Hello again!

Whilst lounging in my favourite chair this morning watching the buzzards being beastly to the frogs on the big pond at Stockham Farm, it occurred to me that it had been some long while since I had contributed to my blog.  My apologies for this, but I regret that I’ve been somewhat preoccupied in 2019 to date.

Very sadly we lost Mother on 1st February.  She hadn’t been well throughout January and then at the end of the month, we could all see that everything was going very wrong indeed.  You may recall that Mother could no longer really see or hear anything and that her bladder control had never been exactly award-winning; well basically on 31st January it went completely.  So TOTCA and TOERAG (acronyms for my two humans) spent an awful lot of time talking quietly with water coming out of their eyes and their noses turning red; and then latterly drinking a rather nice single malt Scotch to “say a proper farewell” in Mother’s favourite spot amongst the daffodils at Stockham.

When we said farewell to Mother

Mother having a quiet cuddle not long before she passed away

Mother was 16 and a half years old when she died (115 in human years) and she’d had an amazing life.  She was born in Dartford in Kent – making her a Kentish Maid as opposed to a Maid of Kent (because she was born to the west of the River Medway, not the east).  She left there to live in Hever in Kent, then Tunbridge Wells (where I was born), then Chiddingstone, before finally moving to Dulverton in the Exmoor National Park. 

Mother’s life lessons

Libby (Mother) and Otto – both with paws on the big stick

She was very small, but very feisty.  She can be seen here challenging her BFF Otto (of mixed German heritage – Doberman/German Shepherd/Rottweiler) for control of a very large stick.  Apparently Mother won.

She taught me everything I know – how to catch rodents in barns and under haystacks; how to feign complete ignorance of your own name when hearing it called; how to jump onto a bed with muddy paws; how to remove carrots from the big horses’ feed bowls (whilst they’re actually eating!) – to be fair that is something Mother alone could do, I haven’t mastered this skill yet.

Mother with a weasel – or is it a stoat?

And here she is again a few years later, having proudly won a battle with a weasel.  Although TOERAG thinks this was a stoat.  It’s an ongoing debate at Stockham and even Mr Google hasn’t been too helpful, merely offering this poem to clear up any confusion…

A weasel is weasly recognized
A stoat is stoataly different

More snow at Stockham Farm

The view from Stockham Farm across the Exe Cleave – February 2019

Mother’s passing coincided with some serious snowfall at Stockham – not quite like last year’s Beast from the East, but still very cold and white.  TOERAG and TOTCA quite like the snow – in fact they go in search of it saying they’re going “on a skiing holiday”.  Now I’m not entirely sure what is meant by ‘skiing’, but the very clever Border Collie across the valley has said that it is when humans strap planks of wood onto their feet and throw themselves down snow-covered mountains very fast.  I can’t believe this is true, because, well, why?!! – but I’m putting it out there in case anyone can tell me otherwise.

During this recent snowfall, TOTCA and I were despatched to Dulverton along the lane in search of essential provisions  – milk, gin, wine, chocolate – I can be seen in the picture at the top of the page leading the way, wearing my sensible winter coat.

Dunkery Beacon, Exmoor – as seen from Stockham Farm

The snow has all gone now, but I thought I’d leave you with this picture taken on 2nd February beside Mother’s resting place – our view from Stockham Farm of the highest point on Exmoor, Dunkery Beacon.  I miss her very much, I do.


Hello again Dear Readers!

Now I’m confidently saying “Readers” in plural as I’m absolutely certain that I now have more than just my elderly mother reading my blog.  I’ve heard on the grapevine that the father of TOTCA (that’s an acronym for my female human) has also been seen reading it.  This gentleman – who, confusingly, seems to have various names such as Dad, Grandad, Great Grandad and Horace (named after a Golden Retriever, I believe; or it might have been the other way round) – is 96 years old.  In human years.  Which makes him 672 in dog years! Older than Mother I think.

I mention TOTCA’s father because the Season of Goodwill is now officially upon us and this is apparently the time for “Family” and “Festive Fun”.  There is quite a bit of Festive Fun going on at Stockham Farm – trees indoors, sparkling lights hanging from the red deer antlers that were found on the farm last year and TOERAG (an acronym for my male human) spending a lot of time standing by the Aga with cinnamon mulling wine.  I’m not sure why he’d mull over whether or not to drink wine at Christmas – he does it quite happily throughout the rest of the year. 

Stockham Farm in the snow – but still not as cold as the North Pole

Anyway, Festive Fun is great and with my merry disposition I’m happy to join in… but only up to a point.  And that point was reached yesterday when I was asked to sit under the Christmas tree dressed as one of Santa’s elves (as can be seen above).

Now I know Santa is a real human being  who lives with lots of reindeer somewhere that’s even colder than Exmoor in the snow, but I wasn’t aware that he employed Jack Russell Terriers to assist him.  If this is to be my new role on Christmas Eve I feel I need a tighter job description.  Will I wear this uniform the entire night?  Do I need to learn the names of all the reindeer before we set off?  Will I have to actually hurry down the chimneys or can I stay in the sleigh?  Will I be allowed to eat the sausage rolls in the fireplaces or will I have to share (to be fair, Santa does look like he’s had enough already)?  What if Santa gets stuck in the chimney?!!!  Seriously, is there an official emergency procedure in place?

Dressed as a Christmas pudding – the indignity of it

Fortunately, a few members of the Family have come to stay for the Christmas period and I expect they’ll be able to give me some answers.  I’ve asked Mother and she’s not been hugely helpful on the subject – apart from saying it could be worse, I could be taken out in public dressed as a Christmas pudding as took place in 2016. 

Even TOERAG struggled to see the Festive Fun in that.  TOERAG’s idea of Festive Fun involves a traditional seasonal blend of watching Love Actually in front of the fire, carving roast beef (I’m always close by to assist him) and wearing a crown made out of thin paper; followed by hiding in the stables for some considerable hours preparing the big horses for something called “Boxing Day” which doesn’t appear to have anything to do with hitting anyone with big gloves on.

TOTCA is at her most Festive when holding a glass of something with bubbles in it whilst singing about a good King called Wenceslas who took a mate of his (a Mr Page) out in the snow to give a poor man (a Mr Peasant) some bread and wine and pizza – cooked deep pan, crisp and even.  I think that’s the story. 

Mother and I making ourselves useful as iPad supports

Mother and I often choose the Festive Period to make ourselves useful with various Family members by offering our services as iPad and laptop supports on the sofa – we hate to be accused of lounging around doing nothing.

Committing treason – asleep in front of the Queen

A couple of years ago, Mother and I were both formally accused of committing treason as we fell asleep in front of Her Majesty’s speech on Christmas Day.  But that was when we were in Kent and I don’t think anyone at the Tower of London knows that we’ve now moved to a farm on the border of Devon and Somerset.  We’d quite like to keep our heads, so please don’t tell.  We do actually rather like the Queen, albeit she seems to prefer Corgis to Jack Russell Terriers.  TOERAG used to have Corgis that looked after him many years ago – he said that they’re “excellent cattle dogs”.  I don’t dispute this, but I’d like to know if their skills set ever had them assisting Santa on Christmas Eve.  Helping Santa or helping Her Maj – which do you think is the most challenging role?

Our favourite Christmas decorations – Jack Russell Terriers in hats

That’s it from me for now.  I’m just going to take another admiring look at the Jack-Russell-in-a-hat-in-a-bauble that’s hanging from the antlers above the fire.  Festive Fun decorating at its very best.  If you’re at a loose end, do follow me on Instagram: Ralph, Exmoor Jack Russell

Merry Christmas!