Great weather for lambing. I’m happy to report that the ewes’ good condition didn’t produce as many problems as I’d feared. Only a couple with minor prolapses, treated and soon lambed with no harm done.
Fewer triplets this year, which I wasn’t sorry about. The few pens in the shed were rarely used. However we did make some temporary pens in the field, mainly to protect inexperienced ewes who were clueless to the danger of predators. We culled six foxes that we deemed to be too active in the lambing field.
I’ve helped with delivering a few larger lambs and those that jammed two side by side. One such ewe who was tight for space required one lamb to be pushed back, so I asked my other half to assist by holding up the ewe’s back legs because gravity makes it easier to sort out.
Unfortunately, the ewe didn’t appreciate this lithotomy position and her protesting kick was stronger than his grip; consequently I got a tidy blow to the face which sent me flying. In a slightly dazed state, I delivered both her lambs alive and sported an impressive black eye for my efforts. Luckily, due to no time or energy for socialising, there wasn’t too much explaining to do. The joys and dangers of farming.
If the younger generation is not sure how to do something they simply watch an appropriate YouTube video and then, hey presto, give it a go. I’ve concluded that my ewe-lambs could benefit from this resource because some of them are making a right hash of motherhood. I opened my curtains early one morning to see a newly born lamb approaching a gaggle of youngsters in turn, only to be soundly rebuffed. His mother, who was clearly scared witless, was several metres away whirling around in terror at the sight of her afterbirth trailing behind her. I sighed, collected up Brie the sheepdog and set off to reunite mother (nicknamed The Wildling) and her plucky offspring. She was challenging to catch, petrified of her lamb and horrified at the thought of breast feeding.
Now when checking the flock, I feel a little glow of happiness when I see what a good mother The Wildling has become. It’s strange how differently animals react. Generally I find it’s best not to interfere, but sometimes a little guidance is essential to preserve life.
There’s one oldish mule who we’ve named Big Bertha because she looks fit to burst. She gazes back at you and nonchalantly chews her cud, as if to say: “I don’t know what you’re worried about”. She hung in there, one of the last to lamb, choosing dusk to produce a set of enormous triplets. Initially her lambs struggled to find her low hanging teats. Bertha is such a sensible mother our ewe-lambs could learn a lot from her.
Last weekend we had a new lambing supervisor when Anna our granddaughter came to stay while her parents went to Melton Mowbray to eat pie and attend the Artisan Cheese Awards.
Anna settled into life on the farm, happily mixing in with dogs, sheep and cattle. We were all delighted when Anna’s parents returned bearing four huge trophies. You’ll have to allow me some proud mother bragging rights here. Hazel and Martin’s Pevensey Blue beat 500 entries and was named Supreme Champion, winning best blue, new, and English cheese. They’ve worked hard to achieve this result and maybe we deserve a little recognition for our role as cheese tasters.
Everyone needs time out occasionally. However much enthusiasm you have for farming, the work list is endless. “Farming is relentless,” I was told the other day, and it’s so true. If you’re working all hours, lacking sleep, facing more than your share of challenges and it feels like you’re getting very little thanks, then it’s probably time to take a break. With the running of the farm to consider, this is never easy, but however much we consider ourselves indispensable, there’s always a way. Taking time out to refresh is time well spent.
Pre lambing, we had three nights away, staying in Brockenhurst in the New Forest. We went on some lovely walks, seeing some tall Redwoods and Douglas Firs. One tree’s stats said it was planted in 1859, was over 50 metres high and could live for over 2,000 years, and another claimed to weigh over 105 tonnes. It made us feel very small, gazing up in wonder at them. The famous Knighthood Oak, also known as the Queen of the Forest, has a girth of 7.38 metres.
While away, the family insisted that we should go for a meal at The Pig. I was amazed to discover that from Sunday to Wednesday it was fully booked for lunch and dinner, apart from one slot on Monday evening at 21.30 hrs. I agreed to take it and was impressed by how busy this place must be.
The Pig boasts a 25-mile radius of sourced food. We looked around the kitchen garden in daylight and had an interesting chat with the head gardener, who has two helpers. It looked immaculate and I felt slightly envious. The pig paddocks were ominously empty, as was the chicken house.
The beef on the menu, I noted, came from Ireland. I ordered it but they were sold out. So I had a pork chop costing £24; vegetables and salads were extra. I calculated out that if you get an average of 40 chops from a pig, that translates to £960. Knowing the recent poor prices that pig farmers have been getting, I was struck by the injustice in the food supply chain.
Our evening’s experience was completely underwhelming. Drinks and food were over-priced, the service unremarkable. But I admit their marketing strategy was admirable. Could farmers learn from this?
We arrived home refreshed, but promptly developed a second bout of Covid-19 which we unknowingly spread to the rest of the family. On the plus side, all our cattle are out grazing pasture and the spring calving is now finished, with the calves enjoying rollicking around.