Hill House Farm Blog
June 22, 2012 · By Crisp
June is here – but still not flaming June. We desperately needed rain in May to get the grass growing and the cows out – but we have had more than enough now! It’s time to go silaging but the fields are too boggy, even on top of Dundry Hill!
The cows and young cattle are out and our sheep and lambs have been relocated to a neighbour’s orchard as living lawnmowers! The sheep are in need of a haircut but they must be dry for shearing, so that’s on hold too!
We have hosted several educational visits since my last update, and didn’t get too soggy as we ducked and dived around the rainstorms!
Our 2 pigs have now moved to another farm after disgracing themselves by breaking out and eating a large sack of corn intended for the cows! Early in the morning when the men went out to start milking the pigs were found looking very full and guilty by the milking shed! One even got quite aggressive when David and Paul tried to catch her.
Several cows have calved recently. The most recent calves are still sheltering in the barn and drinking milk but a few of the older calves are now out in their own little paddock, happily eating the grass and getting up to all sorts of mischief!
We took part in the Diamond Jubilee celebrations with a beacon up on the tump, the highest point on the farm, and the villagers came in good numbers to celebrate the occasion. It’s an ideal spot up here and we could see several other beacons in the area. Pleased to see that royalty, especially Prince Charles is an ardent supporter of organic farming. Long may that support reign!
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April 12, 2012 · By Crisp
The first spring calves are being born on the farm – a variety of colours: black and white British Friesians, grey and white Belgian Blues and brown and white Guernsey crosses. The brown and white Jacob ewe has had her first lamb too. Dad was a black Hebridian so the lamb is black, but with white spots from mum!
We’ve already had the first educational visit of the year – a Bristol school and local pre-school came to see the cows being milked and to visit all the animals who are still indoors. As soon as the grass starts growing they’ll go out - we’ll try and get some pictures!
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September 25, 2011 · By Gill
At last, we’re nearly at the end of the silly season. The silage, straw and haylage all safely gathered in and only one small paddock of hay still to go. It’s been a summer of ducking and diving around the weather with only a few days between the rain, but despite that we have managed to fill the hayshed and big bale area.
The summer has also seen lots of Hedgerow Safaris, mostly schools, but also Brownies on a day out, finishing their wildlife badge. We had a family fun day in August, which was well supported and, thankfully, the day was dry and the sun shone. There was a safari to the hedge to look at animals, plants and bugs led by Fin, Gill and Janey from OMSCo. There were animals to meet in the shed too: our wild lambs, who had consented to be rounded up, a new calf and two little Old Spot pigs. The latter a recent acquisition as part payment for some fencing work. A pen of Houdini chickens who were more out than in the pen completed the line up. Some visitors picnicked in the field; others partook of organic ploughman’s lunches or cream teas with lots of Yeo Valley organic dairy produce.
There was a flurry of creativity after lunch, producing flying bats, clay hedgehogs, mini beasts and corn figures. The parents seemed to enjoy it as much as the younger generation and event leader Fin showed himself to be multi-talented, as much at home here among the clay and pipecleaners as on safari in the hedge. Three wool spinners came along to show how to spin a sheep fleece, assuming you succeed in had rounding up and sheering your sheep.
David led a ramble to the bat cave (winter hibernation), up the Tump (a small hill to see the views) and the copse (our mini wood). Pond dipping was on offer and cows were looking over the wall in a nearby field, wondering who had invaded their domain. I think a good time was had by all – even a little lad who locked himself into one of the very successful composting toilets and had to be rescued with a screwdriver to the lock.
As we get near the end of August, other outdoor jobs are being addressed before winter. Dry stonewall restoration is under way, always an ongoing thing here as we have as many as hedges on this farm. Quite an acquired skill, knowing which rock to put where. This also provides an amazing wildlife habitat and it is surprising how many creatures like the stony nooks and crannies. They are very popular with frogs, toads and newts when they are not spawning in the pond.
