Hi there glob-watchers! I’m sorry its been so long since my last post – its been super hectic round here.
I want to catch you up on the happenings, but also give you a flavour of how it feels to be down here properly at last.
The first batch of pigs arrived last Tuesday and we are very pleased with them. They are Briish Saddlebacks and very fine examples they are. There are 5 gilts (female pigs), all from a rare Essex line. We plan to keep two to breed from and if the breed society will allow it we will be calling them Pamela and Dawny in honour of their essex roots and our love of Gavin and Stacey. Three of these pigs will be going to the butchers in due course. You probably know we sell them as half pig freezer packs. All of these pigs are spoken for now, so we are starting a waiting list for the next batch which should arrive at the end of the month.
We had an exciting day with the Radio 4 broadcast. Unfortunately we are not able to publish the podcast, so if you missed it you will have to wait until we take over from Adam on Country File!! The Radio people were great and seemed genuinely interested in our project.
We have had to take some stringent anti-fox measures after a day-time raid that left us with only 18 birds. Its a tough business trying to out-fox the fox, but we are pleased with the measures taken so far and have more still to implement. Foxes are deterred by pigs so we have set up the pig pen to surround the chicken house. In addition to our electric poultry netting we have introduced an “anti-dig” wire just outside the enclosure and I am working on filling in the gaps under the main field fence where I think he is coming through. We are keeping all grass around the pen short to reduce his cover and are contemplating an electric fence in a ring around the whole site. I want to be sure we have the situation under control before stocking up with a lot of birds again. This is causing a delay in starting egg round marketing etc, but we are having to play a long game. It would be so much better if we were living on site, because despite being cheeky and coming in the middle of the day, we have never had a fox strike when we are on site – he’s as wiley as an old fox….
We have weaned our lambs from their mothers – a difficult decision with pro’s and con’s in terms of leaving them with mum. In the end and on balance I have decided that in the intersts of the ewes we should wean the lambs. At the moment the ewes are in the barn on a diet of straw and water to help them “dry up” quickly. After 24 hours everyone seemed to settle down, and the lambs are thriving. One of the ram lambs is now in with Kermit our ram – to keep him company. The other two might find their way to the freezer in the autumn. We are looking for three more ewes to integrare into the flock ready for tupping time.
I’m not quite into what you would call a regular routine yet, but there are daily duties – feeding and watering all the livestock, checking everyone looks well and is growing properly etc. Watering the vegatables has been a big job through the terrifically dry period we have just experienced.
With help from visitors we are starting to get on top of the weeds in the veg plot. The grass (weeds) needs regular cutting at the moment as we allow the new grass and clover to establlish. It is progressing well considering it has had about the worst start a grass ley could hope for – late sowing due to drought last September, the coldest winter for a lifetime, followed by the driest first half of a year on record! Its coming well and providing sufficient sustinance for our lovely little flock of Ryeland sheep.
Working here every day I am starting to get a feel for the place, the land, the wildlife and the weather. I’ve resolved to keep a nature diary to record flowers, weather, visitors etc. The weekend before last a flock of corn buntings appeared and they seem to be hanging around – this afternoon while I was mowing they all landed on the barn roof. It is a real joy to watch them flocking around the holding. Our irrepressible skylarks provide the signature tune of Willow Farm – if you heard the Farming Today broadcast you will have heard them. Yesterday I saw a pair of yellow wagtails – I have never seen these delightful birds before. We had regular grey wagtail visitors in Derbyshire and I have found the pied wagtail wherever we have kept pigs. The yellow wagtail has a shorter tail than the others, but its bright colouring makes it really stand out.
I’ll have to go, because its time to feed the pigs. Keep well glob-watchers, thanks to you all for your support.