck on!

I did have some more photos but I had to pick out the ones where I didn’t look ‘evil’!