Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Winter food all ready!

This week saw the last of the hay bales put away in the shed ready for the sheep to eat when they come in for the winter. We have made a mixture of hay and haylage. Dry weather is essential when making hay, the grass is cut and then turned everyday to allow the sun to dry it out, before it is baled and quickly put away in the shed before it rains! This has not been a problem this year as it has been so dry. The last two fields we had haylage bales made as it was quicker and meant we didn't need to turn it before it was baled. It is wrapped in green plastic sheeting to keep it dry and maintain the moisture within the bale. It should smell sweet when it is unwrapped and the sheep love it! Lisa has helped us do all the haymaking and we are really grateful to her. We are still waiting for proper rain, it seems to miss us and can be raining hard in Wallingford and Abingdon and we never see anything!

We have had two 'shepherds for the day' which has been great fun. Samantha our solicitor gave her husband Simon being shepherd for the day with us as his birthday present. He spent the day with Roly helping do everything from selecting lambs for market, treating the lambs with the prevention from fly strike (this is horrible, when flies lay their eggs and they hatch into maggots) and having yummy lunch of lamb pie at the Red Lion in Brightwell with Sue. Andrew and Elf also had a day with us and seemed happy to turn their hand to most things we presented them with!

Roly took the wool off to be sold through the wool marketing board which will eventually be used as carpet. Our 250 sheep produced about 1 tonne of wool!

The next move for some of the ewes will be to graze on the Wittenham Clumps which will be lovely to see. Not so easy for us to check them when they aren't in a field but a new challenge for Bel and Meg!

We can't quite believe it is nearly August and we will almost have been here a year....what a journey!

Camilla, Roly, Boris, Meg and Bel

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Rain please!

I know we shouldn't complain about this amazing weather but....I'm sure most people's gardens are beginning to suffer too like our grass. We are a lot more fortunate here than some of our farming friends around the country who are more desperate than we are for rain. Our great friend Tommy over in Norfolk has been busy irrigating all the vegetables on the farm since April and he is hoping the reservoirs are going to last until it next rains...

We weaned the lambs from the ewes last week, which means they are all separate now. It was a little noisy to start with but they soon settled down and I always think the ewes are actually quite relieved not to be supporting their offspring and being taken off their back legs by the sheer force of their feeding! It makes our grazing rotation quite complicated though as we now have even more groups of sheep at different stages to move around and match to the different grass. Roly has been busy doing that today with Ellie who has joined us this week on work experience. This was all a result of walking around with John and Julia Sargent yesterday evening who were so kind in advising us on which group should go where!

I have been in London today at a meeting with Defra (the government department for food, environment and rural affairs) discussing how we can make agri environment schemes more effective due to all the spending cuts which are needing to take place. Agri environment schemes are agreements which farmers can take up to undertake specific countryside management to take care of the environment. Some of these agreements have been in place for some years now so LEAF (who I work for) and other organisations such as the RSPB, NFU etc are all in discussions to make sure that all this good work does not suffer and farmers are still encouraged to enter the agreements. Some of the margins here at the Northmoor Trust are blooming with knapweed, yellow rattle, birds foot trefoil but they take time to establish. The wealth of wildlife they support is staggering too from bumblebees to the marble white butterfly.

Bel, Meg and Boris are all well. Meg is getting increasingly deaf and stubborn and wants to do her own thing and Bel is really turning out to be a little star. She responds to both Roly and I which is great. And as for Boris, well for those of you that know him, its a hard day of pigeon patrol and sunbathing....

We are doing some scrummy BBQ packs so do place your order if you haven't already. Gareth Morgan who works for the RSPB and who I saw in London today bought some of our lamb the other weekend at Wantage farmers market for his father and the feedback was very good which is always lovely to hear! We have been busy putting shoulders of lamb on the BBQ and cooking them in olive oil, rosemary, garlic and mint for about 2 hours - yummy!

More soon...

Camilla, Roly, Boris, Bel and Meg