Les has been busy with holiday craft workshops for children and also took the corn dolly making to a countryside day for schools at the North Somerset Agricultural Society showground. This was aimed at showing youngsters what farming is about and was attended by about 2,000 + school children. It certainly was a busy day with children everywhere, coming at you from all directions!
The next big event for us was the Dairy Event, which is held at the NEC Birmingham at the same time as our OMSCo AGM. Dave and Les volunteered for that big hardship – a day out leaving the rest of the family at home to do all the work.
As I write, nights are beginning to draw in and hawthorn and elder berries are appearing in the hedge as well as nearly ripe blackberries. Autumn is on the way. Our swallows have upped and left for warmer climates – sensible birds! A batch of calves have just been born – a few cows taking us by surprise and calving in the field and needing to be brought up to the farm for checking. This usually involves sitting the calf in the back of the 4 x 4 and hoping the cow will follow without trying to get in the vehicle with her calf. Our Friesian bull is currently in the naughty shed having decided to pen all the cows in a corner of the field away from water and grazing. Hopefully a few days there will improve his manners!
Our organic inspection and the end of year farm accounts are due soon so outdoor work is supposed to be balanced with lots of indoor paperwork and checking of records. This gets an instant response from the men folk, who suddenly find they have a multitude of urgent outdoor activities and disappear over the horizon until the paperwork is done. Hmmph!
Hopefully by the time of the next blog all this will have been dispatched and we will probably be digging out the woolly socks and hats and housing animals for the winter. Until then, keep drinking that organic milk and eating that organic dairy produce to make it all worthwhile!
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June 14, 2011 · By Crisp
June is here – spring has sprung and it feels quite summery, especially after all that lovely weather in May. Our four sheep are now nine! The three ewes had two sets of twins and one single. Their little legs are spring loaded and they kept escaping the pen! They are now in a neighbours’ orchard keeping the grass down around the trees and growing fast.
Several calves have been born – all without needing assistance. My favourite farm job has always been feeding milk to the calves and I got to do it for a week while Paul and his wife had a week in Wales. It beats farm paperwork (groan) every time. Talking of breaks, our holiday in Ireland was lovely. The farms on the west coast are very small with a few sheep or cows and our small farm would be a large one there. The land is very boggy in places with peat cutting a real rural industry and the term ‘Emerald Isle’ does apply, as the grass is very, very green.
Back at home our swallows have returned and produced their first lot of chicks, which have now fledged, although they are still trying to get the hang of flying and feeding efficiently. One chick is particularly stubborn and does not seem to want to move off the guttering where it’s perched; another keeps flying very low to the ground where the cat lurks! The parents are tidying the nest in the cowshed ready for their second brood.
It was the North Somerset Show on May 2nd and is still a real agricultural show with machinery, animals and associated activates as well as family fun. I very nearly got stuck in the children’s crazy house designed for little people not big, big people, whilst looking after the grandchild. Father was miles away checking out the dairy cattle and it could have been a job for the fire brigade, so have made a note to drink less full cream milk! All the animals, except the very youngest calves are now out and the big sheds have been cleaned and power washed for the educational craft activities of pipe cleaner bugs, clay hedgehogs, flying bats etc….. This is rather a messy job as water bounces back off the walls and we all get soaked. I won’t let the men in the house before they have stripped off! On the subject of personal hygeine, the initial plan for the composting toilet over a trench did not get finished, but plan B is nearly there and consists of mobile ones built using recycled wood with ‘customised’ steel bowls for washbasins. We’re very enterprising up here on Dundry Hill!
This week saw the start of silage making or the ‘silly season’, which translates, as everyone working all hours to cut crops for winter forage, with meals on the trot and no sensible topic of conversation other than grass. The land is still very dry so the crop, though full of wild flowers and clover, is very light and we do need more rain to encourage it to grow. Farmers are never satisfied with the weather, but last year winter feed was very short due to the lack of spring rain and we hope this year is not a repeat of that. Next week sees no educational visits so hence time to do blogging. The following week we have a visit from Ardmann Animation to show children how to make wildlife critters. I’m quite excited and will keep you posted. Until then Happy Summer and hope you like the pictures…………
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March 23, 2011 · By Gill
So, what has happened this winter? A lot of snow and ice, skating cows and frozen pipes, that’s what. But the milk tankers still managed to arrive for every milk collection, only needing to be coaxed out of the yard with a tow on one occasion. We were geared up to produce gallons of cottage cheese and homemade yogurt for the freezer rather than see milk wasted, but the need never arose – well done, tanker drivers! The weather then got milder but wet so there was mud everywhere. Working on the composting toilets for educational visits, mud was brought in from the field every time anyone came in from the site. Lovely!
