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.
I have just returned from a 9 day intensive course on soap making at The Soap School in Huddersfield. I started making soap as a way to make our beautiful Jersey cow’s milk profitable. Lupin produces too much milk for our household to drink but we can’t sell or let people outside of the family drink it or eat the cheese I was making from her milk without having it regularly tested. This would have set us back £5,000 a year so unfortunately it was just too expensive. So, I had a cow that I loved and wanted to keep, but needed her to be useful on the farm. Some farmers buy in dairy bull calves and rear them on Jersey milk but this can bring disease in and wasn’t something John wanted to do. So then I thought about making traditional cold process soap with her milk. I watched a few YouTube videos, bought a book, gathered some simple equipment and materials and had a go. It worked! It was so nice and creamy. John, who has very sensitive skin, loved it. It cleans really well but is very moisturising. I was so used to using moisturisers and hand cream after a shower or washing my hands. I didn’t realise that the soap companies remove the glycerin (which is the main moisurising element) when they make soap and sell that separately as it’s more lucrative than selling soap. So really, the majority of shop-bought soap is a by-product of the glycerin trade!
I now have an Advanced Diploma in Soapmaking from the Soap School so I am well on my way to developing this side of the business. The images are from soaps I made as part of a group at the Soap School but I’m looking forward to making our own unique range and launching them this year.