Seeding is done!

In the last fortnight, we have moved from overnight frosts to +16 degrees this week. No wonder the natural world is confused! The daffs are nearly over, the early cherry trees in blossom, the hawthorn leaves are giving the hedgerows a cheery green hue, and the blackthorn and damson are coming into bloom now. Hares are plentiful across the farm, and bird song is getting louder.

The rain has continued to fall, and just to help us illustrate how much rain we have had here, the reservoir for the flow form which sits in the Triangle – the field between the drive to the house and the drive to the business park – is full of rainwater and is still being pushed out of the ground by the ground water level being so high. A lot of water, and clearly, a lot of pressure from that water.

Despite, or perhaps, in spite of the rain, the work in the Field 11 garden is progressing well. Seeding has taken place inside the polytunnel, and directly into the ground. The composting is nearly completed, and a plan for hand spraying the garden with 500 next week is in hand. Nematodes are ordered and can’t come soon enough as the slugs are out and about already. The use of a mini polytunnel inside the polytunnel has meant the beetroot seedlings didn’t feel the cold last week when we had overnight frosts. Two candles burning overnight (safely of course) gave 3-4 degrees of additional warmth.

Across the farm, the owl boxes are now in place, and with a Barn Owl and Tawny Owl both chatting through the night earlier this week, we have hopes the boxes will be found and used. The main flock ewes are all doing well with roughly 3 weeks to go until lambing begins, the barn is being prepared. They have been sorted so that the triplets and any sheep that need a little extra care are separated from the twins and singles. The pregnant Shetland ewes are also doing well and enjoying their new pasture in the orchard and making the acquaintance of the Guinea Fowl. They are very glad for the hill, as this is the small area of dry land!

In the herd, we have had one bull calf arrive safely, and we will be keeping him as a bull. He is a strapping calf, full of energy. With the last bull calf called Alfred, we have registered this second calf Alexander. With Alfred calm, and Alexander the opposite, we feel they are taking after their namesakes well! We are at TB testing once more and are currently waiting on the results. Fingers, and toes, are crossed.

On the business park, Village Fabrics have settled in well and are planning a grand opening event here on Saturday 6th April. Not just Yvonne, and her daughter Helen, but also special celebrity guest John Scott from Sewing World – sewing experts all, they are really excited to be here having been working based in Wallingford for the last 20 years. Now they are bringing their talents and specialist expertise in quilting and patchwork to Stockwood, A lovely event to look forward to, and please do extend this invite to any quilters in your family too.

In the last fortnight we have also gained a new respect for Highways England systems and processes, our local emergency services, and the integrity of an Ifor Williams trailer. A small but significant contretemps with the M5 has left us with a trailer that we think we can help back into shape, although we are now needing a new Landrover, and we have realised that we have four very clever cows who have earnt their reprieve, and most importantly, a very clever Brendan who managed to step out of the vehicle with only a few bumps and bruises. We owe a big thanks to local farmer and friend Will, who was able and willing to share his time and vehicles to retrieve the cattle with Chris; the local vet called by Highways England who was superb, and thanks too, to the lorry drivers who stopped the traffic to check everyone was ok.  Finally, a nod to the course Chris and Brendan attended on transporting livestock. It turns out it was a very useful and well worth attending.

At the close of a fortnight which had contained emotional highs and lows, and where we are still cat on a hot tin roof about the TB results, this poem – which contrasts the cow, the epitome of peace, with the troubles of humans – feels only right. We dedicate it to our awesome four cattle who took on the M5 and won!

Our Cow, by C J Dennis

Down by the slipralls stands our cow
  Chewing, chewing, chewing,
She does not care what folks out there
  In the great, big world are doing.
She sees the small cloud-shadows pass
  And green grass shining under.
If she does think, what does she think
  About it all, I wonder?
She sees the swallows skimming by
  Above the sweet young clover,
The light reeds swaying in the wind
  And tall trees bending over.
Far down the track she hears the crack
  of bullock-whips, and raving
Of angry men where, in the sun,
  Her fellow-beasts are slaving.
Girls, we are told, can scratch and scold,
  And boys will fight and wrangle,
And big, grown men, just now and then,
  Fret o’er some fingle-fangle,
Vexing the earth with grief or mirth,
  Longing, rejoicing, rueing –
But by the slipralls stands our cow,

Last but not least, for those that read to the end, a little comedy, care of the internet.

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