Winter seems to be a time for inspections for us, we had the Organic, Dairy Assurance and FABBL (little red tractor logo) before Christmas and then a RPA one to make sure all livestock have their tags and a passport. Yes, each animal has a passport which goes with it when it is moved off the farm whether to another farm, to market or to the bovine heaven in the sky (ie, for meat)! We got full marks for the first inspections and had two lost ear tags on the last. They do seem to dislodge them on the feeders indoors when they push their heads through bars to reach for hay. Not many calves were born over Christmas, but there are a few due soon from dairy heifers – the ‘first-time’ mums.
As I write this it is mid March and the first signs of warmer weather are showing. There are leaf buds on the trees, primroses are coming out and a family of resident doves are starting to collect bits for a nest. More school visits are on the cards as the topic of food production seems to be on the national curriculum this term. We do not charge schools for these visits as we are in a funded educational access scheme. Do come and visit us for a learning day – calf feeding, cow milking, lunch in the barn, ending with craft activities and butter making. There is usually a cow with a calf to see too. In summer, we also host Hedgerow Safaris for primary age children, looking at wildlife in the hedgerows on the farm. One brave school visited in February despite it still being winter but at least they were able to see all the animals as they were indoors out of the horrible weather.
Weather and fields have started to dry up this week – men folk are out chain harrowing and rolling bumps out of grassland (Mind your heads, moles!) and are now waiting for the grass to grow enough to get cattle outside. On Dundry Hill this is usually two weeks behind those in the valley below as it’s a bit wild and windy up here! Some of the cows made a bid for freedom yesterday, knocking down a fence and ending up in the field instead of the milking parlour – they’re obviously ready to go out!
We recently acquired four random sheep, donated to us as the previous owner found them “unmanageable”. So did we! Brown, horned and wild, it took us three attempts to get them into the cattle truck to bring them here. They are certainly athletic and there was much colourful language as we struggled to catch them! Three of the ewes are in lamb so we are looking forward to seeing the lambs. I just hope we can catch them if they need any assistance..
David and I are off for week in Ireland soon to see for ourselves how green the Emerald Isle really is. I’m hoping to check out Celtic crafts and scenery – David will be interested in the Irish farmers and farming methods – report to follow next time! With luck the sheep recapture will be done by the younger generation while we’re away – they can run faster!
Easter soon and then everything comes back to life – wishing you all a very happy one.
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October 07, 2010 · By Gill
Please accept my apologies for the long interval since the last blog. It’s been the ‘silly season’ here at Hill House Farm. We have been frantically busy making silage, haylage and hay, closely followed by straw hauling; the former for winter feed, the latter for bedding. David and Paul have been anxiously watching the weather forecasts and rushing out in the tractor in the good spells until, as of now, all is safely gathered in. A lot of delegating is done to get daily jobs completed quickly, allowing time for harvesting. Myself and grand-daughter, little Kaia, are very good at checking and counting cattle for Grampa, with a bit of nature watching thrown in. Youngest son, Rob, returning from uni with a degree in garden design has found himself doing everything but gardening – tractor driving, chasing cows, moving bales – not a flower border in sight.
Talking of nature watching, school Hedgerow Safaris continued until the end of the summer term and seem to have been enjoyed by all. Even the groups of 50+ children were a successfully accommodated, although we are now concentrating on extra toilet facilites for the larger numbers in the form of composting loos. We were inspired by a visit to Yeo Valley Farms at Blagdon to see theirs and the very environmentally friendly classroom there – which turned us quite ‘green with envy’ J. Loo building is now lined up.
