Monday, 27 July 2015

Ear plugs anyone?

Weaning is taking place today and the farm is far from quiet as the lambs get used to not having their Mums around.  The ewes on the other hand are far more relaxed and I always think seem a little relieved to have time to themselves again.  Rearing lambs is hard work and demands a lot from the ewes so we need to make sure they have enough time to regain any condition before they meet the rams again in the Autumn.

All of our hay is safely in the barn and we think this might be the first year it hasn't got wet!  The usual frantic weather checking and 'shall we, shan't we', until we decided to go for it and were lucky. Such a great feeling to have it done.  We have also made silage for the first time this year too, so we have a good stack of bales piled up behind the barn which we can see from the kitchen window.

Our small area of spring barley is a few weeks off still from being ready for harvest.  We have just had a couple of very wet days which will be helping our winter fodder crop to grow which is food for the lambs during November/December time when the grass has very little goodness in it.  The local rooks and pigeons also think it is quite tasty and it is times like this we remember we share our farm with a lot of other wildlife, some more welcome than others!

We've been busy pulling ragwort again this year with help from wonderful local groups who give their time and come and lend a hand.  The farm is looking so much better we think than it did this time last year due to our efforts to get on top of the thistles and nettles which had really got out of hand in some fields.  Roly has been busy topping, which is a key part of grassland management which involves taking the top off the grassland which gives the grass and second boost of growth.  It can also kill some thistles too if done at the right time.  An old saying goes relating to thistles, 'if you top in June its too soon, if you top in July they're sure to die'.  So much of farming experience which gets past down the generations remains invaluable.

Our first batch of spring lambs are ready this week and we are really excited to begin supplying some of our regular customers who have also been enjoying hogget and mutton up until recently.  Positive lamb burger feedback remains particularly strong but our Saddlescombe Sausages are certainly coming in a close second!

Talking of piggies....we have 3 little boys who have arrived with us, Gloucester Old Spots this time and they are wonderful.  They took a few days to settle in but are now fully into their routine of listening out for feeding times and loving a good scratch and wrestle.  They've had a good explore of their patch and found some tasty treats amongst the mud and bushes.

Family life is busy too with Molly starting school in September, everyone tells you it goes so fast but you don't believe them until it is happening to you!  We are really enjoying having all of our lovely Bed and Breakfast guests too who are exploring our beautiful surroundings and seem to fit into our perhaps somewhat chaotic family/farming life.

More soon

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie, Boris and Belle

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

She has kept us waiting!

Here is our last little bull calf born on Saturday 16th May.  Isn't he a beauty?  I say last, we have one cow who is a little out of sync and not due for a couple of months, so she really will be the last!  Henry is back in with his wives and the cycle begins again.  Grass is really growing now but it feels wintry!  Heavy showers today but it feels warm in the sun when it is allowed to come through.

We are busy trying to get on top of the thistles and nettles on the farm, we know this isn't going to be an instant win but it is satisfying to already see some difference in the fields where we are managing them.

Open Farm Sunday on the 7th June, please come and join us!  Tractor and trailer rides (weather depending), sheep shearing and lots more, plus delicious local refreshments for sale.

More soon

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie, Boris and Belle

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Spring time on the farm

We are just emerging from what is the most intense but amazing time of year on the farm....lambing! Our last post was back in February and then we entered the void of calving moving seamlessly into lambing.  Our first calving at Saddlescombe, really special and we loved it.  Our first 2 calves were little heifers and Molly has predictably named them Elsa and Anna (for those of you who aren't Disney Frozen fans, they are the main characters!).  Shortly followed by bull calves and some more heifers.  They are amazing!  I thought even quicker than lambs to be up on their feet and suckling.  Now that the grass is growing their gorgeous red coats look incredible against the fresh green growth.

Henry, meanwhile has had his annual pedicure and is waiting patiently in a nearby field to do his work all over again.  When the first calf arrived he was right up close to the hedge in the next field bellowing, as if he was thumping his chest!

We are almost at the end of lambing and it's been a good year.  We've had wonderful vet students again, Katie and Sarah, who worked incredibly hard and were joined by Alex for a week who we had had on work experience last summer, as well as amazing Ems who regularly helps us out on the farm and Jenny too!  So we had a great team and a great atmosphere.  As usual they named their favourites, so Walter and Georgina are now out in the fields with their mums, 2 successful adoptions they helped happen.  Henry our first ever orphan lamb had 2 cracking lambs for us again, they have had so many cuddles!

Our open days were a great success, thank you to all our helpers, an annual established team!  The weather was fantastic and lots of visitors were lucky to,see lambs being born.

We had a visit from Michael from the Sussex Wildlife Trust yesterday, who is kindly going to monitor butterfly activity on one of the banks on the farm where we've been busy scrub clearing to allow the wildflowers to grow back, so we'll keep you posted on what he finds.

The spring barley is in and already showing, soon we will be thinking about hay making!!

More soon

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie, Boris and Belle

Monday, 23 February 2015

A beautiful little heifer calf

Just a very quick entry to show you our first calf born this year - a beautiful little heifer! Very special.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

189% and some sunbathing for Henry

Bob the scanner came to visit last week, his job is to pregnancy scan all the flock and tell us how many lambs each of them are having. All the sheep troop up into Bob's trailer single file enabling Bob to scan them and then put a different coloured dot on their back depending on how many lambs they are having. We've been sheep farming for nearly 6 years and every year I still can't work out how he can tell from the moving blobs on the screen the number of lambs, it really is a skill!  It is a family job with Molly generally helping with gate duty whilst Freddie walks the perimeter of the sheep pens. After scanning we then have "sheep chess".  Sheep chess last for about 3 days and involves Roly using most fields on the farm to separate all the different groups of sheep - eg those that are having triplets, twins, singles, ewe lambs (teenagers), empty sheep,  rams, last years lambs, the groups go on! Belle obviously loves sheep chess.

This week is the Big Farmland Bird Count now in its second year.  We took half an hour this morning to walk up to North Lane (one of our arable fields) where our wildbird seed crop is and where we have been spreading bird seed.  Binoculars in hand and sitting up in the hedge...we times like this you so want to see that elusive covey of grey partridge but we saw linnets and a skylark, blue tits, robins down to the obvious magpie and pigeon.  We will look forward to hearing the national results and hope others were luckier than us!

We have a great team from the South Downs National Park hedge laying for us this week who were here exactly a year ago.  The team is under the guidance of Garry who is chairman of the south east hedge laying society and has won lots of awards.  It is so exciting to have them back and already they have made great headway on the section they hope to have done by the end of the week.  They started on Sunday and it was a beautiful day.  Henry is in the next door field and Garry was telling me this morning how wonderful it was watching him sunbathe!  Some of the group needed to go into the field with him and he didn't bat an eyelid.

Roly announced at lunch that he thinks one of the cows is 'bagging up', a farmers way of saying that they think she is getting ready to have her calf, so exciting.  Will keep you posted on our new arrivals.

More soon

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie, Boris and Belle

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