Each time I sit down to write our newsletters it seems that something more incredible has happened in our seemingly mad world - never in a million years did I think that (in the immortal words of the Wurzels) we would be able to say ‘I’ve got a brand new combine harvester’… Eek…but now we do! The plan, yes there is one, is that as the pigs dig over the ground each year, that we follow them by planting corn, barley etc. to help take up some of the excess nutrients and particularly copper, which is fatal to sheep, before re-seeding to grass that the sheep can graze once again. Ian ploughed and planted our first crop of barley on a small 1.2 acre field this weekend. Amazingly no more new tractors to report this quarter - a combine is quite enough thank you… but given we need to build a shed extension to fit the combine under cover, that is a good thing. The grain will be milled to feed to the animals and the straw will be used for the pigs’ bedding in their arks - oh yes, and we have also had to buy a grain tower to store it in... kind of feels like a ‘real’ farm now.
We have been immersed in lambing it seems for ever. The new Kerry Hills started lambing on February 20th, followed by the Balwens on Easter weekend. We still have 2 left to go who were obviously crossing their legs at the appropriate moment in the autumn. But, it has been a brilliant lambing; 15 Kerry lambs from 10 ewes, and so far 58 Balwen lambs from 45 ewes. There are quite a few Balwen first-time lambers so there have been more singles than twins but this is likely to change next year. We sadly lost one lamb (we can only presume to a fox) as there was no sign of it when I discovered it missing in the morning light, but that has been the only casualty out of 70+ lambs. For the most part the sheep have managed lambing on their own; we only had to seriously intervene with 3 mispresented lambs. We will be keeping all the Kerry ewe lambs to increase our breeding flock numbers and most of the Balwen ewe lambs are already reserved for customers but at the moment we are running at 150 sheep in total... Eek
There have been many sleepless nights, one particular was memorable as, as soon as one sheep finished lambing, the next seemed to start - and in the middle of it all (3am), ‘Belinda’, our new sow, chose to have her first litter of 11 piglets and has proved to be the best mum of all the pigs so far. Next year we will try to time it so the pigs don’t farrow during lambing as well!
Our website www.southyeofarm.co.uk is in the process of being updated so do make sure you take a look in a couple of weeks time.
The chicken have excelled themselves and we’ve sold literally 100’s of hatching eggs; having a 2 month waiting list for some. I haven’t been able to keep up with the live bird orders though, and have been running 3 x 50-egg incubators side by side, so the chicken bought themselves a monster 400-egg incubator last week which I am about to press into first use… the idea being that we can load a tray of eggs each week and keep it going non-stop… which presents the next problem, how to manage all the young once they come out the other end? I now have 2 garden sheds in the farmyard fitted out to raise the chicks under heat until they are old enough to go outside but could do with more, so if you have a spare shed or are planning on replacing one, please do let me know asap!
We hatched some goslings from the West of England geese and one of the females is sitting tight on a nest and due to hatch in the next couple of days. She has around 14 eggs under her so fingers crossed… As you can tell, so far things have been somewhat busy this spring and I have to thank one very kind friend who happened to stop by one day when everything was getting just a bit much. She came back 2 Fridays in a row to help me to catch up and literally spent the entire time cleaning out chicken houses for which I am eternally grateful (what friendship!) - and so are the chicken!
Ian has had an extremely busy spring with his Audio installation work but has now booked out May and June to work full time on the farm and barn restoration. He has completed the first floor, put in temporary stairs and the plan is to take the roof off during May, to fix the walls and get the ring-beam installed in readiness for my father who is coming over from Canada to help put on the oak timber frame roof in the first 2 weeks of June. Do we ever get a rest? …No because after that it will be hay making time… Someone who visited the farm recently asked if I ‘work’ now… hmm… about 7am-9pm pretty much 7 days a week… not much really.
We ran a living willow sculpture course in the drizzling rain for 13 surprisingly chipper attendees in January and all is sprouting well now - a new arbour to relax in on those 3 days a year when we might actually stop for a ½ hour. This month we will be building an otter holt during an ‘Otter and River Habitat’ workshop day and next month are 2 Beginners Poultry courses. If you fancy either of those, please get in touch as there are still some spaces.
Finally, we tried out a couple of new butchers for bacon and sausages and have been extremely pleased with the flavoursome results. We currently have available for sale: sweet dry cured and smoked back bacon (in smaller packets of approx. 6 rashers each), gammon steaks, and banger-like sausages in herb, leek and apple flavours. There are 2 pigs going off next week but they are both spoken for as ½ pigs for the freezer for repeat customers. So the next fresh pork/sausages/bacon etc will be in July time, so do let us know if you would like to reserve some. Oh, yes, and lamb… owing to the rapid population increase, there will be plenty more lamb boxes this autumn/winter so if you fancy trying a box of either Balwen or Kerry lamb, please let us know so we can reserve one for you - and do tell your friends!
One last thing, we will be going to the Smallholders Fayre near Bodmin with a stand again this year on the last bank-holiday in May, so do come along and say hello if you fancy a nice day out.
Please let us know if you think this quarterly newsletter is a good idea, what you’d like to hear more about, what to miss out, suggestions for the lay-out etc. - or if you would rather be removed from our mailing list.