Our final farm visit was very exciting as celebrated guest Chris Packham of Springwatch and Really Wild Show fame joined us, talking to the children and showing them our wildlife. He certainly knew his stuff and grabbed the attention of the youngsters – you could hear a dragon fly buzz whilst he was explaining wildlife to them. He very adeptly handled the bank vole that had the bad manners to nip him. Chris is very impressed by organic farming because of the way that nature is conserved and thrives in this environment. Safaris begin again next month – looking at autumnal hedgerows.
The pygmy goat did not arrive, but was homed in a garden with just grass, hence the farm garden is still intact, albeit rather overgrown. Most farmers prefer grass that can be tackled with a tractor – perhaps the resident garden designer can be bribed to tidy it up.
The hedgerows are a lovely source of food at the moment – blackberries, sloes, damsons, crab apples, elderberries, hops, nuts – almost everything has a berry or a seed on it – plenty for the wild creatures and a bit for us too. I have been jamming, freezing and ginning (sloe gin, that is. Delicious!).
Several more calves have arrived – a particularly beautiful British Friesian heifer was born to Beaky, a very strange looking cow (as the name suggests), with a rather nervous disposition, but despite our misgivings she has really taken to motherhood.
The young farm collie dog, Louie, who is rather bumptious in a Tiggerish bouncy way, was calmed down considerably when he went to fetch the cows and one had calved in the night. Marg, in a fit of newly maternal protectiveness, chased him through two fields before we realised she had a calf hidden under the hedge. There’s message here to all walkers, the calmest cow can be very protective if they have a calf. It certainly was a timely message to puppy dog!
The last of the composted manure has gone out on the fields – rather pungent country aromas floating around as this is done. Paul, who’s doing it, is smelling quite sweet too. Machinery is being packed away and space made for the cattle to come in for winter when the temperature drops and grass stops growing.
Today, the autistic children from Warmley special school visited again, as they do most weeks. The outdoor experience and the animals are proving good therapy for these disabled young people. Last week they picked blackberries, next week they are learning to sweep with a brush – one small step at a time for them.
Tomorrow is OMSCo AGM day and a chance to meet and chat with other organic dairy farmers – as well as having a nice organic lunch! Other OMSCo farms are spread throughout the UK and vary in size from small family run farms like ours to big enterprises with many employees – all with the same aim of producing good, healthy organic milk, which is guaranteed chemical free and promotes good animal welfare and wildlife conservation.
On that note – I end this blog. Keep drinking that organic milk and I will talk to you again soon.
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June 22, 2010 · By Gill
Question: How did the elders, Dave and Les, cope whilst the youngsters were on holiday? Answer: With a struggle! Luckily, one younger member of the family, studying landscape design in Falmouth, came home for the weekend and another younger member of the family swapped his archaeological wheelbarrow and shovel for a muck wheelbarrow and shovel or ‘father and mother’ would have definitely been in the manure!
May has seen the first of the OMSC0 sponsored hedgerow safaris on the farm. Gill and her team of Cherie and Janey gave the visiting school children a wonderful insight into the resident wildlife. Using special humane traps they caught wood mice, bank voles and shrews in the hedge, looked for trails and burrows, discovered the plants growing in the hedge and grassland, listened to birds, searched for mini beasts with pooters and sweep nets.
This was followed by a picnic lunch in the field and then craft activities of pipe cleaner bugs, flying bats, clay hedgehogs. Children also planted wildflower seeds in the cups which they had been given to taste some organic milk. They then returned to the coach via the bat cave! I’m sure all slept well that night – we certainly did. Hopefully some things were learnt. I never knew that moles’ fur smoothes both ways so that they can go backwards and forwards in tunnels and that shrews are carnivores. Did you?
We had glowing, positive feedback from teachers and children – so it seems to have been enjoyed by all. A lull from visits this week as it’s half term and then next week starts with a group of 50 – help! We’ve been scouting around for portaloos for extra toilet facilities – so, if you have a spare portaloo or two, which you’d like to donate to a worthy cause, we could really do with them.
