Sunday morning, and what a beautiful sight – Jack Frost visited in the night and turned the brown to white! The perfect morning for a walk across the farm. As dawn breaks, nobody else is up, and the only sound is birdsong. A visit to the wood is long overdue, and the walk is accompanied by the drumming and then call of the woodpecker, buzzards mewing, and Canada geese flying overhead.  

The wood is decorated with frosted spider’s webs that hand from the branches like exquisite Christmas decorations. The leaves are once more crunchy underfoot, such a noise that any wildlife surely will be scared away as we walk! It is a wet wood, and a lot of the saplings have mossy britches that look like little Christmas trees. A mini forest, the perfect size for the gnomes.  

Back onto the pasture, and the scrapes are frozen once more. A deer stands in the field opposite. We have seen deer in fields 4, 5 and 6. Being able to watch them gracefully leap the fences and seemingly float across the field is a great privilege. On closer inspection we can see the highways they use, identifying the footprints of the native roe deer, and the much smaller prints of introduced muntjac.  

Looking carefully, we see a brown bump, slightly proud of the white grass turns out to be two brown hares who dash away!  For the most part, it has been a clear, cold and icily beautiful week. There have been haw frosts more mornings than not, and the daily routine of checking and feeding the animals has also involved smashing the two-inch thick ice on all of the outside water troughs. Luckily temperatures haven’t dropped to the level just after Christmas, but we did find one bust pipe in field 5 which needed a new tap fitting. 

This has been a week in the life of Rush Farm that Adrian would have enjoyed very much. We sold some of our young stock and successfully moved them off the farm. Then we sold some more. With TB no longer in our way, we can do what we need to do to care for our stock, and breath some life into the dust bunnies also known as the farm’s bank account! 

With Tim away from the farm looking after his mother, the help of a neighbour has been so useful, and early in the week we loaded twelve of our young stock on to the trailer to leave the farm. They were as good as gold, and it is excellent to have more room, and to be moving the animals on. 

On Sunday, with further reinforcements in the shape of Alice and Oliver, who had come up from Oxfordshire and Birmingham respectively, we prepared another fifteen of the young stock for the long journey to Hampshire and took the opportunity to run all of the young stock through the race to check on them all and give them their clostridial vaccination. Well, we prepared the fifteen who will be leaving next week, and an extra one because it turns out that when it is that cold, none of us can count…! 

Although by and large it has been a positive week for the cows, there was sad news on Wednesday as our remaining orphaned calf had to be put down. These moments are always deeply sad, especially when you have been nursing an animal for effectively its whole life. It really brings home the importance of a mother’s care, as all three of the calves who lost their mothers due to TB didn’t make it to a year old. At the time, our conversation with Defra regards the ‘inhumanity’ of their decisions left a bad taste in all our mouths, and so now, having lost all three, we continue to despair at the lack of apparent ‘joined up’ thinking in these cases.   

With rain in the near future forecast, we acknowledge that the clear crisp mornings of this last week have made walking the farm much more pleasant; The poached ground is frozen solid and much easier to walk over! Rain is still needed too though, so we will try to be sanguine.  

Talking of which, you may have seen as we have that Defra has announced the rates for the various countryside stewardship schemes for 2023. They “claim” an average rise of 10%, which will, if true, be very welcome, but before we react, we shall wait for the details.  

While we continue to find our feet in this new year, we would like to move to a fortnightly Rush Farm News & Updates for a little while. There seems so much to juggle until we are more settled in our new routines.  So, until we write again, a little something to give us all a smile:

A Silly Poem, by Spike Milligan

Said Hamlet to Ophelia, 
I’ll draw a sketch of thee, 
What kind of pencil shall I use? 
2B or not 2B? 

From the farm, thank you. 

Anne, Chris & Brendan 

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