Down on the farm

Farm news, from Brendan 

Although I am now quite used to providing some information for the farm notes, putting them into more than bullet points is new to me and I hope I can do them justice! 

Fate however has been kind to me as it has not been a particularly eventful week on the farm. With Tim on holiday, we are grateful that the animals appear to be behaving themselves, perhaps relaxing after the Demeter inspection last week. 

Looking back over the week, the word which springs most readily to mind is damp. It has rained a lot – big fat drops of the like we would normally expect in May. As there was no rain then, it seems only fair that we have some now, but following the frosts of last week it has felt very odd to be walking around the farm in a t-shirt once again. However odd it may feel, we can’t deny that the warm wet weather has been a boon for the pastures, which will hopefully have one last burst of growth before winter begins in earnest. 

There have been a number of animal movements this week. The young stock, who have been grazing in field A, which contains plenty of our eponymous rushes, were moved along the track and back into the field they vacated a few weeks ago. This is only a temporary measure to allow us to move the lambs onto some lush new pasture – an exercise complicated by the need to also move the three orphaned calves out of the way first. Either way, the young stock will soon find their way onto field 13 which is found ‘over the river’, or at least the Bow brook! It is always a pleasure to go to this field as, despite it being a bit of a trek, the sound of the stream babbling away is idyllic. Needless to say, with all the rain this week, the brook (which had almost been reduced to a dribble) is now in full spate once more. 

The suckler herd, who provided us with the necessary pats for our 500 preparation recently, are still in the field by the increasingly colourful wood. It really is a joy to watch both calves and cows splashing about and playing in the scrape which finally has water again, albeit only a glorified puddle for the moment. One moment that stands out in my memory, observed while snaffling the last of the blackberries along the edge of the wood! We are used to seeing the calves bounce around with each other, but in this instance the mothers decided to join in as well – really reinforcing my belief that our animals have proper, highly developed lives and personalities. 

The lambs, bar a few cases of unexplained lameness, look good. We have been aware of the problems of excess molibdemen for some time, which is an element that supresses absorption of important minerals such as copper.  

Although plants such as plantain and chicory can help combat this, we have historically struggled to keep them going in our pastures. Whether the answer lies in mineral licks, a different breed of sheep, or just muddling on, we will see. Despite this, as I said, the lambs are starting to look nice, and the first loads will be taken off the farm soon. The ewes are happily munching away in the ridge and furrow field along the drive, which is currently looking very splendid with its fiery autumn trees. They can often be found crowding along the fence line opposite the ram’s field. It is not difficult to imagine them batting their eyelashes and trying to get the boys’ attention from across the drive! We hope that they succeed, as the rams will be joining them soon. Next year we aim to complete lambing a little earlier than we have in the last few years.  

With only around 84 breeding stock left, the lambing will hopefully be a shorter affair anyway, and the smaller flock size is giving us scope to potentially experiment with another breed to see if they fare any better on our land. One school of thought in this area is that our llyns, originating from upland areas, might struggle on the lowland pastures. Initial thoughts are that Shropshire sheep, which are more of a lowland breed, might be better.  

Away from the animals, we have been trying to make the most of the last of the fruit, harvesting crab apples and sloes for jelly and gin respectively. The hawthorn bushes are heavily laden too, so an experiment with their berries may also be on the cards.  

With the apples from the trees by the house going off to be pressed at Pershore college, we are thinking how we might be able to scale up our apple operations. Feelers have been put out for re-planting part of the orchard by the polytunnel garden, which sadly died due to waterlogging in those very wet years we had.  

With the help of Tom our volunteer helper, we hope to clear the dead trees out soon, and get some interesting local varieties planted in their place. The previous trees were not full sized, for ease of picking, but the general consensus seems to be that full sized root stock is more moisture tolerant and would have the added bonus of being able to graze cattle under as well. 

On a separate note, should any of you be frequent users of Instagram and would like to see some more pictures of what we get up to at the farm, then please do follow our newly created account. You can find it with the handle 

Nod’ by Walter de la Mare 

 Softly along the road of evening, 
In a twilight dim with rose, 
Wrinkled with age, and drenched with dew 
Old Nod, the shepherd, goes. 
His drowsy flock streams on before him, 
Their fleeces charged with gold, 
To where the sun’s last beam leans low 
On Nod the shepherd’s fold. 
The hedge is quick and green with briar, 
From their sand the conies creep; 
And all the birds that fly in heaven 
Flock singing home to sleep. 
His lambs outnumber a noon’s roses, 
Yet, when night’s shadows fall, 
His blind old sheep-dog, Slumber-soon, 
Misses not one of all. 
His are the quiet steeps of dreamland, 
The waters of no-more-pain, 
His ram’s bell rings ‘neath an arch of stars, 
“Rest, rest, and rest again.” 

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