We’ve made hay! Beautiful sweet hay… at long last the weather was in our favour and the barn has a goodly stack of hay for the sheep and horse this winter. We still have 2 small fields to make which should then give us enough to get through this season - as our animal numbers have increased we no longer have enough to sell, so hay making is all the more stressful.

June hay making

What other news of the past few months?… lots of work on the barn, the end really IS in sight, although not August as we had planned. We have both been working on it and are now painting like fury, installing the slate floors, and now the ceiling lights are in, can work late in to the evening, so there is no excuse. I wont include any photos now until it is finished so you can be really wowed.

The sheep have all been shorn and again look amusingly like goats with their long tails. We sell their fleeces to spinners, weavers and other crafts people but this year were lucky to be contacted by a film studio wanting native fleeces to dress a medieval film set, so half went off by courier to feature in the background behind… Russell Crowe… Mmm… I have been to a few wool and fleece events and have about ¼ of them left, so am pleased with progress on that front - whether I will have time to spin myself (as was the intention when we first started with the sheep) we will have to see… The Shropshire lambs have been weaned and the ram will go back with the ewes in late August for January 2010 lambs. The Balwen & Kerry Hill ewe lambs are all reserved and one lucky ram is being exported to France - just going through that process which is interesting. The first lambs will be going to the butchers next month if you fancy a half or whole lamb box - we can mail order if required, do let us know.

Hide-and-seek at the farm

Poultry has been the main-stay this year. I honestly cannot say how many birds we have hatched to sell, but easily in excess of 1500. The incubator has been running constantly since January; I am now trying to run it down but keep being tempted to just pop in a few more… Initially we were hatching once a fortnight and now once a week. We have added some more breeds and have a wish list (marked *) for new ones to add next year, now including:

. Andalusian
. Araucana, lavender
. Barnevelder, Blue laced
. Barnevelder, double laced
. Croad Langshan, black *
. Dorking, Dark*
. Dorking, Silver Grey
. Hamburg, Silver Spangled
. Ixworth
. La Fleche
. Lakenvelder *
. Legbar, Cream
. Light Sussex
. Maran, Cuckoo
. Maran, French Copper Black
. Maran, French Copper Blue
. Old English Pheasant Fowl
. Orpington, Buff

. Pekin, Blue *
. Plymouth Rock *
. Red Jungle Fowl
. Rhode Island Red
. Salmon Faverolle *
. Sultan *
. Sussex, Speckled *
. Thuringien *
. Vorwerk
. Welsummer
. Wyandotte, Blue Laced (bantam)

. Cayuga duck
. Aylesbury, Exhibition duck
. Campbell, Khaki duck

. West of England geese

New breeds means new houses and we have sourced some fantastic moveable arks from a local manufacturer; I have visions of the field completely full of houses in rotation… (don’t tell Ian or he will want more tractors to compensate)! All the West of England goslings that hatched were all pre-booked and most went to new homes in northern England/Scotland so we drove up and met customers near Manchester and exchanged goose gossip and goslings in a lay-by off the motorway! Then drove back collecting some hatching eggs on the way - of course! According to feedback we seem to be establishing a good reputation so we are very pleased.

New life - female West of England gosling hatching

The pigs have been a bit problematic this spring/summer; not ill, just not pregnant... It seems the boar didn’t manage to cover them during the winter when they were inside, but at long last one of the 2 sows that should have farrowed in May and early July farrowed yesterday and the other looks like she will follow soon. Embarrassingly, for the first time we have orders for weaners that probably takes us through the next 3 litters so this delay is affecting customers too. Still, the gap will allow us to play catch up on the freezer contents as we are running out of space (hint). There are lots of sausages, chops and spare ribs if you need to stock up for the BBQ or joints and bacon… (blatant marketing bit)

This one goes...

Wildlife on the farm continues in the back ground; this year’s Southern Marsh orchid count is over 110 from the original 1 flower in 2001, the yellow rattle patch in the hay field has grown to cover easily 100 square metres allowing other wild flowers to come through, and around the pond, bull rush and broad leaved pondweed have appeared this year - I have been so tempted to introduce plants to the pond but really haven’t, so whatever is there has come naturally - our own little experiment. On the down side, I spent some time pulling invasive Himalayan Balsam from the river banks today; seed has washed in from off our property & is sadly increasing each year.

OK… no newsletter would be complete without an update on the tractor situation - I’m sure we mentioned that we had sold a few in the last newsletter but somehow we have acquired not 1 but 2 in the last month!!! The latest from near Milton Keynes, but well worth the trip - even I approve of that one, a 1949 DB Cropmaster in immaculate condition with 2 seats side-by-side so we can both go out together. The combine is in pieces being fixed after the frost did its worst to it during the cold winter, and the pressure is on as the barley is beginning to turn and will be ready for harvesting soon, that should be fun. Oh, and that means the grain tower needs finishing as well, so there is no end of jobs needing doing - get the picture?!

Holiday?... We obviously can’t get away so decided to book off a few days and camp at the top of the farm with the dogs and a lovely view towards Hatherleigh moor. The plan was to whiz down each morning, let out birds, feed things and return to ‘camp’ for the day and repeat in reverse in the evening. All went well the first day but naturally that was the week the hay needed making, eggs needed posting wool packaging and couriering, the incubator was hatching… It was lovely though and the dogs slept in the foyer of the tent at night and were so well behaved despite the complete change to their routine.

We are hoping to have a farm and grand barn office open day in October so will forward you details of that soon. In the meantime, have a great summer and do drop by to stock up your freezers!

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