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Farming and Animal Expressions Explained

By June 17, 2019April 1st, 2022No Comments

David Palmer, Farmer Palmer Senior, uses phrases that are not always recognised by the younger generation! It made us curious about where the phrases came from. Over the centuries our animals, and farming, has had a big influence on our lives and language. We have adopted expressions, phrases and idioms but do you know what they all mean?

An idiom is a phrase or expression whose meaning can’t be understood from the ordinary meanings of the words in it. For example, “Get off my back!” is an idiom meaning “Stop bothering me!”

Bees are important to our eco system


What does As busy as a been mean? See our Bee Link if you love to know more. a bee

We all love bees and know how important to the plant’s eco system they are. From day 1 the worker bees don’t stop working to ensure the hive’s survival.

  • Moving about quickly doing many things


Whats the difference between organic or free-range eggs?


What does Don’t count your chickens before they hatch mean?

Imagine having 12 beautiful eggs and assuming you’ll have 12 chicks. Nature is not that predictable and this idiom sums this up very well.

  • Warning you that you should not depend upon something until it becomes evident.
What is a Pecking Order?

This is a social behavior among chickens, which attack each other by pecking to establish dominance. In our chicken houses the dominant hen will be the first to the food and will let newer chickens eat when she’s ready. A hierarchy is created between the chickens.

  • Pecking order assumes positions of leadership, authority, and power within a group.
What does Don’t put all your eggs in one basket mean?

This is all about risk, bravery or safety. If you collect all of the days eggs and pop them in one basket, then you drop the basket, you risk breaking them all. Put them in two or more baskets and one should survive.

  • It may not be wise to invest all of the things you value into one container/project/bank in case things don’t go the way you had hoped.
What does chickens coming home to roost mean?

Chickens settle down on a branch or pole in their houses when they go to bed to rest and sleep. They come back to the same place every night.

  • When your previous actions in life come back to haunt you


Farmer Palmers Cow that looks like a Dalmatian Dog


What does waiting till the cows come home mean?

Our beautiful cows take life at their own pace. This is usually a sedate walk, due to the difficulty to walk with a huge udder between your legs!

  • waiting a long time
What does Strong as an Ox mean?

Ox were always used to pull carts, operate farm machinery and power milling.

  • possessing great physical strength



Farmer Palmers Haymaking


What does A hard row to hoe mean?

When land was being divided up hundreds of years ago everything was done by hand. The line of planted crops was called a row. The wooden and stone/metal tool used to weed and loosen the earth around the plants was called a hoe. The phrase indicated that something is difficult to do.


What does Sowing your wild oats mean?

From the middle of the 16th Century this meaning has survived.

  • To get out and have many sexual relationships to further your family generation.
What does Separating the wheat from the chaff mean?

When wheat is harvested the processing (threshing) involves separating the grain from the husks, known as chaff.

  • To decide if people or things in a group are good or bad by separating them to work individually or in smaller groups.


What does Making Hay While the Sun Shines mean?

Hay loses it’s nutritional value when it exposed to rain after it has been cut. If it gets too wet and won’t dry out, it will mold and be useless.

  • This phrase means that we should make the best use of the time that we are given.  We shouldn’t waste opportunities, we may only get one.


Pygmy Goat Kid Twins born at Farmer Palmer's Feb 2017


What does Get your goat mean?

This expression comes from a tradition in horse racing. Thought to have a calming effect on high-strung thoroughbreds, a goat was placed in the horse’s stall on the night before the race.

  • When someone makes you angry or annoyed

Baby piglets born at Farmer Palmer's Poole Dorset


How can I be as Happy as a pig in mud?

Content animals are happy animals and there is none more happy than a pig cooling off in a mud wallow. Because pigs can not sweat to cool down, they need a muddy hollow to make sunscreen.

  • It means you are content
What does When Pigs Fly mean?

We all know pigs can’t fly, don’t we? “When pigges flye” can be referenced back the 16th Century. Lewis Carroll used it in Alice in Wonderland.

  • A reference to how impossible a situation or suggestion actually is
What it It’s a right Pigs Ear?

The expression derives from the old proverb ‘you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear‘, which dates back to the 16th century.

  • To completely botch something up; make a complete mess of it’.

Child Kissing Pony in Pony Grooming

Horses and Donkeys

What’s From the Horse’s Mouth?

Horses are generally held in high regard as trusted, loyal friends. We all know they can not speak but the literal connection is linked to the understanding between horses and horse lovers.

  • From an impeccable source.
Talk the hind leg off a donkey
  • Talk for a long long time, until the listener has switched off.
Why are they As stubborn as a mule?

Anyone who knows horses, donkeys and mules will know when they decide they don’t want to move they can stand their ground and pulling does not help. The mule is not all bad but it is in their nature to be willful and stubbon.

  • This idiom relates to being extremely stubborn. You’ll not find a mule at Farmer Palmers but ponies and donkey live here.
What does Looking a gift horse in the mouth mean?

A horse’s age can be determined by looking at it’s teeth.  Evidently, there was a time when those people who had been given a horse as a gift would look into it’s mouth to see how old it was. If it was an old horse, they would complain about the gift that had been given to them.

  • To be critical about some thing that has been given to you in good faith


And finally

Who get’s Put Out to Pasture?

When animals are loved but no longer of use to us they are rewarded for their lifetime of dedication by being retired to a lovely field or pasture. Glitter, our retired male pony ride pony, has kicked off his shoes and lives with the girls now!

  • Due to age or illness they are retired


We hope you have enjoyed some of these. If so please let us know.

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