By Emma Chaplin
It was a blistering hot July Wednesday afternoon. The ground was dry and hard. Bluebell House arrived at Baulcombes Barn for one of only a few more sessions they have with us. This is partly because Flourish funding is ending in August, and partly because the centre is moving to Horsham. In any case, endings can be hard for everyone. This group have developed important bonds with Owena and the animals.
I came along to spend some time with the group, as I sometimes do, bringing medicine from Cliffe vets for Tallulah the pony, as requested by Owena. And some cake for the humans! I also came because Flourish want to give every Bluebell House member who has come to the farm a memento. I had samples of a mug and a tea towel with the design created by Michi Mathias (see above).
Everyone who was present really liked them, thought about what they'd like and put in their orders. Joanna will ask others at Bluebell House and let me know.
We then "checked in" ie went round the group and said how we felt. Owena gave everyone an update on the farm and any animals news since the group were last here a few weeks ago.
"I took some of the pigs to the Smallholders Show. Because of the heat, we have to be here by 8am every day. The animals seem OK. The sheep stay in shade. One young ewe got mastitis, and we treated her with antibiotics. She's still not quite right, so we're keeping an eye on her. We moved the sheep on foot to a field nearer to the therapy room, so we could shear them. We were going to shear them today, but then I realised a fox had got into the community chickens and killed some of them. Foxes are hungry at the moment, plus we've got problems with the electric fence, and the earth being very dry doesn't help. I found where the fox got in. Helpfully, the pigs, who normally try to dig themselves out, can't because the ground is too hard. And the dry weather means the grass is less sugary, which is better for the ponies. They don't get laminitis. Finally, we've had an issue with broody hens. One booted another out, then didn't take care of a chick that hatched. I'm keeping a close eye on things."
Then we went out to do some chores, which included: catching up the ponies, grooming them, leading them around the field, extending the grazing area for the ponies by moving the fence, giving the pigs water, cleaning the pony fields, feeding the hens, and collecting up and soaking willow for a future willow weaving session. You can can see some of those activities in the photos above (since several members of the group prefer not to be in photos, so we've been careful who is in these).
Finally, we gathered for a final 'check in'. We all felt better for having been at Baulcombes, seeing the animals and getting on with tasks. These were a few comments:
"I was grumpy earlier on, but being here always helps me feel better."
"I'm glad to be here. It always helps"
"I was feeling crappy but I'm glad I came today."