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Farm update – autumn approaches

It feels like a big change is upon us, the shifting of the seasons. Nature is leading the way of course, we can simply observe and draw our own conclusions, reacting to the signs they lay out for us to read, the preparations that they have already made for the season ahead. Four large flights of geese flew over at dusk yesterday, honking noisily while their movements keep them in beautiful synchronicity, their perfect formations. The swallows are rearing a final clutch in the barn, their third of the year. It will be a challenge getting them ready for their long flight south but they seem to know that they have time. A sign of a last burst of good weather perhaps. I will miss them when they are gone and eagerly look out for their return next Spring. Gone is the savage blast of heat that came each sunrise, replaced with softer morning mists and heavy dew, the skies mottled with red tinges.

The lambs have done incredibly well this year. Even the youngest were weaned two weeks ago with no fuss from either ewes or lambs as all were ready for it. The ewes stayed on “poorer” grass for a while to help their bags dry up, avoiding any cases of mastitis, but are now back on the good stuff gaining condition. Don’t worry, we don’t deliberately put them onto bad grass, it simply means when they have almost finished grazing down a field we then move the lambs away from the ewes and leave the ewes on this field for another week to 10 days. There is enough grass for them, but they have to move around more to get it, and there is less goodness in it. The lambs, in contrast, go onto a field with fresh grass so can simply put their heads down and munch, reducing any weight loss that can sometimes occur when weaned due to the loss of high-energy milk in their diet. If you time it right, they have already all but weaned themselves so there is no stress on either side. The ewes in particular always seem grateful to have the lambs gone as they have long stopped being small lambs to nurture that need the milk to survive and become independent hulking beasts that launch themselves under the ewes on a whim, lifting her entire back end off the ground in their vigour for a mouthful of milk, taken out of habit rather than need. It’s that time of year when we have to make decisions on what to do with the lambs. Many of the ewe lambs this year will go to the big ewe lamb sale to go on into breeding. The wethers will go either to market or straight to a butcher, a day I never find easy.

The boys are about to start back at school for the first time in almost six months, so this last week has been spent kitting them out. The feet of the youngest have grown a full two sizes and he has shot up four inches, leaving the uniform he last had to fit into back in March entirely redundant. Middle son finally has a date confirmed for his driving test, a process that has added a few grey hairs to me. His theory test was cancelled the night before he was due to sit it as organisations shut down in panic and with no notice. With that now under his belt, he faced the backlog of five months of extra teenagers to secure a date for the practical element, but a date is now booked and lessons have been able to resume. Truffle has taken the mothering of her six puppies entirely in her stride and all are growing on extremely well. Their new families are planning their first visits to meet them and names are being thought up, always such an exciting time.

Phil took much of August off but is back at it with a new video on gingerbread and a number of others in the making. He has spent August enjoying working closely with a very talented groundsman creating a pond from an area within the brook that had suffered such extreme erosion over the last few years (particularly last winter) that another winter of high floodwaters would have caused significant damage to the bank of the River Dove that it flows into.

We look forward to continuing to share more with you over the coming season. Please do continue to get in touch with any questions, and to share and celebrate your makes and bakes.

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Farm update – autumn approaches