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.