March was certainly a busy month and as you'd expect with us it was not without the unorthodox surprise. The source of this madness... yep, you guessed it, my Mum!
So I arrived home from Rugby one night and Mum and my younger sister Sienna pulled up with a large box and huge grins on their faces. I knew straight away that they'd been up to something. Not sure if I actually wanted to know the answer but I asked what was in the box. "Come and have a look they said" with knowing smiles. Inside were 4 baby Indian Runner Ducks .... Why?
Why on earth have we got them ... I honestly couldn't tell you but apparently, they are very effective in the Vineyard to keep weeds under control .... but I suspect it's more to do with the fact that they're very cute.
At first, they look a little strange because they're flightless birds, a little like penguins with the way they run around bolt upright. We've kept them inside for the first 2 weeks to allow them to grow and gain some confidence before we release them. We've got a proper Duck House on the way for them and we're cleaning up the Lake as we speak.
It doesn't stop there .....
As well as Indian Runner Ducks .... they've only gone and bought 2 geese. Not just any Geese though, "Ne Ne Geese", the official bird of the state of Hawaii. Honestly, I have no idea what to expect from these guys but if they're anything like the Geese I know, we're in for a few headaches and some sore ankles!
PA3 Spray Course - The Highlight of this month for me was without a doubt the PA3 Spray Course that we had to complete in order to get our Licences allowing us to spray anything on the Vineyard. Now obviously our approach is to avoid spraying any chemicals, but we have to have the licence just in case we do end up having to spray against inevitable disease.
So the Exam turned out to be comedy gold. I was up first and 4 hours later I'd successfully gained my PA1 and PA3 Licences. As the primary tractor operator, it would have been a little embarrassing if I'd failed!
Up next was Will, our "Jack of all Trades". Will helps us with almost everything. According to Will, I'm still young and absorb information like a sponge whereas his sponge is full to the brim... So 20 minutes into the PA1 theory test, Will hit a bit of a brick wall. Inevitably he then failed the PA1 meaning he couldn't get onto the actual practical side of things which had me in hysterics. With a grin, he went back to "doing things he was good at".
Mum was next, and frankly, this was going to take a miracle! Mum had never driven the tractor until 20 minutes before her exam when I gave her a crash course.
Things started well with the theory as she'd been swatting away all morning as only girls do and consequently she passed with a higher mark than myself and boy did she not let me forget it! Then, however, came the part where she actually had to operate the tractor. 5 hours later, she was still at it, completely stumped on one part of the test, she somehow managed to swindle the examiner into allowing her to 'phone a friend'.
I was rushed up to give her a hand and explain what she needed to do and somehow she managed to pass, it was a "March Miracle!".
March has also brought with it some fantastic weather. Downsides of this are as soon as the sun comes out, weeds think it's their job to come out to play. They spread like wildfire and so I've been in the Vineyard non stop strimming and flail mowing. Every time I finish one Vineyard Plantation, the weeds are growing again in another. It's an endless nightmare! Slowly but surely though I think we are getting on top of it.
Next week we have a fertiliser spreader being delivered, which we're using to spread fertiliser across the Vineyard to give the vines some delicious nutrients to start them off for the year. As soon as that's all been spread, we're going to get the grass seed down, which should help to keep a lot of the weeds at bay and also to make the Vineyard look really pretty.
The vines are also starting to bud due to the early onset of nice weather, they were tricked into thinking that spring had come early. We just have to be careful now to manage any potential frost risks.
In other news, we've got two more Swiss Valais Blacknose Sheep on the way (shown here below) to join "Frankie" and "Fenella". The new arrivals are twins, "Gracie" and "Ginny" so they may even end up being even more inseparable than the other two. We won't know until mid-April if Frankie is pregnant or not but fingers crossed she is! Frankie and Fenella have also finally decided that the shelter I built for them earlier this month is not in fact a trap and it’s nice to see them both huddled In there as the sun comes up in the morning.
On the Rugby front ..... it’s been an up and down month for the Taunton Titans, I think we’ve been hit with a slight case of the end of season blues but with three games left hopefully we’ll finish strong and bounce back firing on all cylinders next season.
I was also fortunate enough to play for the Exeter Braves against the Royal Navy at Exeter's Sandy Park Stadium under their flood lights in front of a crowd of 5000 or so which was definitely up there with one of my career highlights so far. Hopefully there will be more to come.
Finally, we rounded off the month with a brilliant trip to Exeter Racecourse. Whilst my ever continuing streak of bad luck when it comes to betting on horses continued as I barely managed to scrape even, it was an excellent afternoon nonetheless and a couple of bottles of "Gundog Escape" and "Motley Cru" were enjoyed with friends and family which is what it’s all about, why else would you want to have a Vineyard?
That's all for this month and until next time, cheers!
The Team at Kenton Park Estate.