Advent already!

The mild weather during this last week has meant enough holly berries left for us to pick for the Advent log. First Advent already. How quickly it seems to have arrived. The weather is so mild we worried the birds might start to nest again when a sparrow is spotted on the ledge of one of the bird boxes. We all hope that the birds get reminded it is winter soon! In the garden, the Winter Jasmine is covered in the most beautiful display of yellow, unusual for November. There are even a few roses still flowering.

I am well reminded that the weather is almost a British full-time occupation, and so to continue on the theme, the mild days have certainly made outdoor jobs more comfortable, although all the rain means large, deep, stinky puddles along the track to the barn. One way to empty them is to dig run off channels from the puddle through the hedge, to the ditch which runs alongside the track. A hard job that is carried out with gusto by members of the family with age on their side!

The Ram that, you will recall, right at the start of tupping, went very lame, and was in some discomfort, has been fed apple cider vinegar every other day for a week for the suspected Kidney Stones, and it seems to have done the trick. Out of the barn, he has been recuperating by himself, but looks very keen now to re-join the others.

A trip out to Ross-on-Wye on Saturday to deliver the sheep gave us a chance for a change of scenery, and a chat with long-time friend and supporter to the farm Simon Cutter. It was also a good opportunity to see the changing seasons from a more south-westerly direction too.


It has been, without doubt, a productive week on the farm. Despite the pretty constant heavy rain which appears to have restored our water table – the field by the drive is once more flooded – we have moved a further sixty lambs off the farm.

Driving to the barn at anything faster than a snail’s pace has become somewhat treacherous, especially in the morning as visibility through the windscreen is very limited and the windscreen wipers appear to have little effect. In order to navigate the increasingly large puddles means leaning out around the screen, which in turn means risking a face full of cold, muddy, puddle water! Despite this, we have been rewarded with a number of stunningly beautiful mornings, more late autumn in feel, despite the calendar date.

With regards stewardship schemes, it would appear sadly that because we are already in a higher-level scheme, we can’t apply for the government’s SFI programme. We will see what this means down the line, but initially I’m sure Chris would rather not have wasted all that effort on it! He has however managed to acquire the services of a DEFRA funded advisor who will help us to hopefully make the most of the available grants and schemes. That these are necessary to make farming remotely viable is, as Grandpa talked to many times, a reality of farming which the government likes to pretend isn’t true, and the food manufacturers like to forget in their pricing schemes.

As we have noticed deficiencies in zinc, magnesium, selenium and cobalt in our sheep we are looking into various mineral licks to help improve their condition. We were certainly a little disappointed when we came to bring them in for weighing on Friday as they looked a little lacklustre, however on closer inspection (although they could be better) it seems that several days of rain had just dampened their spirits somewhat. Rather reminiscent of the Disney version of the Winnie the Pooh tale when he pretends to be a ‘little black rain cloud’ to get to the honey. Sadly, in this case, the sheep were just wet and miserable!

Our cattle, which by and large are looking very good, have been noted with an iodine deficiency, so we will see if we can find a suitable lick for them too. The method of correcting these mineral imbalances is a cause for never ending debate as there are many available solutions depending upon beliefs and purse strings. The naturally occurring minerals differ depending on the land, so an additional source will always be needed. One solution is the sure-fire method is using boluses, which are pellets with all the minerals the animal needs that are pressed down the throat – obviously this ensures they get what they need, but it is invasive, and although believed to not be painful for the animal, is surely not the most comfortable feeling. There are various injections available, but again this is impractical, which is why we have set on licks. One thing we may try this year is suspending the lick in an old tyre, thus ensuring it is safe from badgers, deer and any other potential TB spreaders.

We are very grateful once again to Tom our volunteer, who has escaped revision for his upcoming engineering exams at Birmingham university to help us do all the work with the sheep this week. I have always been so grateful to Grandpa and the farm for providing regular visitors who can be mined for knowledge, stories and culture – in the best possible way of course! Hopefully Tom will be able to join us again next Wednesday as we take some cattle to Fordhall.

On which happy note, as I am watching the sun set vivid red and hoping that the old adage holds true for tomorrow, I will sign off for the week. What with all the rain we’ve had, there has been a lot of sitting together around the fire. I thought that this poem from J.R.R Tolkein, who spent his childhood holidays at Bag End Farm just a few minutes from us, seemed appropriate.


I sit beside the Fire and Think by J.R.R Tolkein

I sit beside the fire and think of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies in summers that have been;
Of yellow leaves and gossamer in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun and wind upon my hair.
I sit beside the fire and think of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring that I shall ever see.
For still there are so many things that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring there is a different green.
I sit beside the fire and think of people long ago,
and people who will see a world that I shall never know.
But all the while I sit and think of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet and voices at the door.

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