The girls (cows) are enjoying being out – and giving more milk now they’re on grass. One of the highlights for the school children is seeing the dairy cows grazing in the meadows as they arrive at the farm. Guessing which wild flowers the cows like eating most and who’s the daddy (spotting Bart the bull amongst the cows) is good fun.
There were three more births in May: two heifers and one bull calf. The last one didn’t stay with us very long – nothing sad or serious; another organic farmer in the area needed an organic calf for one of his cows. Her own calf had died at birth and he had a cow with lots of milk needing a calf to rear. In a milking herd you have facilities to milk the cow if that happens, but this cow was in what is known as a suckler herd. This means the cows are just kept to breed from and aren’t milked.
We do, however, have one bit of sad news. Jason our old sheepdog/cow dog has gone to the doggy heaven in the sky. He had to have an eye operation, which he coped with very well, but suddenly three weeks later he had a stroke. At 15 he had been part of the family for quite a while and his ashes will be scattered in the fields he loved to run around. A very lovable, if at times ‘daft’ dog, we will miss him and his peculiar ways, such as chewing through cables during a thunderstorm! Even the cat who liked to torment him wonders why he isn’t stealing her food.
Soon we are looking to go silaging and haymaking, although we do need a bit more rain to get the grass growing a bit more. Not using any artificial fertilisers to speed up growth on an organic farm you are really reliant on nature. The boys have a new toy to play with this summer, a big round baler so we can bale ourselves instead of the paying a contract baler.
Hopefully, the rain won’t come on Wednesday as we are off on a family outing to the Bath and West show at Shepton Mallet. Dave and Paul will be heading for machinery and pedigree cattle, (which our cows are definitely not. They are a mixture of Friesian, Belgian Blue and Guernsey crosses – David’s herd of many colours – but all give good milk, which is the main thing). The ladies off to look for rural crafts, some retail therapy and ‘littler’ animals for little Kaia, age three. Talking of small, we’ve been asked if we would like to rehome a pygmy goat to keep the garden grass down but goats really need company so we’d have to get another as well. Two goats can eat a lot of grass along with bushes, flowers and vegetables and anything else that grows (and a few that don’t, like your clean washing!). Maybe we will decline; I do like my garden, weeds and all!
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April 29, 2010 · By Gill
Sitting by the kitchen window with the sun streaming in, I have abandoned the woolly socks in favour of flip flop in the hope that spring has sprung and summer is coming. The blackthorn is in full bloom in the hedges and I am reminded to ‘beware the blackthorn winter’ – a country saying, as this event often coincides with a spell of bitterly cold winds. The weather, however has certainly been lovely in the last two week; the menfolk are decidedly chirpy as they go about checking fences and get the cattle out in the fields. David is especially happy at being free of the arm plaster.
The first to go out were the cows and some younger cattle will be out later this week. The grass is still growing slowly and we could now do with a bit of rain to encourage this – farmers are never satisfied, be it rain or shine!
The cows going out after the winter inside are a sight to behold. These normally sedate, maternal bovines tend to gallop through the gate, hopping and skipping with udders swinging and even the farm dog has the sense to keep clear as they head for their taste of new grass. A few are still in as new rich grass for cows near to claving can cause a rush of milk, leading to milk fever or grass staggers.
There are four new additions to the milking herd, who came from an organic farm up on the Mendips, namely May, Marty, Beaky and Nicky. Three settled in immediately, but Beaky took a bit more coaxing, going off her food and milk for several days and causing Dave to comment that he thought ‘she might be having a nervous breakdown’! One of our heifers had her first calf last week and is being introduced to the milking experience. She has decided to moo melodically whilst being milked and we’re now wondering if we need a cow psychiatrist. Who said that they don’t have feelings?
We have not had any more visiting sheep en masse, but one woolly individual still keeps wandering over and has been nicknamed Cinderella as now you see her, now you don’t and she seems to come and go like magic.
