Opinion: Calving, spring cleaning and new pups

Spring brings with it one task that I absolutely can’t stand – spring cleaning.

I’m not the most diligent housewife, I’d much rather be sat on the tractor than be stuck inside hoovering, but after months of apathy, telling myself there’s no point in giving the house a good scrub because the tribe will just drag mud straight through it again, it’s now time to dig out the Marigolds and find that mop bucket.

The combination of cattle, dogs and children makes for a heavy layer of dust and grime on every surface, nook and cranny.

Old farmhouses like ours seem to act like a sponge for dirt. There isn’t a straight wall or level floor in the place and I can never seem to get the place looking sparkling.

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On top of the dirt is currently strewn an even layer of childhood detritus, from toys, clothes, food and craft supplies, which must first be picked up and reorganised (by which I mean, cram it in the toy box and sit on the lid to close it).

However, with Teddy and Lydia at home for the Easter break, as fast as I tidy up they pull everything out again.

Lydia, especially, is going through a very trying phase; she is well-known for sneaking off and being very quiet, then when you find her it is invariably in the middle of an almighty mess.

Her recent exploits have included unrolling an entire box of loo roll down the toilet, emptying all my nice bubble bath down the sink and making potions out of various half-drunk cups of tea and mushed-up fruit.

They are no better out on the farm. If there’s a puddle, you can usually find the kids in it and failing to encase them from head to toe in waterproofs will always prove disastrous.

The other day I ended up hosing them off outside the back door, fully clothed, before letting them back in.

Farms and family life will always result in masses of dirt and I admit to sometimes finding the task overwhelming; it’s far easier to pull on my boots and go outside to forget about it.

I often find myself tempted to employ an agricultural solution to the job and call in a contractor to do it for me, but I’m well-known for being tight and I just can’t bring myself to pay for a cleaner.

I’m sure once the kids are a bit older they will become very useful around the house and I will be able to sit back with a glass of wine as they clean around me.

Calving continues

I much prefer farmyard spring cleaning, give me a dung fork over a duster any day. It’s blissfully quiet up in the yard now all the youngstock are finally out at grass.

Will is getting all the muck spread on the maize ground and I’m having a general tidy-up while spending most of my days checking calving cows.

Calving is continuing successfully with no cows requiring assistance and calves are really thrifty this year.

With stock numbers on the increase, we’ve set up a dairy-style paddock grazing system for the suckler cows in the hope of utilising the grass better and extending the grazing season. Our old set stocking method always left the cows a bit short in the late summer so I’m hoping this new system will help.

Perfect puppies

In my last column, I mentioned that our cocker spaniel was in pup. She finally popped out 10 perfect puppies. We were expecting around five or six, but were completely amazed as they kept coming.

She is doing a grand job of looking after them and the kids are in almost constant attendance. I’m also wasting far too much of my time in the boiler room cuddling them. We have suddenly become very popular with lots of friends popping by for a cuppa and a cuddle.

At the time of writing, they are just starting to find their feet and I’m frantically trying to work out how I’m going to contain them all when they start running about. I’ve sourced a playpen for the house, but I think I’m going to have to build a pen for them in the garden.

A few people have said they would like one and one bitch has found a home after someone in a local shoot heard that our Ruben was the father.

We have decided to keep one of the boys who is the spitting image of his dad; after a bit of deliberation we settled on calling him Humphrey, which everyone seems to find really funny.

I just hope we don’t end up with any of the others left unsold as I fear we may have somewhat flooded the local spaniel market.

Daphne is being a good mum, although she is starting to get a bit fed up and sneaks off up the yard to jump in the tractor anytime she can. Both dogs have managed to winkle their way back into being ‘house dogs’ too.

Their usual home is the old log shed, but we let Daphne whelp in the boiler room, planning on keeping Ruben outside – but I couldn’t sleep through his barking so reluctantly allowed him inside as well.

Both are fast asleep on the sofa in the living room at this moment – it’s a dog’s life!

Jess Jeans and her husband Will run 75 suckler cows on an 80ha National Trust farm on the Devon/Cornwall border. They have two children, Teddy and Lydia. Jess has a degree in rural business management and enjoys horse riding in her spare time.

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