Emma Heseltine blogs during her placement at Hadrian Organics
We are creosoting all the gates at Wallacefield. There are quite a few wooden ones and it’s a nice messy job. Trouble is one of our tup’s, James likes to use the gate as a scratching post. Having carefully watched us paint it he then ambles over for a lead/scratch. We only notice later when we go past and there is a suspiciously striped Suffolk in the field. Silly boy.
There is a bit of a mystery at Wallacefield. The lambs are supposed to be in big dipper but when I come down the drive there is no sign of any sheep. Worries now I go round the back to find the gate open and no sign of lambs. I half expected them to be frolicking in the barley and oats, generally causing chaos. But no, on further investigation I find them in lagoon field. Apparently they have let themselves in and shut the gate behind them. How very odd. Next mystery, on Friday I put three lambs and a ewe in the shed as they are going to the abattoir on Tuesday.
It’s the Houghton Village flower show this weekend so we had better enter some things. I’m not much of a flower person but photography is certainly my thing so I enter some pictures. I also take a big risk and enter some of my amateur jam, plum, orange and cinnamon. Susan decides to enter some apples, one of our ridiculous marrows, the marmalade and some redcurrant jelly. It’s a bit of a dead loss for me, I don’t win anything. Our marrow and marmalade are shunned but the apples win a second and third and, the jelly wins first prize.
There seems to be a window of good weather so its time to get the combine rolling. The old Massey chews through quite a bit of Susan’s oats before we get rained off, its too boggy in the middle. We do get a trailer full of oats into the barn which is a start.
The quantity of rain this weekend combined with the imminent harvest means I’ve decided to move the pigs today. They have made a nice muddy mess so now its time to move them up in the shelterbelt to a new patch. This is why I got electric fencing, to make moving them easier. It’s still quite a strategic task. I have to keep them contained whilst setting up the new area adjacent to the current patch. Luckily they have learnt big respect for electric fencing so as long as I don’t take too long about it they don’t notice I’ve turned the thing off.
The boss is away this week so I’m wondering what is going to attempt to keel over. Last time it was the Landover. We are getting all the lambs in at Wallacefield to see how they are getting on and dag and check the feet of a couple. There is a bit of a fiasco getting them in as there are a few people and Skye and I don’t always communicate particularly well. Still we get them in without anyone losing their temper despite a prolonged deadlock when Skye decides to just round up Peanut and a tiny miserable lamb I’ve picked up and ignore all the rest.
Whilst I was baling hay at the weekend the rest of the gang were weaning the lambs at Wallacefield. Today we are going to check through the ewes to see if they are all okay, if there are any mutton in the flock. It’s a sheep MOT, the three T’s; teeth, toes and teats. We need to make sure none have bad udders; they need to be able to feed their lambs. They must have all their teeth, or at least most of them as if they can feed themselves properly then they can’t produce enough milk to feed their lambs.
Now we have the hay it needs stacking up. It’s in the shed and its lying about in order to sweat out the bit of rain water that has ended up in the bales. To keep it under control over the winter it needs stacking properly. It’s a bit like building a dry stone wall and twice as hard. But if you get it right there is a beautiful wall of hay. Because of the damp in the bales we are adding some salt to soak up some of the moisture; this also means that as each bale is passed to me I get a liberal salting.
We have got some hay but have another five fields to cut. This week Susan decides to go for it so we cut two at Wallace Field and two at Houghton. I even get a chance to have a go with the mower in the dark on the big Houghton field, it’s an impressive bit of machinery and the big Massey is somewhat smoother than the little old one which has a door missing and a fairly suspect seat (but I love it!) With four fields lying it is going to be a busy week.
There are a lot of farmers getting stressed at the moment. There may be a heat wave further south but here is business as usual, rain. The thing is we want hay. Silage is all well and good but we don’t have a tractor so moving it about is a complete nightmare. Haylage is alright in big square bales, it comes out in slices that can be loaded into the quad trailer. But hay is the thing. The problem is that hay needs hot weather and about 6 days of it to dry it enough to bale. This week lots of people heave a sigh of relief as we get a few dry days and a hell of a lot of silage is made.
I’m taking a big step this week; I’m getting some creatures of my own. The one product we don’t have at Hadrian Organics is pork and I’ve had my eye on pigs for a while. This week the plan goes into action. I’ve found a suitable area for them, I’ve done the sums and consulted our Soil Association inspector. I have requisitioned some electric fencing, posts and an energiser (thanks Susan and John respectively) and bought a battery from the scrap yard. I’ve set up the fence and tested it, shocking indeed. I’ve made an arc from a ring feeder and some tarp.