The warmer weather also brings more school visits to the farm, starting with hedgerow safaris organised by Gill Crane from OMSCo, our organic milk cooperative. This entails a ramble around various natural habitats, looking at the different small mammals, insects, birds, invertebrates and plants, followed by lunch in the fields or shed if wet and ending with craft activities. We also still have regular weekly visits from Warmley special school, who have now added picnics to their activities here. We welcome all ages of children on the farm, out of school as well as in school groups. We also welcome adult groups – so get in touch if you want a ‘conducted tour’. That is our bit of advertising done for this year!
Paul and Les attended another OMSCo organised day at Cattle Country, Berkley, Gloucestershire – computing for beginners (idiots). Very reassuringly we learnt that, contrary to our belief, computers cannot be messed up or eat your work – it is still in there somewhere – a real confidence booster. It was also an insight into farm diversification with the activities now happening there – a good place for a day.
Our swallows have arrived and are settling themselves in the rafters of the cowshed, making lots of noise as they fly in and out with materials for nest building. Possibly all the twittering is Mrs Swallow telling Mr Swallow he isn’t doing it quite right! The foxes and badgers are busy mating and can be heard calling at night. The dog likes to let us know he can hear them – lots of barking in the early hours. Bless him!
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April 29, 2010 · By Gill
The pond in the yard is once again frozen. The frogs had started to lay their eggs and hopefully frogspawn does not mind the zero temperatures or they won’t make it. The grass has not yet started growing so the cattle will be in for a while yet. We have had visiting sheep in the fields, which had to be rounded up and returned from whence they came. Usually our resident hares are jumping around in Homefield and Pump Ground by now, being suitably mad, but as yet no sign. Obviously not warm enough for them either.
Several of the dairy heifers (young cows) are now nearly ready to calve and they will then produce milk for the first time and join the milking herd. Tinkerbell has had a very lively heifer calf, which seems to be half goat, climbing up and over calf hurdles and not fazed by the usual barriers. Calf feeding usually starts with us catching and returning her to her pen. Sadly, Mary Anne’s calf died with no sign of illness. A post mortem at Langford Vet School revealed he was born with a hole in his heart – something we’ve not experienced before in cattle.
Last week saw TB testing for all the animals and there was a huge sigh of relief when we were clear. If any test positive they have to be slaughtered and a movement restriction put on the farm (no buying or selling of cattle) until there’s been two clear tests. Cows and adult heifers were pregnancy tested at the same time and the tails trimmed of muck (on the hairy bits at the end).
The men are getting ready to chain harrow (combing the ground with chains) to aerate the soil, comb in the manure and flatten out the ‘billions’ of mole hills we have this year. Obviously we have good soil as moles like a wormy environment – and lots of worms is a good indication of a healthy soil. It’s great for the archaeologists in the family too, as they bring up pottery, bits of clay pipe etc…
David is very happy to be driving his tractor again, as he now has a shorter half plaster on the broken arm. He still finds it a bit awkward putting the milking machine on the cows and household chores are definitely out of the question, as is the worming and fleaing of the cat. Lily, normally a bundle of lovable fluff turns into a feline from hell when those two words are mentioned. David was concerned she might break the other arm – so guess who had to brave it!
Paul and a young farmer friend have been dry stone walling, rebuilding and repairing, it where the uninvited sheep visitors knocked it down. David has been showing them how it’s done - as with many other farming skills this is something that is often passed from father to son. More for the acheologists here too as in Jurassic times, Dundry Hill was under the sea and fossils such as ammonites are frequently found amongst the walls.
Information is starting to arrive about the North Somerset Show at Wraxall on the May Day bank holiday, the first of the yearly agricultural shows in the area.
It’s a good day out for all the family be they farmers or not. We usually all go together; the men heading for agriculture and machinery displays and the women for the craft tent and general retail therapy, regrouping at lunchtime for food and to compare notes. The show gives a good insight into farming in the area, as well as being good fun – weather permitting! It is also the start of the yearly corn dolly demonstrating for Les – her bit of diversification for anyone wants a talk, demo or workshop!
