Happy New Year & hope you are keeping safe and well.
Realising that not everyone sees our Facebook posts (even if you like / follow our page, Facebook won’t always show you our posts) and so thought I’d try a blog summarising some of what's been happening on the farm over the past month or so.
A highlight of December was getting photos of otters making their way up and down the stream. We’ve always been pretty sure we had otters, as we’ve lots of fish in the stream, and tons of frogs, but hadn’t seen them. Following a tip from a friend to point the trail camera at a rock midsteam as they will often climb out on these, we were delighted to get photos of an otter 3 times over 10 days. Unfortunately, after that, the heavy rain we had initially submerged the rock, and since then although the stream level has dropped, the movement of the splashing on the rock constantly triggers the trail cam, filling up the memory card so I’ve taken it in. There aren’t any natural holes close to the stream, so we’re thinking about building a deluxe artificial holt, as it would be fantastic if we can encourage them to breed here.
Thanks to our friend Dougie Ross, we now have a fab new farm logo – what we particularly like is the veins in the dragonfly’s wings are the fields and the strip lynchets in the valley towards Headland Warren. Next step is to add it to the website, and get it stitched onto some clothing so we’re less anonymous when doing events (or on TV!). If you or know anyone who needs a logo or design work you can contact him and see more of his work at https://www.instagram.com/dougie.ross/?hl=en-gb .
On the farming side of things, the rams were with the ewes from early November through to the 20th December, so we should be lambing from the beginning of April through to mid-May.
The cattle are now being fed in the barns the hay we harvested last summer. Their gate into the fields is left open, so unless the weather is really bad they spend most days outside before coming into eat and sleep. Last year’s lambs were weaned from their mothers before the rams went in (to avoid any ‘teenage’ pregnancies) and being less resilient then their parents have free access in and out of our stone barn where they have a hay feeder and shelter. This is also the time of year for hedge management and tree planting. We don’t flail our hedges. Instead we let them grow big and bushy, and lay them every 15 years or so (they grow slow up here) and replant any gaps to rejuvenate and thicken them back up.
To see a roundup of 2020 on the farm take a look at this short video we've uploaded to Youtube
Looking ahead to 2021, along with the normal farming cycle (lambing in April etc), we’ve various things in the pipeline. In June we will once again be opening up the haymeadow walk, and if the lurgie permits, also having open days for shearing and doing farm walks for local supporter groups of Devon Wildlife Trust, RSPB and anyone else who asks. Having seen how well the ponds and scrapes we made last year have established we’re also aiming to do some more ‘natural flood management’ work.
We’ve been selected as one of the pilot farms to help ‘A Greener World’ to develop a new ‘Regenerative Farming’ accreditation that will run alongside their existing ‘Animal Welfare Approved’ and ‘Certified Grass-fed’ schemes. Because our farm is much more complex than most in terms of needing to balance the needs of archaeology, wildlife, landscape, public access alongside producing food and minimising carbon usage, writing the plan is proving challenging, but is a useful way of consolidating our thoughts on how to best look after the farm for the future.
Finally, a little plug for our webshop. This means we can now do ‘click and collect’ for lamb and beef orders (small or big) and safely hand it over to you outside. We’re around most of the time, so we can have it ready for you whenever you fancy coming up for a walk.