Monday, 26 January 2015

2015 - here we come!

A belated Happy New Year.  Approaching the end of January and we are hoping for a dry spell!  Mud and more mud, interrupted by a few fine, crisp days which we love.  Working in the mud is hard work and the animals do not think much of it either.  Roly is trying to make minimal impact with the tractor as we take feed out to the cows who are due to calve very soon, very exciting.  It won't be long until the sheep will start getting extra feed too as we approach lambing.  Bob who scans our sheep is coming next week so we will know how many lambs each ewe is expecting, always an exciting yet apprehensive day!

It really does feel significant to be on the brink of our first calving here at Saddlescombe.  The cows do look enormous but appear very relaxed about their imminent role.  Perhaps this is because they have all been Mums a few times now and feel comfortable in knowing what to expect!  We will be moving them very gently back towards this side of the farm so we can keep a very close eye on them over the coming weeks.  They are enjoying their hay and we enjoy watching them munching away.

Last years lambs have finished eating the stubble turnips from the top field, see photo, and are now having some of our barley to keep them happy before the spring grass starts growing.

Our 4 piggies have made themselves very much at home in their patch, we have extended it and it hasn't taken them long at all to root up all the goodies.  They are charging around and have already grown so much.  They don't seem to mind the mud (of course) but they really don't like the rain!  They race back into their house the moment it starts, so funny.

Snowdrops are up and we have just started listening to the birdsong in the morning and feel encouraged that it is now light until 5pm, even half an hour makes a difference!  Emma who regularly helps us on the farm is attending a farmland bird identification day today with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.  The day is all about helping farmers identify what they have on their farms ahead of the Big Farmland Bird Count taking place from the 8th February.  We can't wait to be involved and find out what we have here at Saddlescombe and if we have any new visitors we can include in our survey.  We have been busy spreading supplementary food for the birds to help them through what is called the 'hungry gap', which is from now on really until food starts to appear again in the hedgerows and margins around the farm in the spring.

Many thanks to the Green Gym from Portslade who have helped us do some more scrub clearing.

More soon

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie, Boris and Belle

Monday, 1 December 2014

Mid winter but there are still treats...

Like seeing some beautiful sunsets whilst out checking the cows.  Roly captured this amazing picture at the top of this blog of the cows silhouettes and myself and Freddie, can you spot his bobble hat?!  We took up some tinsel with us and whilst Henry is pretty relaxed about us giving him a scratch (and a cuddle if we're really lucky) he did draw the line at having some tinsel put around his neck....I don't really blame him, so the girls have some around their straw feeder instead which Molly chose for them.

The lambs have made their way up onto the stubble turnips and are happily munching their way through them.  We were so lucky with the day when we moved them up, wow.

More soon

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie, Boris and Belle

Monday, 17 November 2014

Rapunzel, Ariel and Belle

This blog entry is perhaps going to be a little more personal due to our first 3 piggies (Rapunzel, Ariel and Belle) leaving us last week.  I knew it was going to be hard, and it was, I cried loading them into the trailer, I cried leaving the abattoir and I cried seeing the pork as we collected it from our butcher.  I think it is right to feel sad, particularly as this was our first 3 and they were just wonderful.  I wasn't hysterical and I haven't had sleepless nights but it has really made me think and it has felt very real.  Even Roly found it far harder than taking the lambs and the hardest was Freddie pointing to their patch and then back at me when he realised they weren't there.  Molly on the other hand was absolutely fine and is looking forward to our next 3 arriving as we all are.

It was an entirely different experience last night as we ate our first home reared sausages with my Mum, my godmother Liz and her husband Colin who have been staying with us for the weekend.  We all agreed they tasted delicious.  I was thinking about them as I ate but it wasn't sad, a little reflective perhaps and very thankful that we have the opportunity of raising animals and knowing exactly what they've eaten and how well we have loved them and looked after them.  A very rewarding and respectful experience, particularly as we have already had amazing feedback from customers and sold out!

