Although it’s been absolutely freezing the past few day, the sky is blue and I’ve felt sun on my face so I’m feeling optimistic that Spring is on its way. Our first lamb arrived today; a strong, healthy girl so it’s a great start!
An exhibition by artist Patricia MacKinnon-Day called Tracing the Landscape: Cumbrian Farm Women opens at Abbot Hall in Kendal on 2nd March and runs until 9th June. I am one of the farming women featured in the exhibition! You can find out more here.
It’s been a busy moth but progress on our barn redevelopment has been slow. The house is being more and more consumed by soap and wool so I really can’t wait to have a separate building for business. At the moment, next to my bed is a whiteboard with our marketing strategy scribbled all over it and at the end of the bed is a big box full of sheepskins we just got back from the tannery. We need our home back!
I’ve been going to some great workshops run by the Cumbria Chamber of Commerce. Not knowing anything about business when I joined John on the farm and decided to diversify, these funded courses and one-to-one support have been invaluable. It’s vital we have a sustainable business that can survive without farm subsidies, should be loose them when we leave the EU. We’re working hard on building up the diversified side of the business and so far so good. We have four stockists for our soap and this year we will have a stand at Woolfest for our wool brand Shear Delight.
I have been developing new seasonal soaps. Spring ones have been made and will be on sale very soon. I love them, especially the daisies and pine soap!
Goodness, it’s been a long time. I always promise myself to post more but by the time we finish up for the day, all I want to do is scroll through some social media or spend so long choosing a film to watch that before I know it, it’s bedtime. I’ve put a monthly reminder in the calendar now so hopefully you can catch glimpses of the farm over the coming year.
January is kind of great. It’s a bit like hibernating after the rush of, basically, the whole year up until Christmas. It’s our time to slow down and recuperate and plan for the year ahead. There are still jobs to do every day but, for example, right now, it’s 6.30pm and pitch black outside so we’re inside and hunkering down. I don’t feel guilty in the slightest as I know soon enough we’ll be back to 16 -18 hour days when the lambs start appearing. We’re lambing earlier than normal this year. This wasn’t our plan but John bought me three Bluefaced Leicester ewes in early September. They had already been running with a teaser (a tup that’s had a vasectomy) which gets the girls ready for the real tup so as they were cycling when we got them, they went straight to one of our tups.
All the early lambers have been scanned to check whether or not they’re pregnant and how many they’re carrying. These are our Teeswaters, the Leicester and the Cheviot draft ewes. The draft ewes are older sheep that have been drafted down from the fell. These we cross with a Leicester tup. The Teeswaters and Leicesters we breed pure.
In a few weeks time all the fell sheep and the Castlemilk Moorits will be scanned. Also, any from the batch of early lambers who scanned ’empty’ will be scanned again, just incase they are pregnant but weren’t showing the pregnancy at the first scanning.
Scanning is important as ewes carrying twins or triplets will need extra food and closer attention in the lambing shed.
It’s my favourite time of year. It’s hard work, virtually impossible to leave the farm, there will always be some painful moments, but all that is outweighed by the joy! Below is one of my favourites from last year. Mildred, a Cheviot cross Herdwick. Our naught Cheviot ewe decided she prefers Herdwicks so escaped into someone else’s field and ended up with the sweetest lamb 🙂