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.