Spare a thought for Hoo's Herd in this particularly inclement weather. This week featured temperatures as low as -9 degrees celsius, but worse for us has been the consecutive days when the peak temperature has remained at or below freezing.

The animals themselves don't seem to be that bothered - the sheep have the most obvious insulation, with their thick woolly coats rendering them positively cosy, but even the cattle seem to be inherently hardy. Their coats go shaggy (not quite Highland Cattle-style, incidentally their closest genetic cousins), quite different from their summer-smooth hides, and they have a habit of tucking themselves into bramble bushes or right into the hedges to avoid the worst of the weather (disconcerting if you are trying to find them in the morning to check that they are OK!). Even the young calves frolic around in this weather without a care - much like our kids I suppose, impervious to the temperature.

But where we suffer is in trying to make sure they have a continued water and food supply. The water is the biggest challenge, as frozen pipes are inevitable no matter how well-insulated the pipes are, so then it's down to us to ensure the troughs are clear-ish of ice (at least thick ice, and overnight the troughs have been growing a 2-inch cover of ice which takes several blows with a metal spike to pierce) and when they are drained (cattle are surprisingly thirsty creatures whereas it is rare that we witness the sheep drinking anything), we drive around with a 1000 litre water bowser, topping up. That in itself is not as simple as it seems - the bowser tap has to be dowsed regularly with boiling water to keep it from icing up, the hose pipes have to be kept stored in a warm place so that they are ice-free when you need them, and the locks on the gates have an annoying of freezing solid, almost on purpose it seems. Still - these little challenges are part of what makes it interesting....

In terms of keeping the animals supplied with food, we have our plentiful stocks of haylage - but moving those big bales around is our current challenge, as the tractor is still in the workshop being fixed. But with a bit of brute force and a trailer, we've so far managed to move what we need to where it is needed. Can't wait for the tractor to arrive so we can do it a little more easily!