The study tour for this year has been confirmed and we’re off to the Czech Republic.
We’ll be flying to Prague for a week’s stay in April and I’m undecided how I feel about being in an aeroplane for the first time in 16 years.
In general, I prefer to have my feet on the ground and in North Yorkshire. But being a homebody has its benefits. It’s cheaper for a start, and it means you always enjoy the return journey when you do go away.
One friend going on the study tour has always played the ultimate stick-in-the-mud and insists everywhere outside of East Yorkshire is foreign. “Ahh, I can breathe again,” he says when he crosses the border, homeward bound. “Hope you wiped your feet,” he joked once when I’d been out of the county.
But he has hidden depths that lad, for he’s actually been all round the world. I’ve known him nearly two years, and only found that out recently.
The initial itinerary includes visits to a wheat and hop grower, Kladruby Stud, a dairy, large beef unit, Krivoklat castle and the Royal brewery of Krusovice. The college has kindly given us an afternoon off after the brewery visit, so I think they know the mindsets of students.
Before I get too stuck into the exciting culture and agriculture of Eastern Europe, there will be a few things drawing me back home and 16 of them make up my flock of sheep.
I’m a proud mum 10 times over now and worry about my charges probably too much, particularly as a long-distance farmer with trips to the farm worked in around college and other responsibilities.
My total deaths to date are a deformed lamb and the seventh ewe that died a few weeks from lambing twins. Other than that I’ve got one scrappy lamb and the rest are looking, so far, pretty good.
When the lambs first went into the outdoor straw yard, I put a yellow line down their backs to help identify them. Two weeks later, the lines had stretched almost to invisibility. I can’t believe how much they’ve grown.
Not one of the lambs has a proper name, as I’m determined to be a commercially minded farmer. But that unfortunately doesn’t stop them having their own quirks and identities and so their numbers have taken the place of names. Number 8s are my first ever lambs. The Suffolk cross, number 19, is the only scrappy lamb, and number 34 is a triplet successfully mothered on to another ewe.
I had a week off college for lambing as a work placement. One afternoon the farm hosted a “Lamb Challenge” workshop for the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX). Having an audience other than sheep certainly added another dimension to lambing a ewe. I enjoyed being asked questions but felt like a bit of an imposter: in the right clothes for the job but far off being an expert.
College life is busy and we’re not starved of variety. From one moment to the next we could be dissecting farm management accounts, going on a crop walk and discussing tractor wheel specifications and then watching a Ford rally car engine being taken apart and problem diagnosed. We could, however, be looking to see what residents have moved into the new zoo on the Animal Management part of the campus (such as the ever entertaining meerkats, stood tripod-like on their back feet and supported by their tails).
From meerkats to Prague…they say college gives you some of the best years of your life. Well, they’re certainly colourful.