Well, I call this the summer newsletter, but what has happened to the sun? Like many around us we have fields of grass still waiting to be cut for hay, but for the next week at least there is still no hope of that. It’s been fine up until now as we like to cut late anyway to let the wild flowers set seed, but the 3 fields we kept back for the sheep to graze are now getting a bit tight and they desperately need the new grass and we need the fields so we can wean the lambs - there, don’t I sound like a proper farmer having a moan! I shant even begin to mention our horror at learning of F&M in Surrey…
We have several developments to report since the last newsletter. Firstly, we had our first farm trade stand at the Pencarrow Smallholders Fair at the end of May; it is comical in hindsight but at the time was somewhat stressful: it went something like this…
Wednesday (4 days before show) - our banner is ready for collection but we discover it is missing a letter... get fixed and collect Thursday
3pm Thursday (3 days b.s.) - our 6x3m show tent finally arrives - the courier says “we've had it on the van for a while but no-one was coming out your way” - glad they could squeeze us in before the weekend... fume, fume...
4.30pm Friday (2 days b.s.), receive phone call saying Defra has forbidden birds to be taken to the show because of bird-flu outbreak in Wales - having been invited to the show specifically to display the rare breed birds we have and also having spent the whole year hatching young birds to take to the show to sell we were a) delighted at the news... b) rather overpopulated with young birds with no homes to go to c) left wondering what on earth to display at such short notice!
Sat (day b.s.) - hastily re think entire stand layout minus main event: birds
6:45am Sunday (show day) - leave home for show with packed trailer and confused bleating lamb; 7am stop for fuel to discover lamb is bleating ever louder out of one of the UPSTAIRS windows of the trailer and apparently ready to make a bid for freedom at high speed out of the rear of the box... not where we had put him - hastily unpack and re-pack trailer in the service station to create Fort Knox to stop lamb jumping out
8:30am arrive flustered and late to have lamb inspected by vet, Trading Standards not even glance at our paperwork (having made a big fuss about it); we speedily set up tent in the rain - next to someone whose tent had blown away during the night...
Pigs: We were very excited to meet a chef from one of our favourite restaurants that specialises in cooking locally produced food who is keen to use our pork and lamb on his menu - more than we could ever have hoped for, but just as well as we have had 2 litters of piglets in June and another in July (current pig population: 27). The first two were first-time mums and have done extremely well, getting the hang of things straight away. As I write 3 pigs have just been delivered to customers as ½ pigs and the remaining 2 are going for bacon and sausages hopefully in 2 weeks (F&M movement restrictions permitting) - which leaves us with a bit of a gap until Christmas when the next ones will be ready, so if you do want pork / gammon / bacon for Christmas do let us know in advance so we can keep some back for you as we seem to be in the happy situation of demand exceeding supply at the moment. Several of you have asked exactly what ½ pig looks like - so see the photo (above right). We used a new butcher this time and are delighted with his service (he actually did what was asked...); he can accomodate specific cut requests if you want larger/smaller joints. I am also working on putting together a pork & lamb leaflet which I can email out or which will be downloadable from our website: www.southyeofarm.co.uk
The sheep and lambs are doing very well; the lambs will be weaned soon (well, just as soon as the hay is cleared and the fields become available) and most will be sold on to a couple of customers who have holiday lets and are after attractive sheep to mow the grass for their holiday-makers to look at. We have also bought in an entire other flock of Balwens from someone nearby who has decided to focus on more commercial breeds, so our sheep numbers have rocketed temporarily to 94 and probably represent the largest flock of Balwens in the southwest. I take so much pleasure from watching them and the growing confidence of the lambs as they careen around the fields in the evening - the fact that they taste pretty good too is a bonus… I’m off to a wool event next weekend to see how we can market the wool more beneficially.
I honestly couldn’t say how many chicken there are here now (probably around 200 of various ages), but the egg and bird sales are going well; we even had a family from Yeovil travel down to collect some rare birds and another customer took 40 eggs back to France to hatch. The hatching room is full of cheeping chicks again and the dog is glued to the side of the cage watching devotedly.
Conservation: Judging by the way the water voles are going through their food now, there are plenty of young this year. We will be going through the pens to take off young for release within the next month or so - if anyone wants the opportunity to come along to help/watch please get in touch. Our conservation meadow is coming along beautifully; through careful management we’ve increased the number of Southern Marsh Orchids from 1 six years ago to 22 this year and for the second year running, yellow rattle, an indicator of old undisturbed pasture, has flowered and gone to seed.
The barn is coming on slowly; Ian took the floor down last week and Harry has been rebuilding one of the decrepit walls in traditional cob and stone. We’re both teaching courses again next month and have a farm walk looking at soil protection / nutrient management on 20th September at 10:30 am if you want to come along.
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