When the sun shines, I’m suddenly filled with enthusiasm to get stuck into spring cleaning. Windows, housework, a spot of painting wouldn’t go amiss, gardening too, lawns need mowing, vegetable patch and flower beds, all need attention. How on earth do I find time for farming? The reality is, the above chores get short shrift, calving and lambing is so much more rewarding. There’s no time to ponder the political fiasco, the days are lengthening and every minute is filled.

Excitingly I’ve inadvertently gained a new role as chief cheese turner/flipper. It sounded easy enough when I agreed to do it. I can throw a sheep and flip a pancake, so how difficult can it be turning a cheese? It’s all part of the maturing process, not me but the cheese! Coaxing a fresh squiggie cheese out of it’s mold is not so easy. I regretted not paying more attention to the master cheese maker’s instructions. Especially when I had a cheese suspended precariously mid air wobbling and refusing to dislodge from it’s confines. Despite my helpful intentions, it was not looking good for the cheese under my care! Luckily disaster was averted, and I succeeded in my mission, restoring the turned cheese safely to its maturation storage.

Cheese is delicious, but my knowledge of its manufacturing process is woefully limited. That was until middle daughter, Hazel started dating ‘The cheese man’ Martin. Their fledgling business, now has a name: ‘Pevensey Cheese Company’ as the milk used, comes from cows that graze on the levels. Trial cheeses are being made while recipes and techniques are perfected. This artisan business is not yet up and flying but serious preparation is taking place at Hockham Farm. Nothing in life is ever as simple as you think it should be. We’re grateful for all the support we’ve received on this venture. I’ll keep you updated.

Now that we’re enjoying some warmer weather, the grass is definitely looking greener which always brings with it a sense of relief. The cattle are gazing longingly out of the yards, eyeing up the growth of their future food supply. We’re equally elated about the prospect of throwing open the gates and releasing them into the fields. Tempting as it might be we will restrain ourselves a little longer as the ground is deceptively soft in places and we don’t want them damaging the pasture. Turnout time is soon, it’s undoubtedly one of the highlights of spring.

In readiness for this event we’ve ordered up replacement tags. Dirty or tags covered with hair makes reading them tricky and the cattle aren’t always cooperative. When I win the lottery, feed barriers with locking yokes are on my wish list. Maybe we should consider getting electronic cattle tags as we do for the sheep. Vaccinating cattle against blackleg is also on the jobs list. Many of the dykes on the marshes have been cleaned out, which increases the risk of sudden death from blackleg. We’ve also just given all our cows a bolus containing copper, cobalt, selenium and iodine, a practice which we find pays dividends.

This year we signed up for the ‘BVD stamp it out’ initiative. Bovine Viral Diarrhoea is a contagious disease affecting cattle in the UK. Apparently it’s estimated to be costing the industry £61 million in lost performance. We’re told that the affects of BVD are not always obvious. It causes poor fertility and abortions, calf mortality, youngstock pneumonia, scours and poor growth rates. But by blood testing a sample of cattle aged between nine to eighteen months old, it will clarify if it is affecting our herd. It seems sensible to take up the option of help with funding this.

Our farm is experiencing a reoccurring problem in the sheep world, namely teenage pregnancies. As I’m in charge of ringing all lambs, My theory is, immaculate conception is behind this mystery. Someone who works as efficiently as me, especially towards the end of lambing when I’m in tip top condition and bursting with energy, I couldn’t possibly have missed the odd one or two. I’m not going to argue the toss with the criticism, I’m simply dealing with the consequences. Early lambs are good, as they are just a warm up act for the real thing. It encourages me to be ultra organised for the planned arrivals. I’ve lambed them outside and I’m rather impressed by the youngsters’ mothering skills.

I’ve only had to help a couple, which we’ve caught by stealth, because it’s surprising how fast they can run even when they’re in labour. At dusk this evening we had one which brings dismay to your heart. The ewe-lamb had managed to push out a large head, with little else showing, one leg was right back, jamming it. The lamb’s mouth was just warm, and it was fighting for breath, narrowing my options. No chance of pushing it back. I’m a great believer in the power of lubricant, pulling one leg forward and straightening the other backwards. We managed to deliver a ridiculously enormous lamb for the size of it’s mother. Initially the lamb’s breathing was intermittent and noisy, but we soon got it tucked up in the barn, tubing it with colostrum. A couple of hours later and it was able to suck colostrum from its proud mother. You can’t beat that feeling of achievement, I guess that’s why I enjoy shepherding.

After writing this, a late night check on cows calving, and sheep nursery. Youngest and eldest daughter’s have commitments, so I take their nine week old shared terrier puppy out into the garden to do its jobs. It looks at me, as if I’m daft and scampers top speed back indoors, perhaps I am!