Happy belated New Year to all our friends and customers - and welcome to our 5th newsletter.

At the end of the last newsletter I mentioned that Ian had acquired yet another tractor to add to the collection. Unbelievably almost as soon as we were back from holiday after Christmas the last one in the ‘set’ miraculously became available so now the collection is complete and I am assured that will be that for a while - I’d like to open a sweepstake on how long it’ll take for another to appear!

Ha! Restore this...

As a concession to all this tractor buying, he put up no resistance when I suggested we branch out and keep a second breed of sheep (no I’m not starting my own variety collection as well). There were a few I had in mind and we went to view some locally and somehow a viewing turned in to buying 14… so in 3 weeks time the first of our new Kerry Hill ewes will start lambing. They should be finished before the main flock of 37 balwens get going as well - a long drawn out lambing this year - but I can’t wait! The Kerrys are very striking with their black eye patches and muzzles, but I can’t get used to white (or off-white now) sheep. Several people have since said ‘Oh… Kerry’s, they have a bit of a reputation don’t they?’ - as escape artists and jumpers apparently, but so far they haven’t proved to be a problem and can’t possibly jump around more than the fleet footed Balwens. We’ll see… The first lambs ordered for the freezer are going off this month - there’s one left from last season’s lambs if you are tempted.

Kerry Hills

We took the rams away from the ewes a couple of weeks ago before they do damage to the ewes by butting them with their curly horns at the feed trough - and so to another problem, how to introduce 2 pumped up rams to one another without them killing each other. My first attempt very nearly ended in a fatal fight so they were separated straight away and kept in 2 paddocks with only a fence between them so they could get used to eachother first. Today they obviously decided the time was right and with a loud crack, one butted and broke the gate fixing post, the gate swung open and ram 1 joined ram 2 with little fuss, so they are now (happily) together - no doubt scheming how to get back to the ewes.

Yummy Bacon and Gammon

New arrivals

As I write this ‘Bea’, one of our pigs, has just farrowed her second litter of 12 piglets. During the day she constructed a deep nest of straw by scraping with her feet and gathering it (and anything else she can grab) in her mouth - it really is a beautiful touching site to watch. Looking back at my notes her last litter was born at night too and all but one came backwards so I like to be on hand to help in case of problems - this time in dressing gown and wellies much to the bemusement of the neighbouring pigs…

‘Betty’ is back with the boar and some of her little ones born in November have been sold for registered breeding. The remainder we shall keep for the next batch of pork and bacon - which reminds me, we collected 3 pigs worth of bacon and gammon back from the butchers this week so if you fancy some, let us know. The pig glut left over from the foot and mouth shut down last summer has nearly passed with only 3 left to go to the butcher. One lucky boar went off for breeding too. Our new gilt ‘Belinda’ is due to farrow in March so hopefully we are back on track for litters of pigs every 2 months and subsequent pork/bacon at 2 month intervals too. We are very pleased with the 2 butchers we now use but I also met a new chap recently who has been butchering for years and has his own on-farm cutting room where he hangs the meat for longer and is happy for me to assist with sausage making / packing etc with our own labels - the leap into professionalism we have been wanting to make. We’ll try him with the next batch.

The chicken are well and are starting to lay again after their winter break. I set the incubator running while we were away so that it was due to hatch 3 days after we got back. We had the best hatch ever - no doubt owing to the fact that I wasn’t prodding it every few hours - but sadly (and maddeningly) at 3 weeks a rat somehow got in and killed all of the growing chicks. I really need to address the rearing facilities this year now the main run is finished (or at least will be once the 2 pen extension is complete this weekend…) The order book is bulging which is really gratifying after only a year ‘in business’ - I took 6 orders in one day last week - most people are finding us through our website. I particularly like helping folks new to keeping chicken/sheep/pigs as I remember what it was like when we first started.

Gillian and Gem watching the chicks hatch

The barn is coming along - which is just as well as we need the training room up and running as soon as we can. We’ve got 7 courses planned so far this year including poultry for beginners, living willow sculpture, pond creation, otter holt construction and the ever popular tractor & machinery maintenance! We plan to take the roof off and re-install the new one in May-June so we’re praying for no rain - and then for it to continue so we can make the hay after that… Its never ending!

By the time I write the next newsletter we’ll be in the depth of lambing I expect - if you fancy popping out to see them, just give us a call in advance. We hope to catch up with you soon and wish you well for the Spring, please keep in touch.

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