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May & June 2018

Well, after lambing I thought things would slow down, but no, things went up a gear. We are on a bit of a high at the moment after a miserable winter and cold wet spring. The weather has just been glorious and has lifted our spirits and energy levels no end. May was really busy as we had a deadline for finishing the workshop end of our barn conversion. The assessment went very well and we should receive our final grant payment soon. Thank you LEADER Funding. We could not have finished the building to this standard without your support. It felt like jumping through hoops at times and so often I felt like giving up but I’m so glad we forged ahead and we’re both over the moon with this redevelopment. John’s family have farmed here for 6 generations and I’m glad we’ve been able to save this building for many more.

I can be found most day and evenings in the workshop now, making soap, packaging up orders or just generally hanging out. It’s so clean, airy and bright and smells glorious, quite a contrast to the rest of the farm!

     

 

The new kitchen where I make the soap is perfect. There are no interruptions and everything is to hand so it’s much easier and quicker than trying to make it in our home.

 

 

 

Do you remember what it used to look like?

 

Initially, we really just wanted to save the building. The roof was beginning to cave in and the beams were weakening. The Soap Dairywas an afterthought when we were contemplating what we could use the building for. It’s original use was a shippon, for milking cows, but under current regulations we couldn’t use it for livestock again. I’m glad the new use still has a connection with the past use.

 

The workshop is only half of the building. We are currently working on getting the other half completed. This will be a small rental property for visiting guests, volunteers and for family members. We have our first two bookings already which is keeping us motivated to get it finished.

 

We’re just back from Woolfest. It’s always a wonderful event, full of expert fibre farmers, spinners, weavers, hand dyers, knitters, crocheters, felters and pattern writers. I feel very out of my depth as I’m only just learning to knit but I can talk about our sheep and this year we filled three display stands with 15 sheep so people could see the different qualities in their fleece.  Here’s a photo of John with a Castlemilk Moorit and Oliver with a Bluefaced Leicester. The weather was so hot we sheared the ewes whose fleece had risen before the show but they had their lambs with them in full fleece so people could see the breed with and without their coats.

 

Every year, those who bring livestock to the two day event are encouraged to bring one or more into the show ring so Peter Titley, former President of the RBSTcan give an illustrated talk about the history of our native British sheep. It’s always the most popular talk at Woolfest!

Our stand at Woolfest.

 

This was the first year we had our own stand and traded as Shear Delight. It was very successful indeed and it looks like we will be exporting some of our fleece to Japan next month. British wool seems to be big over there and I seem to have made it into a woolly newsletter….

 

 

 

In other news, we have some rare breed turkey eggs, kindly given to us by Dumfries Housewhen we visited the rare breed on-site farm a few weeks ago. They are in the incubator so I hope on the 16th July we have some Crollwitzer poults.

 

And to finish, here’s John at a garden party for Prince Charles’ 70th birthday at Buckingham Palace (6 months before his actual birthday but there you go). Anyway, John was delighted to been chosen as one of the representatives of the RBST and he bought himself a gorgeous new suit for the occasion, although he did get mistaken for security!

 

April 2018

 

So, lambing is almost over thank goodness. I don’t know quite why I look forward to it so much, knowing how much blood, sweat and tears are involved but the workload is getting less and before I know it, I will have forgotten what weeks and weeks on 4 hours sleep a night feels like and I’ll be looking forward to lambing all over again. In the meantime, I am going to describe my day today…

6.30am – Get up and make up 8 bottles of milk for the pet lambs. We have 6 actual orphan lambs plus 4 that aren’t quite getting enough milk so need a top up. I feed all of these and then prop up a poorly lamb so she can drink from her mum.  I’m not too sure what happened but she has definitely been attacked by a fox. Her tail has been severed in two and it looks like bite wounds on her side. It doesn’t explain why she can’t walk, that could be down to tics, but we’re not sure. John has seen lambs immobile for 6 weeks and then just suddenly stand up and walk. She’s eating and drinking well so we’re quietly hopeful she recovers.

7.30am After feeding the lambs, washing out the bottles, and having breakfast, I make some jam from some frozen rhubarb I found the day before when I was looking for something in the freezer. This years’ rhubarb is growing like mad so I thought I should try to reduce our frozen fruit stock before the 2018 glut!

8.30am Yesterday I started planting the potatoes with excellent gardener (and artist), Karen Guthrie. However, there was a sudden downpour and the job was left half done so I got the job finished this morning. We’ve planted about 6 different varieties and fingers crossed some of them are blight resistant. Let out the ducks, geese and hens. Fed and made sure all had water and collected the eggs.

10am Finished packaging up a large soap order from The Westmorland Group. I’m very excited that our soaps will soon be at Tebay Services, Rhegedand Gloucester Services. We are stocked in 10 different locations now. Northern Yarnin Lancaster, Grasmere Garden Village, Coniston Artisan, Classic Herd Farm Shopin Jersey, Abbot Halland the Museum of Lakeland Lifein Kendal and Old Hall Farmin Bouth. It’s also available online.

11am Clean the barn and campsite for guests arriving in the afternoon.

1pm Back to the farm for lunch and send a few emails. Bookings first start coming in between Christmas and New Year, and then another flurry around Easter time when people start thinking about summer.

2pm Make up 8 bottles and feed the lambs.

2.30pm Feed the last remaining indoor ewes waiting to lamb and creep feed for all the lambs.

2.45pm Meeting with flooring man to discuss flooring for our barn conversion. We’re almost there and it’s very exciting, however, working to a tight budget and schedule means my Pintrest boards are a pipe dream!

3.45pm Painting the freshly plastered walls of the barn conversion. The barn conversion is divided into two halves. One side will be a workshop for making our soap etc. and the other side will be a small one bedroom flat. We got some LEADER funding for the workshop side which has helped a lot but we’re having to save money on the flat side by doing as much of the work ourselves as we can. So that means, any spare time I’ve had these last few days, I’ve been painting walls, ready for the electricians coming in next week.

5pm Take Tagg for a quick walk through Bell Wood and check some of the ewes and lambs that are in the field below.

6pm Make dinner for myself and John. Normally I cook from scratch and last week we had two vet students staying with us to help with lambing, so I made more of an effort with our meals. I fancied a break from cooking and washing up so time to crack open the frozen pizzas! In normal circumstances, John would be making some of the meals but he’s been very ill lately and having to take lots of naps to be able to get through just the essential jobs on the farm. I’m careful not to ask too much of him at the moment.

7pm Make up 8 bottles and feed the lambs. Make sure all the sheep are happy and have food and water for the night. One ewe looks ready to lamb so we put her in a pen. It can easily happen that a mum-to-be gets over excited when it sees a new lamb and tries to claim it as her own. This can have dire consequences so ewes that are just about to lamb or have just lambed are put in a ‘mothering-up’ pen. This also means we can monitor and check ewe and lamb have bonded, the lamb is drinking well and his healthy, before we put them out to grass.

8pm Lock up all the hens, ducks and geese for the night and feed the dogs and cats. The hens put themselves to bed, but every evening we have to cajole the geese and ducks into their night quarters before we can lock their doors against foxes, mink and badgers.

8.30pm Tidy up the kitchen and then a quick shower. I’ve recently made shampoo bars. The fragrance isn’t very strong so I need to change the recipe plus add some castor oil to improve the lather  but I’m so happy not to be buying bottles of shampoo and conditioner any more. Once I’ve perfected the recipe, I will start selling it….

9pm A rare early night after I finish writing this post!