The farm is in ‘good heart’

Well winter is trying to come but so far, although it is certainly slightly colder, we have seen little sign of snow or hard frosts. As you will appreciate here on the farm, a mild winter brings its own problems as, to a degree, we rely on the cold to kill off ‘nasties’. What we also need to have is rain despite the problems that can bring especially in terms of bedding.

The farm is in a ‘holding pattern’

There is little activity to report as regards the farm since we are still in the ‘holding pattern’ I have described before. With the TB testing process not due for three weeks our nerves are not yet jangling, though concerns about feed remain. When the expected arrival of organic silage happens, some of that anxiety will fall away. An anxiety heightened by the possibility of ‘the beast from the east’ actually hitting us – fairly obviously stock, as much as humans, need extra calories as the temperature drops.


The side of the barn housing the suckler herd – now increased in number by movement across of two heifers – has hopefully had its final clearance of the winter while the cattle are indoors. Thirteen loads of bedding came out. This coming week the other side of the barn will also have its second clearing out. The cow with ‘a lump’ shows no sign of distress and all the cattle have been treated with ‘spot on’ as the lice had returned. This is one of those problems that seems never to go away and is of course exacerbated by the folds of skin that Hereford cattle characteristically have.

Ewes and lambs

The ewes continue to look well. The small number of remaining lambs however are clearly struggling to retain conformity and weight. This is not that unexpected since by now we have sold the best lambs. Interestingly it is conformity which is sliding more than weights. They are on new grass now but will need moving again sometime next week.

Progress in the wood

Jack is making good progress in the wood, but we are all disappointed that the hundreds of native trees we planted have failed to thrive despite being protected from deer and being planted according to the book. Aside from working in the wood, he helps Tim with the feeding as well as a host of smaller jobs.

Our land is in ‘good heart’

On Friday morning we had Jonathan Boas join us for our farm meeting. He farms some 600 acres of arable land and has the contract from Natural England to carry out the cultivation and sowing of our new seed mixes. Though not an organic farmer, he uses as little fertiliser and ‘nasties’ as possible. He is a great enthusiast for the environment and the wildlife. He also has a store of interesting stories and, from our point of view, very valuable experience to share. Chris took him round the farm to see for himself the fields he would be working in. Moreover, he was generous in his admiration for our cattle and felt our land was in ‘good heart’ – impossible to ask for more!

But I need to say we still await confirmation that we will be accepted onto the Higher Tier Stewardship agreement, and no money will be spent until that is in the bag. 

Bird life survey

Some good but totally unexpected news is that Gert Corfield is intending to carry out a survey of bird life on the farm. Since we had not heard from him since he carried out a similar activity in 2011, we are, as you can imagine, delighted to welcome him back. As, I remember it, that survey which did not include the birds around the farmhouse, listed some 68 species and provided a field map showing where each species had been seen. In theory, although we have given up growing cereals, the tally in 2019 shouldn’t be smaller. If it is, one thing that can be ruled out, aside from the cessation of cereal growing, is that it is part of a regional change.

Radio 3, Prokofiev and Micheal Shepherd

When it is possible, I frequently listen to Radio 3 on a Saturday morning when between 9.30 and 10.20 I am allowed to listen in to an extraordinary world. At that time there is a review of recordings of a particular piece of music. Recently it was Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto, not a piece I would go out of my way to listen to. The reviewer had apparently worked her way through 50 recordings dating from the 1930’s to the present day. The approach is to break the piece into sections and then the reviewer to play several versions of each piece followed by a discussion of the merits and/or weaknesses of each excerpt. 

For me this is very much like listening to a wine or malt whisky connoisseur – I understand the words but relating them to what, in this instance, I have listened to, is usually quite impossible. That the reviewer is sincere, I take on trust, as I do their professional competence but beyond that …But it is quite fascinating, especially when it is a work that I am unfamiliar with. Is it real?…who knows! Would I act on their conclusion?…possibly – it is a magical world though!

The poem that I think is just right for this time of year is that by John Clare: The shepherds’ calendar – January. Sadly, that part of the poem for January is too long for including in these notes but it has to be one of the greatest of his poems and really, really worth reading.

However, at the start of the week we did indeed have some sunshine and spirits were at once lifted, hence the poem that follows – there may even be a moral in it!

January – by Micheal Shepherd

and the afternoon sunlight
lasted that little bit longer
like an unexpected, perfect Christmas present
that got delayed in the mail
and I’m filled with a sheer gratitude
that somehow passed me by
in long, hot, lazy, selfish, glorious

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