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Blog

January

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 🙂

May

Although we’ve finished lambing now, we have four orphan lambs to feed 3 times a day and having clipped a few sheep, spotted a gimmer with a bag (translation: young female sheep with an udder). No idea how that happened but by the look of her, she’ll lamb very soon.  Having been pretty much focused on ewes and lambs for the past two months, and working 16-18 hour days, it’s been quite a struggle to find the energy for all the other jobs that need attention… and then we get sidetracked anyway! Last week, Tony came round with some fertilised goose eggs, so we’ve got two incubators running and 19 eggs slowly rotating for 28 days. We will ‘candle’ them soon to see if they’re developing. I have to say that it’s just magical to shine a torch on an egg and see a life developing in there. Over the last week, we’ve been taking our cattle out. We have to keep most of them in over winter otherwise our fields would be mud baths with nothing green left for them to eat in Spring. When we do let them out, it’s wonderful to see mature animals prancing and klicking their heals together like Fred Astaire. For the calves, it’s a whole new world to discover. Not all our animals stay close to home – we do a lot of conservation grazing for various organisations. So, at the moment you can see some of our cattle at Hay Bridge Nature Reserve in Bouth and some on The Helm in Kendal which is owned by Friends of the Lake District. The pastures closer to home have to provide food for the coming winter; in the form of silage. It is time for the grass to grow thick, sweet and full of goodness.