July has seemingly raced past us – over before we really noticed it had begun, maybe in part due to workloads and grindstones, but maybe just because!
Looking back is a good exercise for us, and walking back through the farm diary, we can see that, for us, it has been a month of cool weather, showers, heavy rain at times, and then also at times sunshine and warmth. What a relief this weather has been for the pastures and the animals. The fields cut for hay have recovered well and are now a beautiful green – the strongest green they have been all year – lush and verdant.
Field 7, closest to the house, is currently home to the three rams. In the last few weeks, at first glance it has appeared that they are laying down at the far end of the field but seem strangely smaller. A walk down the field revealed that they are not rams, but a fairy ring of giant puffball mushrooms, the largest perhaps 60cm across! A first for the farm, they grow in grassland, around trees, and the edges of grassland. A mushroom with a strong flavour, they are edible when they are white and spongy all the way through. As they get older, they become yellowy inside and eventually brown as it turns into spores. As these are still white, it was decided, by those feeling hardy, to harvest one and fry it for supper. All were still with us the next morning!
Not the only ‘wildlife’ of note – we have seen strong numbers of butterflies, swifts, martins, gold finches, and once again yellow hammers, an endangered species which we are very happy to know are continuing to home here on the farm.
The moment of note was when Boots, while checking on the livestock, managed not to step on two baby hares hidden in their form. Important wildlife aside, this is important for Boots as one of his ‘lockdown homeschooling’ projects was to learn about Hares!
Tim is away for two weeks, and so Alice, Brendan and Boots have stepped into the empty wellies. We have lost three ewes in the last weeks, two to old age, it happens to us all, and one to unexplained circumstances, but not at this point suspiciously so. To the cattle – the calves in particular are suffering with the flies in their eyes. Treatment is possible but not straightforward, and they need to be checked every day at the moment so that we can keep on top of this.
Our newest addition to the farm team has proved very helpful in this work. Thistle, an 8-week-old lurcher-poodle cross, was of such interest to the cows the other morning, that Alice was able to walk amongst them very easily. Thistle spends her days either being very bouncy and – can you hear Adrian’s pain at us writing “cute” here – or passed out in the sleep of a puppy, as close to front of the aga as she can get! She is already an apprentice to Alice in the veg garden (which is continuing to flourish) and has proved herself to also be somewhat of an escape artist. Clearly, she has skills we will need to find a way to make use of. There are photos at the end of the blog, just to prepare you for a cuteness overload! Meanwhile the veg garden and Alice’s dried flower collection..
The woods are now finding themselves a home to a new start up forest school. A local parent who saw an opportunity and is taking it. We are so pleased to have a kindi here amongst us once more, and to have the woods being enjoyed in this way.
In honour of Thistle’s name, we sought out a relevant poem, and so turn to Ted Hughes, who sums up rather perfectly our ongoing battle with the other, totally “uncute”, thistles!
Thistles by Ted HughesAgainst the rubber tongues of cows and the hoeing hands of men
Thistles spike the summer air
And crackle open under a blue-black pressure.
Every one a revengeful burst
Of resurrection, a grasped fistful
Of splintered weapons and Icelandic frost thrust up
From the underground stain of a decayed Viking.
They are like pale hair and the gutturals of dialects.
Every one manages a plume of blood.
Then they grow grey like men.
Mown down, it is a feud. Their sons appear
Stiff with weapons, fighting back over the same ground.