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

Monday, 23 June 2014

Shearing at Saddlescombe in the 1860s . . and today

The photo below is from Maude Robinson's book 'A South Downs farm in the sixties' - in the book Maude recalls her childhood memories of growing up at Saddlescombe Farm in the 1860s. This book is obviously very special to us, not only because it helps to visualise what Saddlescombe would have been like over 150 years ago, but it reminds us just what a small part of history we are and the responsibility we have to look after Saddlescombe for future generations, including hopefully Molly and Freddie.

Anyway, we have included this photo as last week we sheared all our flock for the first time at Saddlescombe and the team effort seemed no different to the 1860s. Shearing time provides an opportunity for everyone to get involved, young and old, and amazing Emma, who helps us a couple of days a week, and Alex, who was on work experience, had a go at shearing a sheep!

More soon
Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie, Boris and Belle

Shearing at Saddlescombe 1860s

Shearing at Saddlescombe 2014

Alex teaching Molly and friends to roll a fleece

Emma learning to shear

Alex learning to shear

Haymaking - an emotional rollercoaster

Believe it or not but haymaking is a complete emotional roller coaster. To make some good hay ideally you need 5 cracking days of sun, and lots of kit (farm machinery . . . toys). This year we decided to avoid the frustrations and challenges of making hay and make silage which is basically a little easier as you cut it, bale it and wrap it in plastic (expensive) and some would argue less stressful in terms of not checking the weather forecast every 5 minutes!

Well, when we checked the weather forecast and saw 5 days of blistering sun, we could not resist making some hay! Our neighbours, Mark, Gary, Michael and Oliver Lee have been incredibly generous with lending us some of their machinery and helping out. The first three days went well. Michael mowed the field, we tedded (fluffed up) the grass twice to dry it out, and then the forecast changed, and it rained! It's so upsetting, but we got a grip, the sun came out again, we tedded the grass to dry it out and Matt the baler man baled it up for us. We then raced to get it in the barn . . . all ready for the winter. Job done. 

Next year we're going to make silage ...

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie, Boris and Belle

Michael mowing

Tedding (fluffing up)

Molly assessing if the grass it ready to bale ... NO ... too green

Matt with his baler

Our first Saddlescombe bale!

Our first load aboard

Safely in the barn

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Henry and his wives

Not Tudor times but 2014 here at Saddlescombe!  Having discussed calving times with some helpful and informed friends and family we decided it was time for Henry to meet his wives which means we will be calving for the first time here at Saddlescombe in February and March 2015.  We weren't sure how loading him into the livestock trailer would go, but it seems those boys always know, just like the rams do when it comes to their time to meet the girls.  He trotted up and happily skipped out of the trailer and did a good circuit (running) around the field until he found them.  He seemed even bigger out of the yard and in the field and compared to the cows coats, his seemed very dull in colour.  Now it is gleeming like the others and looks wonderful, such a deep, velvety brown/red.  The cows remain a joy to have on the farm and going to visit them is a treat, they are so quiet as we walk amongst them.  We take a bucket with a few treats so we can have an excuse to give them a cuddle!

It probably seems like the sheep are taking a bit of a back seat at the moment, well they're not honestly.  The lambs are growing really well, and the final ewe lambed only last week!  So lambing 2014 is now officially over.  Routine annual jobs like protecting them from fly strike (making sure flies eggs do not hatch out into maggots on their fleeces) to worming are all happening at the moment and then Brian is due to come down and shear for us at the beginning of June.

Our piggies arrive mid July, 3 girls (gilts) from the Tedfold Saddleback herd where I went on my pig keeping course back in February.  Really exciting.  They will live in the traditional piggery behind where Belle currently sleeps.  Not sure what she will think of her new neighbours when they arrive!

The farm like everywhere at this time of year is looking particularly stunning, cow parsley, buttercups, butterflies and the swallows have arrived and busy finding somewhere to nest.

We now have lamb burgers available with our lamb packs for easy suppers and delicious barbeque treats.  Pork and beef are a little way off yet, but watch this space!

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie, Boris and Belle

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Some amazing new residents have arrived...

....what is the saying, always ask a busy person?  As lambing just started to slow down our bull (Henry) and 15 traditional Sussex cows and calves arrived!  Suddenly the farm really does feel busy with many of our lambs now out in the fields with their Mums enjoying the spring grass and our cows already looking very at home in their new surroundings.  Henry the bull has taken up residence in his own pen next to the sheep who are waiting to lamb.  He seems so big!  and apparently is a little overweight so we are being careful on how much hay we are giving him, poor old boy, it seems amazing that an animal his size can fatten on just hay alone.  His wives are out at grass with their calves.  They are a wonderful deep red/brown colour depending on the lighting.  They are so quiet and seem quite happy to let us walk amongst them.  The day they arrived the youngest calf got separated from her Mum and sat on her own which allowed us to give her a big cuddle! They are so soft, almost like velvet.  That evening Roly scooped her up and reunited her with Mum.  My favorite visit to see them so far has been 2 days ago, we walked out to see them just after it had stopped raining and the sun had come out.  Their coats against the blue sky and spring grass was just so lovely and again noticing just how quiet they are.  We can't quite believe they belong to us!

Other big highlights of the last couple of weeks have been our 2 open days, the sun shone for us, we were so lucky and we welcomed lots of visitors to see our sheep and the girls performed with lots of people being lucky to see lambs being born.  Thank you to our amazing team of helpers who were just fantastic. To see some photos from the weekend click here

We've had wonderful vet students again this year, Annika and Charlotte from the Royal Veterinary College in London and Maria studying veterinary science in Liverpool.  All of them have worked so hard for us and really taken care of the lambs and ewes, and definitely chosen some favourite lambs who are real characters.  This season has thrown all the usual challenges at us from difficult births and adoptions but we've had what we think were some badger attacks out in some of the fields which have injured some of the lambs badly.  We brought them back in to take care of them and thankfully most are recovering well.  So we've had to be careful where we let lambs out for their first few days until they are big and strong enough to out run any predators.  Henry (our first ever orphan lamb) has really done us proud this year and had 2 of the most lovely lambs, well we think so, and we will keep them both in the flock for future breeding as luckily they are girls!

The farm is looking so beautiful now everything is greening up, the cow parsley is coming out and our new hedge is looking wonderful.

Freddie is just tractor mad already and Molly has been so busy helping feed the orphans and sweeping the yards and  helping Annika and Charlotte.  A real shepherdess in the making.

More soon

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie, Boris and Belle