This week I’m getting a special treat, I’m heading to the Great Yorkshire Show with Nicky Luckett to give a hand with the cattle and learn a few things about showing. When I arrive at the farm Nicky is trying to decide whether to take one of the little bulls or not, we go and have a look at him and Nicky decides he is not quite up to standard so he doesn’t get to go to the ball. We are taking Kismet, a two year old heifer and Leola and Lavender, both year old heifers. Lavender was the little calf who stamped on me earlier in the year when we were halter training, she has grown up a bit!
This morning I am given a reminder of why I love my job (as if I need one). Finally Helena has decided to have her calf, and thankfully I’m about to see it. She has picked her spot and is giving it a go. It actually takes quite a while and there is a lot of standing up and lying down and walking around in circles which goes on. Then there is feet peeking out. I have to resist the urge to go closer and have a look, this is not like lambing a ewe. The Longhorns are a very easy calve breed, as a hardy native improved breed you would expect nothing less.
Today we are having a scything course at Wallace Field. The Monday gang and myself are being taught the finer points of slicing and dicing with the grim reapers favourite implement. First we have to assemble the scythe which is no mean feat. Blade on and handles attached without poking a neighbours eye out we then get a lesson in how to wield it correctly. We must have looked like an extremely strange Thai-chi class swivelling and dipping and swaying and turning in dock field. Then we got to test them out, boy are these things sharp!
Its Open Farm Sunday this Sunday. The Croft has done every one since it started and a bit of rain isn’t going to stop us inviting people around the farm. We do quite well this year and there is only a little shower in the afternoon. We have all sorts of activities going on during the day including guided walks around the farm which take in Hazel and her new calf Kimberley and the stubborn Helena who hasn’t calved yet.
The thistle cutter is fixed so it’s down to Tarraby with me to get the thistles under control. The cattle are a little bemused at what I’m doing and follow me about a bit mooing and testing out the mown and non-mown sides. Hayley in particular is not impressed, she keeps yelling at me.
I’m doing the strimming in the small paddocks again. To really get rid of the rushes you need to keep on top of them by strimming them all through the summer whenever they pop up. Trouble is Peanut, our resident troublemaker pet lamb, is in the field too and thinks this looks like a great game. She proceeds to follow me abou the field as I attack the rushes, thankfully she has enough sense not to go nosing around the noisy end of the strimmer but I still worry.
There is a corner of one of the arable fields at Wallace field that is getting triticale and wild bird seed mix sown on it, but it’s a bit dishevelled looking so we need it ploughing first. Neighbour John has come round with his big red tractor and is ploughing it up. It’s been pretty boggy but the nice weather has dried it out a bit so now we can get on and sort it out. The Croftlands men are helping as we try and turn over some of the bigger sods so that its all ‘brown side up’ we are also hauling out any big rocks we find.
The Goslings are crazy for goose grass. Not surprising given the name, it’s the weed with sticky buds on that caused so much hilarity when we were kids. If you go pick a bundle from the orchard (yes we have lots of weeds/random flowers/general undergrowth in our orchard, the chickens love it) and take it to them as a treat a feeding frenzy ensues. They love it, it’s like chocolate to them, and boy does it make them squeak in happiness.
Alex, one of our Monday helpers and I are checking the ewes and lambs at Wallacefield. It doesn’t quite add up and I can hear a plaintive baaing coming from the vicinity of the river, someone is lost. We wander over and sure enough there is a lamb on the wrong side of the fence in the field that is basically a bank to the river Eden. He has slipped through a gap and now can’t remember how to get back. I don’t fancy catching the little blighter, broken pinkie aside it’s a steep bank covered in undergrowth, not fun.
There are reeds appearing in the big field at Houghton. There weren’t any last year but they seemed to have popped up from somewhere and need tackling. Thankfully for a change this isn’t a digging job but a strimming job. The Honda strimmer is big and unwieldy and has a very blunt blade, but the boss has got a new one so I’m optimistic that I can do a better job with it. So if fill it up with petrol, get geared up in my harness and ear defenders and head out to massacre the reeds.
This week we get the Goslings. They come up as day old chicks and we raise them for the Christmas market. I had one last year and it was a rare treat indeed. There is another farm locally who is getting some too so they go meet our man in Newcastle and then we pop over to get them from the farm. We have ordered 40, that’s the limit we can sensibly house. They are very free range and have the run of the farm on a day time, but like the chickens they need to be locked up on a night to stop out four legged friends running off with a goose-shaped snack or two.
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