Opinion: Late babies, the grass campaign and a trip to the beach

This year’s grass campaign is well under way and it’s safe to say that I will be thrilled when the baler is unhitched for the last time.

We do all our own silage, which is great for our bottom line, but it plays havoc with our family life. Late nights and missed meals are par for the course. Not that getting the grass in isn’t satisfying, but with a new baby and a fractious toddler to keep entertained all day, I’m really looking forward to getting back to a routine that isn’t governed by the weather forecast.

Will and I are like ships passing in the night at this time of the year; he often doesn’t get in till midnight and usually does the milking for another farm in the morning, so the first we get to see of him is around 10am when he is in desperate need of strong coffee and a sausage sandwich.

We don’t have a clamp so we bale all our silage, which means that every last one has to be hauled back to the yard. This should be a simple enough task but our farm is bisected by the road leading to the main house. On lovely summer days, hundreds of tourists nervously negotiate the narrow Cornish lanes only to meet Will, hauling a load home. Much muttered cursing and gesticulating then ensues before said tourists can be coaxed backwards and convinced that there really is enough space to pass between the tractor and the hedge.

Of course, the beneficiaries of a summer’s-worth of mowing, tedding, baling and hauling are not in the least bit grateful for all the effort put in on their behalf. The early spring-born calves have found their feet and are tirelessly testing the boundaries of the fields. One of our stock bulls is also exercising his right to roam; he has perfected the art of reducing a wooden gate to matchsticks by putting his head in the middle and pushing until it splinters – half a dozen this season so far.

He helps his dad fix stuff by hitting the machinery with his toy hammer
Jess Jeans

His last escapade saw him abandon a harem of bulling heifers to shack up with the fresh calvers. Clearly he has a taste for the older woman. In the meantime, I have ordered a new load of metal field gates; that’ll fox him.

Unfortunately, we have a number of cows who won’t be seeing the bull anytime soon; something seems to have gone awry last season and they are still languishing in the dry cow group. We have ruled out a problem with the bulls and are working with our vet to make sure that they get back in calf asap after they drop, but it has put our ambition of calving the whole herd in 12 weeks back a year or so. Things seemed to be going so well at the end of February when we started calving but, after the initial rush, arrivals have slowed down to one or two calves a week.

Late babies seem to be a bit of a theme in the Jeans family this year. We finally welcomed Lydia (two whole weeks past her due date) on 10 May, so in a stroke of uncanny coincidence, our children’s birthdays are only two days apart. I wonder how long I will get away with a joint party.

Thankfully she has settled herself into a routine that allows us a good six hours’ sleep at night, otherwise I think Will would probably take to sleeping in the barn.

Her big brother simply adores her (phew!) and loves helping to push her pram around the yard. He has really enjoyed watching the silaging this year and can name all the implements, although he calls the wrapper a “bappa” and the sound of it frightens him to tears. He is always “helping” his dad fix stuff by hitting the machinery with his toy hammer. No prizes for guessing where he picked that trick up from.

It makes me very feel very fortunate that our children get to grow up with such a lot of space and freedom to explore the natural world, but in order to relax we need to get away from the farm sometimes otherwise Will never really switches off from “work mode”.

I put my foot down the other day and insisted that we have a day out and we headed off to Watergate Bay to watch polo on the beach. I had been looking forward to this for weeks and had the date circled on the calendar since May. Of course, it poured down 10 minutes after we arrived and, having left the coats and umbrella in the truck, we all got soaked. Ed took great delight in filling Lydia’s pram with sand and we gave up waiting for the tide to go out so that the match could get under way and headed home having watched only a polo demonstration and a chukka of Segway polo, which is about as interesting as watching a load of teenagers ride their bikes around a car park.

Nonetheless, it was lovely to get away for a few hours and spend some quality time together. The scenery was spectacular with massive waves crashing on to the crowded beach. Mind you, next time I need to remember to de-sand more thoroughly before we head home. Ed jumped straight on the sofa when we got in, pulled off his shoes and poured several large handfuls of sand, all over the cushions and carpet. I’m going to be vacuuming that mess up for weeks.

Jess and her husband Will – who have two children, Edward and Lydia – farm a 200-acre National Trust farm on the Devon/ Cornwall border.

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