This afternoon we are cleaning out the youngest calves, escape proofing their pen and then cleaning out our few chickens. One feisty hen, named Boddy (short for Boudecia) is decidedly stroppy so it turned into a fight when we collect her eggs or clean out her nest box! She should have been in ‘Chicken Run’.
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January 29, 2010 · By Gill
Blog number two and the first of 2010 – we hope it is a good year for all , especially organic dairy farmers!
Sadly, we said goodbye to Dopey this week. She was 14 - a good age for a dairy cow, although because of a stress free environment, organic cows do seem to last longer. Lovely natured, placid and docile, as her name suggests, she was dearly loved by the vet as whatever the procedure she would stand calmly chewing the cud. . Goodbye Dopey – God bless!
The run up to Christmas was the usual one of trying to get extra done in order to have the minimum to do on Christmas and Boxing Day because animals still need to be milked, fed, watered and bedded down. And we had few births over the festive period: Milly, Jodie and Snowy producing healthy offspring.
David and Paul attended a conference hosted by Yeo Valley (who make those yummy yogurts) in nearby Blagdon . They came home very impressed by the lunch served, although they were supposed to be gaining information on farmyard manure, not food!
David had a second appearance as the man in red - his fame is spreading! The village school panicked no-one was available to play Father Christmas for their Christmas party so at very short notice (½ hour) he had to get out of his overalls and into the Santa outfit. He quite enjoys the role and is going to cultivate a real beard next year - in anticipation!
We had a real family Christmas with four generations here from Jane who is 90 to Kaia aged three and everybody in-between. Peaceful except when Jason, the old sheepdog disappeared after a group of ramblers, ending up at five miles away. Lunch was put on hold while he was retrieved.
Then came the snow and ice. Out came the extra gloves, extra socks and thermal long johns. Being at a higher level than our neighbours in Bristol and on the Somerset Levels we do get a tad more snow and lower temperatures. The initial problem was to stop the ‘girls’ (as David calls the dairy cows) from ice skating. They’re not the most graceful of creatures, especially when each leg wants to go in a different direction. So, we put down lots of salt and sand between the winter housing and the milking shed to avoid accidents when they crossed the yard. They were not impressed by the snow and didn’t linger. Bart the bull, who asked to come in when winter arrived, thought it was lovely. He went back to his calfhood and wante‘bulling’cow (that’s a cow in season) finally did the trick. As with most males, food and sex are a foolproof mix!
The next problem was to get water to the dairy and livestock. It was so cold that everything outside wanted to freeze - water troughs, pipe and milking equipment. So quite a bit of time was spent running around with hair dryers and fan heaters to thaw out pipes and then using the garden hosepipe and buckets.
Using anything other than a four- wheeled drive vehicle was out of the question as we live on a narrow, sloping lane. We crossed out fingers and despite the conditions the milk tanker driver did manage to reach us to collect the milk throughout the cold spell (although it needed some help from the tractor to get out of the yard with a bit) - bless his woolly socks! Some farmers in other parts of the country were not so lucky and had to throw the uncollected milk away. We also had to help pull out a some sightseers who had come and look at the pretty snow in their ordinary cars and got stuck. My son Paul who had to stop work to do this was very unimpressed!
The main casualty of the icy spell was David himself, who broke his arm as he crashed into the back ‘pins’ (the hip bones) of a cow. She was fine, he wasn’t! So when the thaw came and after a painful day, he headed for Bath Hospital A and E to be x-rayed and plastered. He still insists on coming out to help wearing a full arm’s length plastic glove to keep his plaster dry and clean. He was told not to get it wet or cow mucky in the hope of keeping him in - some hope! Farmers are renowned for their stubborness…………
The cycle of life continues and we have just welcomed a lovely Belgian Blue bull (boy) calf. This is Mary Jane’s second calf and mother and baby are doing well.
Thing returned to normal with snow and ice gone, but with David out of action girl power kicked in as the ladies of the farm, as daughter Lucy and myself help with cleaning out and feeding chores in between their other jobs. A great example of females female multitasking!
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