We have some unmistakable signs of spring:
birds pairing off,
geese on the move – flying overhead in their V formations,
grass, weeds and clover growing in the pastures,
sap rising in the hedges and some are almost budding.
What a contrast to last year, and far too early as it is only mid-Feb and winter could easily return. Here’s hoping for a long mild spring, which could lead to a good strong crop of young calves and lambs and even potentially a good harvest.
Keeping calm and carrying on is what the British farmers do best and the current winter remains no exception.
Earlier this week we discovered the council’s salt shortage has reached our locality with the big hill in and out of the village temporarily renamed the Cresta run. Yesteday we had thick fog and rain, pouring gutters and huge puddles on top of the ice and Jethro may by the weekend have to swop his crampons [currently attached to his wellies] for flippers.
The daily round of fresh food and water to every animal continues and there are almost 1000 head of different livestock to see to.
The business side carries on too with tonnes of grain collected yesterday for sale but after the second lorry got stuck and had to be pulled out by a tractor, all further collections have been cancelled by Jethro while we have this thick, thick ice.
Finally tonight we have running water for the pigs and for the first time in ages have not had to take the water bowser out to them. It will make the weekend duties easier and hopefully next week we can go back to selling some lambs and pigs as we have orders waiting for them.
The icy conditions made it impossible on welfare grounds for both animals and staff to move them to sort out the best ones. The sheepdogs have just had normal walks to keep them cheery as running full tilt around an icy field to get the sheep in was too dangerous and crossing the road with these lambs on a stretch that was too slippery for people to stand on was not on either.
Roll on normal service, until the next storm comes.. winter has a long way to go yet… and yet I dream of spring already.
The cattle can clearly smell the grass growing and know spring is almost here. This morning they are running about in their open sided sheds kicking their heels in the bright, warm sunshine. Tomorrow we will weigh them and calculate their daily liveweight gain over the winter and for the oldest beef animals estimate their time of dispatch. Our wonderfully patient beef customers are getting a little restless and I promised them an update on when their beef boxes will be ready.
In the meantime I have just weighed and selected another eight lambs to send this week and this afternoon we will be checking on the progress of the fattening pigs, however I am sure they will be a few weeks off yet. Our fattening lambs are almost gone for another year and come mid April we will be delivering the new crop.
Progress on the arable front is good too with the drilling almost done and the fertiliser application on the wheat making good progress.
In the meantime the hired boar has arrived and is firmly in quarantine. This is not our first experience of hiring boars and we are frequently dismayed to find that some rare breed pigs are apparently kept in indifferent conditions. We are not sure he is even fit for the purpose he came for. Personally this morning I think he still looks poor, and we are debating whether to even try him or just send him back. He was dosed with Dectomax, an anti parasite injection, before we even took him off the trailer as he has arrived with what looks to us rather like both mange and worms, still his appetite is good and that is always a good thing with pigs. Pigs who are not eating is usually a sign of something terminal. Keeping these rare breeds going is not at all easy but we are determined to get it right and make a really good job of it, I just wish every other rare breed pig keeper tried to do the same.
In the meantime we’ve found a boar of the same line as our sterile one and can fetch him very soon. This will be good because we really prefer to have a closed herd, which makes us much less vulnerable to outbreaks of parasites and disease. It also means we are totally responsible for the pigs’ management and we prefer to do that too.
I have bad news and good news: First the bad news – I clearly spoke too soon on the drilling front as the very clever little box of ‘chips’ which calculates the correct seed rate has gone on the blink and is causing MAJOR problems for Jethro. The original seed drill was so much simpler.
Now the good news is I just walked past the hired boar’s box and he is shouting for his tea already.
Yesterday we felt as if we experienced all four seasons in one day.
We awoke to a bright spring like morning with brilliant sunshine that warmed up the old conservatory to a summery 22’C. We have lots of seeds already growing in there for the garden.
In the afternoon the weather deteriorated with a severe wintry storm with a lot of hailstones and the day was rounded up with a dark autumnal windy evening. Weird.
More snow fell last night, followed by rain and sleet however our troubles here are nothing compared with those who live in Australia, especially in the State of Victoria and are coping with these terrible bush fires. How they would welcome a dose of the cold wet stuff, and that puts everything in perspective for us.
We are in now uncharted territory as the combination of rain and melting snow on previously saturated ground is a new one. We watch almost hour by hour as the pond levels rise and the fields start to flood.
The problem with the overflowing pond is that it can overflow through the Victorian buildings to fill the yard and we have no where else to move the housed cattle to.
warm and dry for now
All the melt water from the village runs down the road and into the pond, on top of all our own ‘run off’ from the surrounding fields and yards.
Frost is forecast later tonight, perhaps it will slow the rapid thaw but the problem is that the roads are running with water so they will probably be like glass tomorow and we know the County Council is short of grit and no longer bothers to salt the rural byways.
It took an hour to get to the local railway station 5 miles away this morning.
Spring seems a long way away but would be very welcome right now.