Lambing is in full swing!

And still we wait for rain. Of course, we have had the odd shower but they have been of little value.

At this time of year, the grass should be growing nearly half an inch a day but the reality is that the growth rate is more like that per week! Looking at our pastures yesterday I am somewhat at a loss to know where the cattle, which need to be moved, might best go and that is not good news.

On the positive side, it was possible this Sunday evening for Anne and Chris to set the flowform running, for Chris to spray four more fields with prep 500 and Anne to spray the garden compost heaps.

On other fronts matters are more positive. Lambing is progressing at a steady rate and health issues have not yet become a serious concern. Our losses so far are small, the ewes have milk, we have managed to foster on rather than place in an ‘orphanage’ lambs their ewes can’t cope with and the number of prolapses is not out of the ordinary. The extension to the barn certainly has made the whole process considerably more pleasant. The ATV may make a racket but has more than proved its worth. Chris, in particular, has developed a technique which involves leaping off the moving vehicle to capture recalcitrant sheep – safe only because the vehicle stops dead the moment the foot leaves the accelerator!

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Last year’s male lambs have at last reached good weights and we are expecting that Ford Hall farm will take at least 30 next week. The current price for ‘hoggets’ at Worcester Market is looking good so the remainder can perhaps go there. A real problem, lies with what we do about the ewe hoggets which have already produced more than thirty unplanned lambs and so can’t go and we have no idea which of the remainder might be pregnant.

Although we have had several ground frosts through April, the sharp air frost of last week – perhaps the coldest we have had this year – has knocked back many of the blossom trees, but the hawthorn is now coming into flower and the scent in the hedges is very attractive.

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The weekend has been particularly busy because on Saturday we had the AGM of the Stockwood Community Benefit Society and today a lambing day for visitors. The Saturday event went very well; it was good to see familiar faces and to be with people interested in both the work of the society and the farm. The first part of the day was essentially formal business with reports on the overall position of the society and a sharing of activities on the farm since the last meeting. There was then a farm walk followed by a very convivial lunch and the opportunity for questions to be aired. Lunch was provided by Liza of ‘Raspberry Rose’ with the meat eaters enjoying casserole of Rush Farm lamb and the vegetarians having a vegetable stew made from farm and local organic produce.

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On Sunday, a smaller number came made up of parents and mainly small children. A number of the children, however, were school mates of the grandchildren. Sadly, though out of the wind it was quite warm, in the wind it was far less pleasant. Despite this, all seemed to enjoy their visit and some intrepid souls even picnicked by the pond.

We have been delighted to have Emma back with us over the weekend to help with lambing, particularly delighted since she is still slowly recovering from a serious operation performed just before Christmas. She has helped us out at lambing time for many seasons and is very much one of us. We will be equally pleased to see two German friends next week who will be revisiting us to again help with lambing.

Aside from the tiredness experienced by Chris who, apart from being on lambing call during the day is also doing the early morning, evening and middle of the night periods (aside that is from involvement in Ulula, the business park and two local parishes), one of the associated problems with lambing is that of staying on top of the paperwork – not least because, judging by the smell in the office, there is a decaying bird in the chimney! Nonetheless, I am happy to report that the farm’s claims for Stewardship and Single Payments have both been sent off.

On the business park, the newly laid concrete is now fully set, earth source energy has a significantly shorter ‘snagging list’ to work through, the skip area has been re-fenced, a new waste disposal company engaged and a firm (hopefully) date given to us for replacing the copper wiring, which currently gives us our broadband.

At the local grammar school that I attended, a basic part of the VI form curriculum involved debating, discussing and presenting talks on topics of one’s own choice. As one who tended to leave preparation to the last minute I still vividly remember rushing through a Pelican paperback entitled “Islam” to provide myself with material to enable me to give a talk to fellow students on that topic and then lead a discussion. This year a new Pelican paperback entitled “Islam – the essentials” has just been published. Obviously, not least because the Muslim world has such significance today, I had to buy and read it. Originally, I had intended to explore that favourite exam question ‘explore and contrast’ the two books in this note, but I was deflected instead by the thought that perhaps we needed to remind ourselves of the enormous contribution Sir Allen Lane made to our world.

The publishing house he established in 1935 could, in many ways, be seen as an extension of the WEA and a forerunner of the Open University. His company published paperbacks at accessible prices which provided an introduction to all aspects of our culture. Colour coded in a way that spookily is matched today by the use of the colour coding associated with children’s reading schemes, the range of books published was extraordinary. Orange for novels, green for detective fiction, purple for travel, yellow for crosswords and brain teasers, grey for politics while blue was the mark of the Pelican. Within that label were books on music, architecture, religion, science and philosophy. If that were not sufficient, poetry, plays and the writings of the ancients were also published. For those avid to learn and broaden their intellectual horizons, it was a godsend.

While in some ways Penguin’s hay day was the war period and up and into the late sixties, even after the death of its founder and under quite different ownership, its imprint is still associated with quality. After all, the encyclopedia only took one so far – as indeed do the modern replacements google and Wikipedia.

The resident grandchildren returned to school on Tuesday and though they were rather ‘hyper’ on Tuesday evening, the week thereafter went very well; frequently accompanying Chris on his stock inspections, and taking responsibility for some ‘lamb care’, both are learning a great deal about our ‘real’ world in addition to the academic!

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