Up early to catch birds for show. The little black Ancona cockerel that Fiona had washed the night before, a big Brahma, and 3 ducks. I chose the Indian Runner because of her beautiful markings and then there were the male and female Muscovy pair, huge birds that didn’t take kindly to being packed in cardboard boxes.
Ardingly showground is about 6 miles North of where I’m staying and uphill all the way, so I was glad to be travelling by Land Rover rather than bike.
It was still early when we arrived and Fiona dropped me at bird show marquee with all our boxes while she went and parked the car.
The day before, I had learned how to groom the donkeys and clean and oil their hooves, fairly straightforward once you convince the animal that however reluctant he may be, the quickest way to get this over with was to stand quietly rather than try to back off and pull the ring he is tied to out of the wall !
Today was a different story. Giving an Indian Runner duck a pedicure and beak buffing is relatively easy as they’re quite small, although as I found to my cost, they have surprisingly sharp claws!
I was glad there weren’t more onlookers as we grappled with 10lb of Muscovy duck, who more than once tried to demonstrate his near 3ft wingspan. He felt that his feet and beak were quite presentable enough thank you very much and if it was all the same to us he’d prefer to just fly off to the nearest pond and swap escapology anecdotes with the other birds.
We eventually got all the birds in their respective show cages and Fiona went off to do her stint at the Small Farm Training Group stand she had volunteered to help on, while I wandered round the site to take loads of photos to show you and also Ryan, who had stayed back at the farm as he was feeling unwell.
By the time I had seen everything and found my way out of the horse section, the judges were making their final decisions in the bird show. I went to investigate.
Out of the 5 birds Fiona had entered, we had 2 firsts and 2 thirds. Another two firsts were won for our egg entries, one of which we had only found that morning as we packed up the birds.
We made our way home through the chaotic traffic. People were still queueing to get in at 12-30, the nearest parking places were half a mile from the site and the show closed at 6!!
On the way home we stopped in Haywards Heath to pick up Fiona’s soon to be married son James and his schoolteacher girlfriend Laura. If the teachers had looked like her in my day, I would have been more attentive in class. I wouldn’t have done any better in my studies, we weren’t taking GCE’s in ‘Bedroom Fantasies with My Teacher’!
Then it was back to the house to give the donks a final brush, especially important with the younger one, who had decided after his grooming session the previous day, that a good roll around the yard would improve his coat no end!
After much heaving and cursing we got them loaded into the horsebox and they all left for the church fete. I stayed behind to cook the evening meal, I was making ’Toad-in-the-Hole’.
Later as I was prepping veg at the kitchen sink, I saw Fiona and Charles looking worried out in the yard. At their feet was an unconscious sheep who seemed to have lost some of it’s fleece and had some sort of wound. They were frantically cutting away more fleece and spraying the skin with something. I went out to see what was up.
The sheep had suffered from ’fly strike’ which is a very nasty and quite common affliction. If the animal gets a puncture wound or bad scratch from Blackthorn for example, flies get in the wool and lay their eggs. The poor beast in the yard had dozens of maggots in and around the wound. This causes an extreme toxic shock, and if not caught early enough will kill the animal.
Despite Fiona and Charles’ best efforts the sheep later died.
Both of my hosts, being Doctors, lead extremely busy lives. The earliest that they could get the sheep carcass to a licensed disposal operator was Wednesday, which is why my duties today involved transporting a dead sheep nearly 12 miles in my bicycle trailer.
When I arrived there were a couple of guys outside a building with 2 massive metal chimneys. The conversation went like this:
ME: “Is this the incineration site?”
ME: “I’ve got a sheep for you, I booked it in over the phone at 8-10 this morning”
ME: “Shall I just leave it here then?”
GUY: “This way” (walking off)
As I was undoing the bungees on the trailer I said “I guess you don’t get many animals delivered by bike?”
As he lifted the carcass he said ”wait here please”, he reappeared from the building some minutes later and walking away said ”come to the office please”.
I followed him to a new looking building where he tapped a few details into a computer, produced forms in triplicate and said “sign here please”.
And that was it, he passed me my copy and walked away.
Don’t you just hate it when you can’t get a word in edgeways?
More photos from The South of England Show