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July news

It’s been a crazy month with so many completely different things going on that my head literally hurts. The number of times I have caught myself running around in circles achieving nothing to completion are too numerous to count as while I start one job, my attention is sought elsewhere. So please overlook the lack of weekly updates this month, I’m going to roll it all into one superblog and hope you don’t mind!

Headline items are the huge sheep job at the beginning of the month, sorting out some Heronbrook branded clothing, creating some original watercolours to become a range of cards, a family break to Scotland with some work elements to inspire us, brook clearing, the arrival and insertion of the new smoker in the commercial kitchen, and, running alongside all this throughout the entire month, sourcing a horse. Some things have had to take a back seat, and the beautiful Harris Tweed is still sat folded neatly on my workbench, the gardens here at Heronbrook have been utterly neglected, but at least some cricket has begun again for our youngest farmer-in-training so a few matches for him have raised his chin somewhat.

Oh, and I need to let you know that the name of the kitten was finally chosen …. DAISY. I say chosen, with six of us currently in the household it wasn’t that straightforward. There were wonderful names put forward by so many of you, and a heartfelt thank you for all of you who put the time and thought into that. The favourites from there were put to a vote, along with a few other ideas from various family members. In the end, voting was inconclusive and I made the executive decision to call her Daisy as the pale orange and white reminds me of these beautiful flowers. At least two family members persist in calling her their chosen favourite name but she ignores them, favouring me. I’m not flattering myself as I know this has everything to do with me being the one that feeds her and absolutely nothing else. She is the sweetest little thing, still a slip of a kitten, that purrs readily. Kitten antics up curtains and sharp claws aside, she has settled perfectly. Incredibly, her and Smithy have teamed up. Maybe it’s a size thing or perhaps a joint adoration of the sun as they are regularly to be found curled up together hogging the sunniest spot available.

The sheep job I’ve mentioned at the beginning of the month was one of those particularly big ones as so many treatments were carried out at the same time. It is quite routine to gather the flock for a single treatment - to worm, or shear for instance. On this occasion, we were indeed worming, but with two different wormers to different groups, we were spraying against fly-strike which is a necessary post-shearing treatment to keep them safe throughout the rest of summer and autumn, everything was weighed as we have to start to assess the progress that the lambs are making to make decisions on weaning, and the last batch of youngest lambs were vaccinated with their second dose of HepP to protect them against a range of clostridial diseases and pasteurella. To top it all, one particular group had to be taken to one side and transported to the barn for shearing, and then returned into a separate field. Throughout the process, we kept a close look out for any issues with condition or feet in order to pick up any issues early, and indeed we put aside three cades to move as we felt they would do better in with another group. The final complication if you want to call it that, more a factor I suppose than a complication, was that we were using our new mobile sheep handling system for the first time. Although setting up and dismantling it were new to us, and slow, using it actually made the overall job quicker so we’re delighted with it. Peter took some drone footage throughout the process, and Phil put a video of the day together so you can follow the entire exploits.

Excitingly, we have indeed now sourced some branded clothing, and Phil has worked hard to put together the webshop on the website so you should very soon be able to browse through the items and purchase any that you like. At this early stage, we have focused on items that we wear in our daily work around the farm and in the farm kitchen, so it is tops, hoodies and gilets, and some fabulous aprons for the kitchens. We have focused on quality, hard-wearing items that are comfortable and wear well, and we are indeed already wearing them ourselves on a daily basis and are very pleased with them. We’re particularly pleased with the aprons which are a heavy cotton and, although it takes a couple of goes to get to grips with crossing the straps over at the back, it means there are no buckles at the neck so adjusting it to the right fit for the wearer is straightforward. I have a thing against aprons that never quite sit at the right height at the neck, or have buckles that immediately spin sideways!

So in the opening, I quickly glossed over a search for a horse, but those of you who know me well will have pricked their ears up at that throwaway phrase. I have been around horses for nigh on 40 years, indeed, riding for a while longer than that. We have owned a riding stable and taught many to ride, and been part of the journey to caring for these fabulous creatures for a whole cohort of youngsters. We have bred thoroughbreds, trained up eventers, and worked with the British Horse Society to both further my own qualifications and lead a team of staff through their exams. I thought I had finally got the horse bug out of my system a few years ago, and even started selling off some of my tack. However, I kept all the crucial elements so maybe, deep down, I knew I would one day get one more, final horse to enjoy. I decided from the off to go for a thoroughbred out of racing. This amazing and versatile breed are handled from their earliest of days within the professional horse world and are surprisingly calm and bombproof. They’re light, agile and intelligent, and their versatility has led them to being involved at the highest level in most equine disciplines. A few years in racing is often just a prelude to a long and varied life in other directions. And so the hunt began around mid-June.

When I go and view a horse, I’m looking at its attitude and manner, it’s desire to communicate with you, and assessing its movement - how it moves and how well it covers the ground. I then get a vetting done, quite normal when purchasing a horse, and they do the bits that they are expert at. The first two horses that I put in an offer on had lovely temperaments and movement, but both failed the vetting process, so the search continued. I’m not going to say too much here, but as I write today I am hugely excited as a young horse is currently due to arrive tomorrow and join us here at Heronbrook Farm. He is only 3, and shown himself to have no desire for racing so it will be a very exciting journey finding out where his talents lie and what the future holds for us together. I enjoy most of the equine disciplines, and I particularly love the schooling and journey of discovery, so with such a blank canvas, the future is open.

As the month concludes, we’re also in the middle of hay-making to get a few more bales into the barn. We hadn’t planned to make any off our own grass this year but with grass so abundant on our main fields and this acre getting away from us before I can get any sheep on it, the temptation was too great! Typical farmers - get the hay in while you can as you never know what winter will bring!

Don’t forget to have a good look through the website. More information is added regularly!

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