We can’t pretend that the Christmas week wasn’t sombre for us, but we did also manage to remind ourselves most of the time that “the cup is half full”, and the children did what children do best, and made every day an adventure in one way or another.
What didn’t happen, in our first real space since Adrian passed away, were the replies to emails and cards. Ulula was closed for the week, and the farm work, although Tim was away, was supported by Alice and Brendan, and we suddenly had some space. In years past, this was the week that we tackled a job on the never-ending list, but this year, we just stopped, and took a bit of time.
The farm over the last few weeks has been under the grey skies of a mostly mild, wet and windy weather system. The fields are once again very soggy. Every step is accompanied by squelching underfoot! The ditches are running high, but the brook hasn’t yet breached its banks.
On Christmas Eve a group of us sang to the cows in the barn. This is our second year, and this year there were more of us, and the singing was vastly improved by the increased numbers! The cows didn’t seem to mind and even joined in on occasion.
The usual daily jobs included providing food for both the cows in the barn and the sheep in the fields. The cows also need new bedding straw regularly. The tractor’s four-wheel drive added to our pressures by breaking, and so the process has of course been harder work and takes that bit longer. Typical farming pressures of course.
A beautiful boy calf arrived mid-way between Christmas and the New Year. He is big and seems strong and healthy. Maybe he should be kept as a bull to be able to sell on in good time. A good idea in principle but would require different grouping of our young stock, so something we are still thinking about.
Our beautiful bull, Dwayne, the father for many of the young cattle in our herd needs to be replaced soon so there aren’t complications with keeping him separate from his daughters. He has been a good, intelligent bull, with a placid personality and it will be a shame to see him go. We are hoping we can swap him with another farm – this is how we acquired Dwayne, and it was a very successful plan for us then, so fingers crossed!
A major clear up of the orchard happened last week. When we arrived at the farm some 15 years ago, there were no fruit trees. Old maps revealed where the farm’s orchard used to be, and the hope had been to replant it there. However, that site was now the ‘compound’ where the farm machinery is stored. An adjacent field was chosen, and with the help of a grant, a variety of plums, damsons, apples, perry pears and cherries were planted. The grant was to create a traditional orchard, so the trees had to be standard or half standard in size, which means the trees will grow up to 5-6m or so.
Unfortunately, the chosen field turned out to be very wet. Not only did a pond overflow into the field, but it appeared there were no land drains. Despite fixing the problem with the pond, a run of wet winters and summers has meant that some of the trees were sat in water for long periods, which weakened the apple trees so much that they eventually died. Advice has been to replant each tree on a small mound to lift the root ball above ground level and improve soil drainage. Alternatively, perhaps we should try a drier site? Another thing for us to consider this winter – and hopefully we can make plans for a spring planting.
We should mention the interesting conversations on the Pasture Fed group about horned cattle and abattoirs. Quite a few Biodynamic ‘myths’ debunked, and good to read the words of several long-standing BD farmers amongst the group. Also, good to hear a unified calling for small, local abattoirs to be supported once again – for the animal’s wellbeing always. Sometimes the simple and obvious is made to seem so extravagant or un-advanced, and yet…
Hands up with our confession – without the education, curiosity, skill, energy and time that Adrian possessed in spades, we find it hard to write these notes, however, we now have a diary in the farmhouse kitchen for our day’s notes – and having this is important for anchoring us, useful as both an exercise, and discipline.
It somehow reminded us of how much we used to love watching Clive James together at the weekend. In that link, worthy of the Radio 2 of Wogan’s time, here is one of Clive James favourite poems, which we also feel an affinity for:
All Nature Has a Feeling by John Clare (1845)All nature has a feeling: woods, fields, brooks
Are life eternal: and in silence they
Speak happiness beyond the reach of books;
There’s nothing mortal in them; their decay
Is the green life of change; to pass away
And come again in blooms revivified.
Its birth was heaven, eternal is its stay,
And with the sun and moon shall still abide
Beneath their day and night and heaven wide.