Last week was also rather noisy, we weaned the calves from their Mums and they weren't very happy at all. It took a week for them to quieten down but now they are fine.  We had them in the yard for a few days and now they are back outside.  Their Mums are back over the road and are all in calf again, which we are so thrilled about.  Well done Henry!  They called for their calves for a couple of days but they were soon distracted by a different view and munching their barley straw.

Basil, Bruce, Ted, Churchill (our rams) and their 3 new friends are all in with the ewes and being very busy as far as we can make out.  Molly kept asking me why Basil was 'standing' on all the ewes and looked rather appalled when I attempted to explain that this action would result in lambs being born in April.....

We have had a lot of rain, ugh.  We are praying it won't be like last winter.  Mud is no fun if you're an animal or us trying to feed them all and work with them.  None of them want to move and they just look miserable!

Thank you for all your support and more from us soon.

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie, Boris and Belle

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

A year at Saddlescombe

The new boys, left to Right - Thomas, Peter & Benjamin
Freddie & Molly with Rapunzel, Tiara and Belle
Left to right - Austin Weldon, Peter Thompson and Camilla
It feels good!  To have experienced all the seasons on the farm it helps for our surroundings to now feel like our home.  We're starting to really understand the fields and know where our favourite spots are for the best views and chances of spotting some wildlife.

We were lucky to have Peter Thompson and Austin Weldon from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust visit us yesterday.  They came to walk the farm and discuss our environmental work.  We saw meadow pipits, linnets, skylarks, goldfinches and partridge all around our wildbird seed mix plot, it was so exciting.  They would have been busy feeding on the millet and triticale seeds which are all part of the mix we have planted.  Other arable plants we saw were fumitory, field pansy and field madder.

The cows are currently not very happy with us, we moved them a week ago onto Varncombe Bank.  This is an area of grazing which needs their help!  We have been busy scrub clearing and managing the gorse to allow more area and light onto the bank to help encourage the wildflowers and grasses to grow back.  The cows have an important conservation job to do, through grazing the area they will also encourage the native species to grow back.  However, it looks like they don't think it is that tasty!  So we will need to move them again soon.

The sheep are doing well.  The ewes are out in Saddle field which is an amazing field next to Devils Dyke.  Plenty of grass to keep them happy until they meet the boys in a few weeks time.  Our ram numbers have increased in the last week.  We have two new Lleyn rams who we bought from a farming friend in Worcestershire and they caught a  lift down with Roly's parents last week.  They are very  handsome and they will be meeting our girls who we use to lamb our replacement flock, so if they have girls we keep them.  Molly has named them Peter and Benjamin.  Our third new arrival is a Texel called Thomas, he will be helping Basil, Bruce, Ted and Churchill do their work with the main flock.

Rapunzel, Tiara and Belle (the pigs, not Disney princesses) will soon be leaving us. They have added so much to our daily routines here, they are just brilliantly inquisitive, fun and really naughty! They have been tickled, scratched and told off for escaping through the fence and digging up some of the garden. They are being fed lots of apples, plums and whatever else they have found in their quest to totally dig up their lovely patch. Ultimately we hope they will taste delicious and that our customers will appreciate where they have come from and pork is to be very much part of our Saddlescombe story.  We are selling boxes containing delicious joints, chops and sausages, please let us know if you would like some, we have already had lots of interest.

We are really excited and proud to now be supplying some of our local pubs with lamb, The Royal Oak at Poynings, where lots of our Bed and Breakfast guests have supper and always have a lovely time, The Fountain at Ashurst and the Rainbow Inn at Cooksbridge.  Stewart Parker their chef came out to the farm and it was great to have the opportunity to show him around.  The Ginger Fox is our other lovely local pub and restaurant and also have Saddlescombe lamb on the menu and we supply their sister pub the Ginger Pig in Hove.  We are delighted that the lamb we work so hard taking care of and enjoy doing so much is being enjoyed by our local community.

As I look out the window, the tail end of hurricane Gonzalo is playing havoc and the leaf fall is significant.  We are looking forward to Autumn, Roly always says he enjoys the new seasons.

