Sunday, 23 May 2010

Warming up!

Whilst we were out checking the sheep this weekend, we could hardly believe that a few months ago we were crunching through snow and breaking ice in water troughs! Today we were in shorts and sun hats! All the sheep were sheltering in the shade out of the sun and didn't appreciate seeing Meg and Bel appearing to round them up for us to check and count. They are all looking well and we feel very proud!

At the moment the grass is ok but we do need some rain soon to encourage fresh growth. We are starting to think about cutting some of the grass for winter feed but we will talk about that more when the time comes.

We had the ewe lambs (born last year who we will breed from this year) shorn last week and they look so much happier without their thick coats. The boys (rams) also had a haircut. Brian was amazing with them as always, so gentle.

We had Richard over to clear the sheds out of all the straw that built up over the winter, it was amazing to watch, it didn't take long at all! (see photo). It is all now piled up in the yard ready to be spread on the arable fields belonging to the Northmoor Trust later in the year as part of their fertiliser plan. Nice to think all resources which we produce are being recycled and everything has a value.

Our philosophy with our sheep is taking the greatest care of them and working with our environment. Nationally there is a problem with resistance to treatments available for sheep with worms, so we are keen to only treat them when we know there is a problem. We have been successful in a grant application to buy a 'Fecpak' which is a tool to help us count worm eggs and then decide whether the sheep need treatment or not. If the egg count is sufficiently low then there is no need but above a certain threshold it is best to treat to make sure our sheep don't suffer. The other photo above shows Adelle our vet running a course which we hosted in our lambing sheds, to teach us and 3 other farmers how to use the Fecpak kit. We're looking forward to using the Fecpak to help us manage our flock better.

Our next event is Open Farm Sunday on the 13th June which we are hosting with the Northmoor Trust, highlights will include tractor and trailer rides, sheep racing and sheep dog demos by Meg and Bel. Open Farm Sunday is organised nationally by LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) where lots of farms all open up on the same day to welcome visitors onto their farms.

Did we mention we have now called 'little Meg' Bel? She seems to be happy with her new name, and is settling in well. It is funny having a young dog around, she is very enthusiastic but we are all still getting used to one another. We will post a photo of her soon, she is very pretty!

Farmers markets are all going well and we are busy selling our lamb burgers which everyone says are really tasty. Please come along and see us and taste one for yourself!

Roly, Camilla, Boris, Bel and Meg

Saturday, 1 May 2010

May on the farm

May is my favourite month - the blossom in the orchard at the bottom of our garden is almost in full bloom, but I love it at the stage it is now, pink on the edge with a hint of what is to come. The grass is finally starting to grow properly and the long evenings are just a joy after such a long, cold winter! Having said that, we had another frost the night before last which caught us a bit by surprise.

All the sheep are now outside, we had one or two left in the sheds for an extra week after the main batch had lambed. One particular favourite had triplets in the end and in fact she is the only ewe on the farm supporting 3, all the others who had 3 we managed to foster onto ewes who only had single lambs. So our little family of 3 are doing really well and she is such a good Mum and plenty of milk for all of them. We love going to check them everyday. The daily checks can take anything from 2 to 4 hours depending on what we find. Our group of ewe lambs (who we will be breeding from next year) are down by the river, such a lovely field but it has a footpath going through it and unfortunately we caught a dog lose amongst them yesterday which resulted in one of our girls having a swim to the other side. An amazing guy called Chris jumped in and rescued her whilst we watched helplessly from the other side. Roly managed to find where he was and picked the sheep up and brought her back round in the truck, what a drama!

Our other real excitement is a new 4 legged addition to the family who we have named Bella, Bel for short. She is a lovely dog and came from Emma in Norfolk who has clearly trained her so well but it is taking us and Bel a little while to get used to one another as well as Meg and Boris of course. Boris thinks its great having another playmate and Meg wasn't sure at first but now they are sharing their kennel and seem happy cosying up together. Bel is really pretty, she is tri coloured, so she has some brown markings in her unlike Meg who is just black and white. I can't quite believe we've got 3 dogs! One of the photos at the top shows Meg having a haircut, she had carefully built up mudballs all through the winter which we carefully removed with some sheep shears, we were slightly concerned we had given her a mullet haircut! Poor Meg!

It was really exciting starting to sell our new season lamb, so some of the lambs which were born in January are now fit for us to sell. It was hard at first but gradually we are beginning to feel really proud of what we have achieved and lovely to hear feedback from our customers on how delicious the meat is. We have also started cooking and selling our lamb burgers at some of our farmers markets which seem to be going down well!

We have four little lambs in the orchard by our cottage, thanks to our lovely neighbours Clive and Liz who have let us have a small part of their amazing orchard. Every time we arrive back or leave in the car there is plenty of chat to remind us they are there! Henrietta (Henry for short), who sadly lost her Mummy and is so sweet, she has prettiest knees! And has been to visit people in local nursing homes and she has proved a real hit! See photo above. Amelia, who we found one night in one of the fields, not very happy, her Mum didn't have quite enough milk to support her and her sibling, Tiny, whose Mum didn't have any milk and has been to stay with friends of ours Laura and Charlie in Charlbury and is now back with us but missing them we think! and finally little Daisy, who a bit like Amelia, wasn't getting enough milk from her Mum.

All the lambs are growing really fast now they are outside. Being outside though presents new challenges in the form of worms and fly strike. I remember fly strike from when I was a little girl on our farm, it is when flies lay eggs on the lambs when the weather gets warmer and they hatch into maggots, it is so horrible. We have now treated all of them for this so fingers crossed we won't get any.

Finally, our next event on the farm which we will be doing jointly with our landlords the Northmoor Trust is Open Farm Sunday on the 13th June, we will update you soon and let you know our plans, but just as a tempter, sheep racing and farm olympics are amongst the planned activities!

Thank you for reading and more from us soon.

Bye for now

Camilla, Roly, Meg, Boris . . . and now Bel too!