Looking back on January 2021
Another month gone, so time to look back. January was a particularly quiet month for us. Like most people we’ve been hunkered down, with just a weekly trip off farm to drop meat off to anyone who’s ordered on our website, or through Good food Exeter (a virtual farmers market) and to pick our own groceries and anything we need for the animals. Its always quiet this time of year, but with the lock-down we’ve had even fewer walkers come through the farm - much the disappointment of the dogs who when its not raining still sit outside in the hope that someone will come and pet them.
The barns and yard on the over side of the road are divided in two with gates. In the main barns the cattle are bedded down with straw and fed hay in the covered yard outside, but are free to go out into the fields to the south – and unless the weather is really wet will generally go out for at least a few hours each day. In the other half are the old smaller stone barns, which are also bedded up with straw, and a hay feeder for this year’s lambs who can also still graze in the fields to the north of the barn. This works well for them as being smaller they are not quite as hardy as the full-grown sheep, and would otherwise struggle in bad weather. The pregnant ewes are all on the house side of the road, where they can graze over about 100 hectares, so with some mineral buckets have enough fodder and can change sides of the hill to avoid the worst of the weather. The only time they needed additional food is when we had couple of lovely snowy days a week or so ago, when we took them some hay.
On the wildlife side of things, the camera trap got some more pictures of the otter, but I ended up bringing it in as the heavy rain & rising water covered the rock and the rushing water constantly triggered the camera’s movement sensor. The ponds and scrapes we put in put in last summer are now totally full, and are proving to be popular with snipe – I flushed 4 this morning. Between the showers I’ve been doing some more hedgelaying. Apart from a few roadside hedges, we don’t trim any of our hedges, instead letting them grow up big and bushy to provide shelter and berries for winter birds. However, if you leave them too long they eventually become open and gappy, and so by laying them every 15 – 20 years (our hedges grow slowly) you can thicken them up and rejuvenate them.
We’ve also taken time out to virtually attend sessions of the Oxford Real Farming Conference. This is a conference for anyone interested in non-conventional agriculture and it was really inspiring to hear from farmers around the world who are producing food in a non-destructive manner, and to get ideas about things we can do to improve how we farm.
To enable us to track the weather better, we’ve just got ourselves a web connected weather station which puts an almost live feed of temperature, wind, rain and air pressure up on the web at https://app.weathercloud.net/d0993204852#evolution and we’ve added a summary feed to the visiting page on the farm website.
On the meat front, we’ve still a good range of our 100% grass fed, beef and lamb available and with the help of our local butcher are now offering a new way of buying a half lamb / hogget box – a no joint pack. This has no roasting joints - just cuts for everyday meals. The leg joints are cut into steaks, and the shoulder joint is boned and diced.
A typical half lamb / hogget box will contain:
5 or 6 packs of 2 leg steaks
3 packs of 2 loin chops
5 or 6 packs of diced lamb
3 packs of mince
2 ½ rib racks
1 lamb shank
Looking ahead to the rest of February, we’re expecting another quiet hunkered down month. Alongside the daily routine of feeding and checking the stock, I’ll be doing more hedgelaying and also planting of gaps. The nest boxes will all get cleaned out and where necessary repaired. Although wet it feels like Spring is slowly coming – its surprisingly mild and yesterday we had our first frog spawn.
Take care & stay safe
Mark & Naomi