More soon

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie, Boris and Belle

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Our first harvest at Saddlescombe Farm - the highlights

A big thank you to Gary and Mark Lee, our neighbours, who not only planted our spring barley crop, but also managed it through the spring and last week harvested it.
The crop was ready to be harvested two weeks ago, and then hurricane Bertha decided to send some very unsettled weather our way. Anyway, the sun came out and it was all systems go. 

Freddie, our 18 month old boy was in his element watching the large combine and tractors roaring around the farm.
Another local farmer, Matt O'Neil came and baled all the straw which then kept Roly busy with the tractor and trailer bringing the bales back to the farm and into the barn to be kept dry ready for feed and bedding over the winter months.

"Beer o'clock" overlooking the South Downs national park
Meanwhile, Michael Lee (Mark's son) who is an agricultural contractor, also used the sun to make the last lot of hay the opposite side of the farm, which has provided us with a little more hay, including some small bales which will come in very useful during lambing time in the spring.
The last load of hay bales coming into Saddlescombe Farm
The old tythe barn stacked with wool sacks and small hay bales 
As soon as Roly had finished moving the straw bales off the field, Oliver Lee (Marks other son), then planted a forage crop (stubble turnips and forage rape) to provide grazing for the lambs later in the year when the grass stops growing. Oliver had a late night to get the field all planted ahead of the rain.
Meanwhile, Belle has been busy keeping an eye on the flock and herd during the harvest
Yesterday we sent off a sample of our spring barley to be analysed to determine the quality. We are hoping it can be used for malting.

We will keep you posted!

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie, Boris and Belle

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Oink oink!

Some very exciting new arrivals to report....our first calf born here at Saddlescombe.  He arrived on Monday morning and was up and with his Mum when Roly went to do the daily checks.  Amazing to think of the size and the fact she had him all on her own.  Suddenly the other calves seem really big!  They have grown so much its amazing.  She is being a wonderful Mum and we are so thrilled, Roly was a bit tearful when he came back for breakfast and told us all!  Very proud.

Belle now has some new neighbours, 3 little Saddleback weaners.  They are wonderful and seem very happy in their new home.  They have got plenty of work to do clearing the nettles we hope!  We can see them from our windows and we all have a big smile on our face when we see them.  Molly has given them lots of different names, predominantly relating to Disney princessess, I have only named one so far, Margot, as she looks like a little ballerina!  The whole naming thing is very dangerous, oh dear.....

The countryside has dramatically changed colour over the last couple of weeks, combines are rolling and our barley is looking lovely and golden.  Gary and Mark will harvest the barley for us around mid August.  The price looks a little disappointing so this is a whole new side to farming for us, trading, it reminds me of overhearing conversations my Dad used to have with neighbours and droughts and floods elsewhere in the world impacting what price our harvest would get.

The farm has been noisy this week, we weaned all the lambs off their Mums, so we are not very popular, but they all seem to have settled now and within the next couple of weeks we will be selecting our first spring Saddlescombe lamb for sale.  Another rather special milestone.

More soon

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie, Boris and Belle

Monday, 7 July 2014

Wildlife, wildflowers and 5 years

We celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary having a picnic with our cows!  Well, they were nearby and probably wondered what on earth we were doing having a picnic in the rain....whilst munching, we saw our first pyramidal orchid and have since seen a lot more.  The wildflowers up on Newtimber Hill, at the back of the farm, are just amazing, scabious, vipers bugloss, wild thyme and lots more we need to learn the names of.

Other exciting news is we have a pair of corn buntings nesting in our top field of spring barley.  They are a particular target species for us here at Saddlescombe so we are really pleased.  Bruce from the RSPB, has one more survey to do next week and we will then have the full picture so will keep you posted.

We weighed our first batch of spring lambs last week and some will be ready very soon so we are looking forward to lamb sales and getting to know some new customers.

Fair to say these first 5 years of married life have been busy...the next 5 here we come!

More soon

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie, Boris and Belle