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Autumn’s chemistry set is working overtime right now producing an extraordinary horizon rather as though a mad painter had chucked his paint pots all over the landscape. There’s even pink in there – spindle berries in the hedgerows looking like Barbie’s jewellery box.

That aside us farmers are worried about the lack of rain – which is partly what has caused the colour explosion. The top soil is damp – welly boots from now till April – but go down nine inches and the clay is rock hard and bone dry. Rock and bone. Good similes. Even the spring fed ponds are lower than usual and I’ve never seen that before. This means the aquifers are perilously low, and I’ve no doubt we will get a hosepipe ban in December.

Meanwhile our planning application for the eco camping venture is becoming tortuous and the more tortuous the longer it will take and the further away the prospect of earning anything from it. At this rate we’ll be in the workhouse just about the time someone decides we can open for business. As for funding applications – apart from the fact that our chosen source is a quango that is being shut down (great timing), the process requires a post graduate degree in form filling. Luckily Sarah has got exactly that. Her capacity for detail and concentration leaves me constantly amazed. Mind you, my capacity for making it up on the spot leaves her enraged, and me feeling rather smug. Which makes her even crosser. 

The ducks now have their own pond. It is unlikely that there are two luckier ducks in captivity. Brought up in a waterless chicken run, used as an early learning centre for several sheepdogs, and both male and therefore utterly useless in the egg department, they arrived with us and now have a) a large fox proof pen for the night with a little hut if it gets really cold, and a pallet covered in nice straw for bedtime; b) an open run with lots of grass for daytime; c) regular meals; and d) now, a pond. Granted all we did was dig a hole and fill it up but you could practically see them shouting ‘hey, that’s water, that’s what we’re supposed to live on, yippee…’

So the water table may be low but at least the ducks are OK.

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