THE lucky survivors of the shooting season have a new purpose in life at the farm of friends we were staying. Ostensibly there for their daughter’s wedding (my primary focus), John was looking forward as well to helping with the deer, pheasants and fishing. Plus walking through their woods to spot any likely hazel off shoots that he can carve for his shooting stick collection.

Several thousand pheasants are housed at the farm in a meadow sheltered all around by woods. The ratio is 10 hen pheasants to one cock pheasant and the eggs are collected each day from the netted runs, where the birds lay in cut down barrels set on straw.

At the moment the hens are quite happy to pop out an egg and vacate the nest, but soon, pheasant mathematics will have worked out that they have produced enough eggs for a sitting, and part of the daily routine will be to eject broody birds off the nest so they keep on laying. John spent quite a few hours collecting eggs, washing eggs, sorting eggs and then setting eggs in racks for the giant incubators.

I was happy to pick up crumbs of information on how to successfully incubate eggs. Although we only have two small incubators, the general ground rules are very similar. I may have successfully hatched out five geese a fortnight ago, but dismally failed with the clutch of duck eggs I had in my other incubator, where out of six eggs, only one lonely little duckling survived. He is currently in a big shed, under a big light looking very lost and forlorn. Meanwhile, the goslings are now great hulking brutes who terrify their foster mum hen. I am desperate for a broody to take on my duckling, but so far no more hens are obliging me.

Apparently I interfere too much in the last days of hatching. I should leave well alone (difficult), increase the humidity and let nature take its course. Not keep picking bits of shell off to help the bird out as I am driven to do.

All this did not of course take precedence over the real purpose of the weekend to celebrate Fleur’s wedding to her farmer husband James. Of course the bride looked stunning, almost as good as her mum Joy, my friend. The setting was idyllic. Lakeside marquee, fountains lit by under water lights, dogs wandering through the tables truffling up titbits from the home-grown pork carved at each table. Rural England at its best.