After the mini-heatwave back in February the weather seems to have reverted to normal. Well, both extremes seem to be normal for March, hence the old adage ‘If March comes in like a lamb it goes out like a Lion’, and vice-versa. The Six Nations rugby came and went with the usual roller-coaster of excitement. Wales came through as worthy,and surprising winners. With the World Cup in Japan just around the corner the competition is now wide open. I watched the woman’s games with nearly as much enthusiasm as the men’s. The fact that England had a clean-sweep made it even more watchable. Our ten-year-old grand-daughter has just started playing rugby and seems to have a talent for kicking out of hand. I’m already thinking potential fly-half……..
I’m not able to say ‘all is well out on the farm’, because our Twelve orphan lambs are proving to be perpetual young offenders. Normally at this time of year the lambs are all causing chaos out in the field, under the watchful eyes of their mothers. Boundaries are established and generally adhered to and damage is contained within the field. Much ‘Grand Prix’ racing goes on, with regular pit-stops at the milk bar and mothers are heard ‘Baaing’ constantly at wayward offspring to behave themselves. Rodney the ram would occasionally have been used as a last resort, to maintain law and order, and if not required in any parental or disciplinary role then just as a ‘trampoline’. Our new system of buying in orphan lambs and not having any lambing, winter feeding and general sheep maintenance to do seemed like an easy option. It appears that we have seriously overlooked and/or underestimated the amount of parenting usually carried out by the adult sheep. Some of the lambs are six weeks old now and can jump cleanly over a three foot high sheep hurdle in order to ‘ escape’. They then ‘hightail it’ out of the shed in a frantic bid for freedom whilst loudly daring their mates to follow suit. With no ‘voice of reason’ to scold or discourage such delinquent behaviour, a riot soon ensues. Having achieved freedom in the nursery paddock it isn’t long before they are running around in a gang trying to squeeze under a gate or force themselves under the wire netting because, obviously, the grass is always greener on the other side. Usually, about half of them escape and they then try to break back in to the yard to try unsuccessfully to break back in to where they started. This mayhem can continue all day. Even Misty the sheep-dog is getting a bit bored with it now. The youngest ones are now six weeks old and tonight is their last feed of powdered milk. Tomorrow is ‘cold turkey’ day. Grass, hay and growers pellets, only. I can sense another riot in the pipeline.
The problems with the Geese are ongoing. Bianca, the new white goose, arrived to hopefully balance out the relationships in the Goose sector. The plan was that Ghengis would stay with Griselda and Ghandi would set up home with Bianca. Well, Ghengis had a different plan. He claimed both of them and still ousted Ghandi. Within a couple of days we had to separate them as pairs and put Ghandi and Bianca on the vacant, top duck pond. That seems to have worked so far. Griselda laid twelve eggs -( which I religiously numbered with a pencil, daily ) – and Ghengis started guarding the goose house with the eggs in it, in preparation for Griselda going broody. Bianca has just started laying. I issued her with a large pile of straw in the duck house but needless-to-say she decided to lay on the paving slabs and has broken a few. Two days ago I went to check Griseldas clutch…… and they have all disappeared! No sign of broken shells, so probably a vixen with a litter of cubs. Rosie, our Patterdale, was seen in the yard with a goose egg in her mouth the other day but I think she probably retrieved it from chasing the fox, rather than stole it and carried it up the lane. The problem now is that the first ducklings are ready to go out on the top pond. Ghandi, Bianca and eggs will have to move back to the goose field, to a separate ‘safe’ location, away from Ghengis, but he is already on the war-path over his missing eggs so I can foresee goose-wars in the near future……
Waste-not and Want-not are now in the farm shop. Our sausages are proving as popular as ever. Traditional breeds of pig definitely produce more flavoursome pork than the white breeds favoured by the supermarkets, where quality has often been forsaken in exchange for quantity. We generally end up with Gloucester Old Spots crossed with a more coloured breed to achieve the best balance of fat to flavour but this year we are trying GOS X Welsh. The Welsh is a traditional, hardy out-door pig, albeit classed as a large white. They do have lop ears, as do GOS, which can be a problem if they escape from the pig penitentiary, because they tend to run off in different directions and have to rely on their sense of hearing to return home. They may have a problem with sunburn if we have another glorious Summer like last year. We will just have to wait and see.
The Mother hen and chick saga is going from bad to worse. Our first hatch were all taken by a rat. We bought a new chicken house with attached run and integral nesting boxes to use as a stepping stone to full release. I thought I had made it rat-proof! The second hatch qwere big enough to move outside. In the process of catching them the mother hen was so upset she managed to escape by flying over an eight-foot high door and disappear into the ether ! Never to be seen again. We now have three orphan chicks, unless mother calms down and returns. I put them in the new ‘rat-proof’ chicken house and crossed all fingers. Next morning the chicks were all fine, but a large rat had broken in…..and couldn’t get out. Sort of rat-proof, I suppose……I am now considering getting some virtual chickens to put in the house and using it as a large, expensive rat-trap.
Apart from that…….everything else on the farm is ticketyboo.
We are fully booked for April, but we do have some vacancies in May. If you would like to visit us contact Tracey on email@example.com or check availability on our website www.northbradburyfarm
Cheers for now, Farmer Chris.