For a man who took Remembrance Day very much to heart, it was serendipity which saw his funeral take place on the 11th of November. A very peaceful funeral, just as he had so clearly, and helpfully requested. The light was extraordinarily clear, and the sunset brought much peace to us. Adrian is now looking over the fields towards Rush Farm, keeping a good eye over us all.
We are very touched and greatly supported by your responses to last week’s email. Adrian, as we knew, will be much missed by many more than us here. Thank you very much for taking the time to write and share your condolences.
Going forward, it is quite possible that while we find our feet with the farm News and Updates, you decide that without the width or breadth of Adrian’s thoughts to share, you would prefer to no longer receive this email. If that is so, please let me know by reply.
For now, please find our Farm News and Updates below.
Now, to the farm, and this week covering these last two weeks since we wrote on the 30th October.
It has been a very strange few weeks, as might be expected. Luckily for Chris, Anne and I, Tim timed his return from holiday perfectly, and we have been able to take stock a little more easily than might have been.
I would like to write a few sentences about Grandpa’s funeral before starting on the farm. The weather on the day provided us with the most beautiful light, and the family gathered around to read poems and sing, accompanied by some of the more talented members on their various instruments. This was followed by his favourite snacks, milky way bars, jelly babies and gallons of hot chocolate. It was a special afternoon in its own way, and I am sure grandpa will be happy with his view.
The damp weather has continued over the last two weeks, although the torrents that were the main feature of the end of October have eased to much more manageable showers with plenty of stunning clear blue skies – the early winter light is quite spectacular. All this means that the fields are (for the most part) still growing strongly.
Despite this recent rain, the latest information from the met office is that we have barely had 50% of our expected annual rainfall for this time of year in England. Interestingly Scotland is nearer 60%, and our fellow farmers in Northern Ireland have had to cope with over 100% of expected rainfall so far this year. I recently listened to an interview with Jeremy Clarkson (unlike Grandpa I must admit to being a fan of Top Gear) in which he highlighted the importance of offering sympathy to farmers when they complain about the weather – never a truer word was said as it seems to be increasingly difficult to predict the weather patterns beyond a couple of days or weeks!
The scrape is looking good and full once more, and I was very happy to spot a family of geese resting for a while as they prepare for their great migration. The variety of birdsong on the farm has really dropped off as winter approaches, however this is made up for with the clarity of the remaining birds. It was only this year that I really began to appreciate how beautiful the robin’s song is. Sitting next to Grandpa last week in the quiet of his adopted bedroom, with the morning sun streaming through the window, and the robins’ singing in the apple tree outside is a memory I will treasure.
Incidentally, this apple tree, which has played such an important role in the family life of the farm, witnessing countless births, weddings and deaths over the centuries, was one of Grandpa’s favourite trees. Following a discussion with him about our plans for the orchard by the business park, we have saved some seeds from this tree and are going to attempt to grow some saplings from them. There is currently a bag of apple seeds surrounded by damp moss lurking in the fridge! The crate of apples we sent to Pershore College has been pressed and we are looking forward to receiving the bottles in time for Christmas.
On the subject of Christmas, and specifically Christmas dinner, the news of the avian flu lockdown was very sad. Although we don’t have commercial fowl on the farm and so aren’t affected, we all know those who are, and it is heart-breaking to hear of farmers having to keep their birds inside, or in extreme cases cull them. Not only is this economically impacting, but it exacts a significant emotional toll on the farmer (let alone the birds) that is not conveyed in the headlines. Of course, I am no epidemiologist, but the number of escaped man-made viruses that are bouncing around now is quite frightening.
In much happier news, and looking forward to the new growth of spring, our rams went in with the breeding flock last Sunday. After a couple of weeks next to their ladies they were in something of a fever pitch and wasted no time in getting to work. We are hoping with this, and the reduced flock size, that lambing won’t drag on for weeks and weeks as it often does. Lambing is an incredible time, and one of the highlights of the farming year in my opinion, but it soon loses its lustrer after a week or so of no sleep! Irritatingly, only a few days after going in, one of our Lleyn rams became extremely lame. It looks like it could be kidney stones, so he has had to be withdrawn and moved to the barn for safe keeping. He did manage a few days of good work though, and the Vendéen and other Lleyn will take up the slack. It is amazing that some rare and renowned rams are bought and sold for up to a quarter of a million pounds an animal – an animal we must remember, which shares a similar desire to die for no apparent reason as the ewes!
The suckler herd were moved into the barn for winter on Wednesday. Although the fields aren’t waterlogged, the cows were starting to make their presence felt on the pastures. There haven’t been any new calves born, but this is no bad thing as we have nearly 100 cattle now, which is at the very limit of what we are equipped for here. Our next TB test is scheduled for 13th December, and we are desperately hoping for a clear test as we will then be able to move stock off the farm. There are quite a number of young stock who are looking very fine indeed and could be moved on…
Sadly, one of our orphaned cows somehow injured itself badly, and was unable to stand up. Crouched in a field trying to get a poorly calf to drink with the rain lashing against an already sodden coat, and the trees whipping around overhead, is quite an experience. I’ve had a few moments like this so far in my brief time farming, and although tough, it really brings home that agriculture is really real life, and I am so grateful to fate for landing me here.
Elsewhere on the farm winterization has begun, with our marvellous volunteer Tom preparing the water troughs which will not be needed over the winter and tidying up pipes to protect them from ice damage. The hedge cutter has also been on the farm this week, trimming our hedges along the road by the drive, and the bridle path. We don’t cut a hedge two years in a row, to allow for proper growth and habitat development, but it is important to maintain the hedges as a surprising amount of land can be lost. The young stock have also been moved to a new pasture and won’t be brought into the barn just yet.
This weekend we moved the lambs from field 13 over the river to its neighbour which is next to the barn. This makes it much more convenient to weigh the lambs, which was useful as this Sunday we sorted 16 cull ewes and 14 fat lambs to go off the farm on Monday. Later in the week we are expecting 30 of the smaller ones to be moved off the farm to be ‘finished’, or fattened up, elsewhere. Getting 60 lambs off the farm will ease the burden on the pastures even further, and generate some much-needed income, especially as lamb prices this year have been fairly reasonable.
Of course, Grandpa always ended these notes with a poem, however I’m not sure I could do this justice at the moment. So, for now I will look forward to the week ahead as we end this strange week with the most spectacular clear skies and sunset.