A new sport has been established for dark evenings-rat hunts

THE cows are still out, the grass is still growing. What an incredibly mild autumn it is. Does not bode well, I feel in my bones.

Bound to freeze later on. We have not even switched on the central heating yet, just relying on the cooker and the fact that an anomaly in the hot water system from its boiler also heats radiators in the dining room and snug.

The main foldyard is now full of the weaned calves that were born early in the year. They will be moved when the herd comes inside but for the moment have oodles of space. The two hens that had reared some of the guinea fowl keets and are still wandering around the yards with them, are seriously put out. Both had established nest niches in some straw bales in the big yard. Now these bales have been scattered for bedding and the hens have to find new nest sites.

What they do not realise is that tonight we are catching the pair of them and putting them back into the hen run. Usually our egg count is falling off by this time in the year, but because we have a number of bantams born in the early spring, and I presume the warm weather, we are still getting lots of eggs. Even the Aylesbury ducks that we hatched out in the spring are starting to lay. It’s an egg bonanza.

But the warm weather has its downside. Rats. We are still getting evidence and actual sight of quite a number of them. Bryony was convinced she heard one in the attic space but I think it may have been an over-stimulated imagination after too much mulled wine on Bonfire night. At least I hope it was. John goes out each night to see if he can shoot a few (rats) with his air rifle and Millie, our young Jack Russell, is on constant alert during her vermin patrols.

Friends who have a chicken farm and a young Patterdale terrier have established a new sport to while away the dark evenings. Rat hunts. So far this little Patterdale, barely six months old, has caught a hundred. That is a lot of rats. I hope we do not have as many but I know that many of our farming friends are reporting a surge in numbers of the horrible creatures. Our corn is all stored in a big vermin proof shed, but you can clearly see rat trails up the corn mountains and John shot one rat whilst it was staring down at him from the top of a heap of wheat.

At least he got a rat in his sights. Another friend returned home from a night out and decided to ‘have a look’ before bed time.

Spotting a couple of rats scuttling across a foldyard he let rip with his gun. And totally annihilated the alkathene pipe carrying the water supply.

Bed time was a long way off before he cleared up that mess.