Monday, 12 October 2009

Welcome to our farm

Hello and welcome to our blog - we are Camilla and Roly from Little Wittenham in Oxfordshire and this is our blog about our amazing farm! Just to set the scene a little, we have recently taken on a tenancy from the Northmoor Trust who have given us a wonderful opportunity to fulfill a lifelong ambition for both of us to run our own farm. We are so excited and as we write we are just at the beginning of week two and we're surviving . . . just!

Week 1 highlights were picking up our 10 year old sheepdog called Meg who has come to help us out and show us what to do. Our friend David Seamark has very kindly loaned Meg to us until our other sheepdog (also called Meg...) has graduated from sheepdog school in a few months time. She has settled in really well but doesn't think very much of our other four legged helper called Boris....Boris is a staffordshire bull terrier and full of beans but is not interested in sheep!

Other highlights have been seeing all the amazing wildlife that we share our farm with from buzzards and red kites through to the yellowhammers we have seen in the hedges not to mention lots of rabbits!

We have 250 ewes (female sheep) 50 of which are expecting lambs in January, we will keep you posted on our lambing weekends we will be organising with the Northmoor Trust so you can come and see them for yourselves.

We have our first farmers market on Thursday this week, this is where we sell some of our lamb as well as supplying mince to a local school and other local pubs and restaurants. It is so exciting meeting all our customers and telling them about our sheep and how we take care of them and what they are eating. This is sometimes delicious wild flowers or clover or grassland alongside the River Thames, not a bad view! We have a lot to do and can't wait to find more local businesses to supply. We will let you know how we get on.

We moved some of our sheep last weekend, this was quite an exercise! Having taken some of our friends around the farm in the glorious sunshine on Saturday, Sunday it poured with rain and this was when we decided that some of our girls needed some fresh grass and a change of scene. We planned our route and identified every single gap which could be a potential escape route....Meg sat patiently on the back of the quad bike looking slightly bemused at all our efforts, as if to say 'leave it to me guys...' which we duly did, although I (Camilla) took a while to trust Meg as I was brought up on a sheep farm where we never had a dog! My brother and I were the sheepdogs! After all our work (4 hours in the rain...) we took the plunge, Meg was incredible and brought the sheep around our route, even gathering up some stragglers at one stage, we were at the front on the quad bike looking at this amazing scene taking place behind us. Once we had reached the field we couldn't believe we had done it! Our first sheep move was a success and we had big smiles on our faces and the sun had finally come out to mark our efforts. It was such a great feeling.

Handing over to Roly now....Today started off perfectly, for the first half hour anyway. What should have been a simple and quick whizz on the quad bike around the farm checking all the sheep almost turned into chaos. Having be led into a false sense of security yesterday when Camilla and I moved 60 ewes (female sheep) from one end of the farm to another, I made the mistake of not leading the sheep but standing in a gateway...they came charging past me and had their own plans....I had to sprint to keep up with them and just about managed to head them off before making their way into the local town, Wallingford...I regrouped with Meg, shut them in an emergency field and perservered...Meg and I then managed to lead them to the right field via a nice man walking his spaniel...what we haven't told you yet is Meg does not like other dogs so I was worried what she was going to do when she saw the other dog! No time to think I had to get the sheep back, luckily we managed it but Meg was nowhere to be seen...! I raced back and saw her herding this poor man and his dog into a corner, fortunately they were ok, I was so relieved!

Vet coming tomorrow, which we are really looking forward to. All these lovely people we are meeting to help us. A big thank you to all our amazing families and friends and farmer mentors who have helped us prepare for the day when Roly and Milla become farmers! Nick Emmett, Sally Bendall, John and Julia Sargent, Chris and Rachael Lee, Robin Hobson, Paul Hill, Sue Nix, David Seamark and Jake Freestone.

More soon!

Camilla and Roly, Boris and Meg

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