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End of May

Sorry for the delay in delivering the latest farm blog to you all. We have been down in Berkshire settling my mother-in-law in to a care home.  Bloody awful this dementia, very sad to see someone you have known over half your life change so much and lose recognition of so many things.  There is no cure, there is no quality of life for someone who was once the life of the party.  Why & how is that fair or just?!  The care home costs are frankly outrageous and I'm fairly sure the funds do not reach the staff as much as they should for what they do every day.  My hat is firmly off to them and I for one, appreciate what they are doing for MIL.  

Whilst Jen and I were away, our son Oscar had luckily returned from Uni and was able to dive in and make the first cut of the silage, get the sheep shorn, drill the neighbours cover crops and look after the dogs. It is a big thank you to my children, who appreciate what needs doing and can step up to the plate when Jen and I are called elsewhere.  The ship would be tilting otherwise for sure!

In other nwes, our deer population is now at 3 and I hope they stay and find the habitat suitable. We have 8 pairs of lapwing all nesting and even the ash trees have leafed up (friggin relief that is).

Our early control on corvids has definitely proved beneficial as the dawn and dusk chorus is quite charming.  I am seeing more swallows in the woods, note not buildings, quite worrying if this Egyptian thing is correct, just shows that migratory birds have threats elsewhere, but no doubt we will get the blame.

The sheep, as said earlier, are now bald and it is a big weight off our minds with the new Shropshire, hopefully the shearer will come back.  Their lambs are fab, a great size and shape.

Cattle are loving the grass & it is coming in abundance, with over 12 bales an acre with the first cut silage.  Nice to see the area stocked up with bales again.

The Elms Farm Butchery has been named as a Finalist in this year's Countryside Alliance Clarissa Dickson Award and Phil and I are of to the House of Lords for the grand reception in June. Fingers crossed please everyone. Will be back to you soon with more news from the farm.

Early May

These last couple of weeks have been a mixture of good and bad.  I will start with the good and work from there.

I have been hoping that one day we might get deer here and to my surprise I have seen two Roe Bucks and one Muntjac, (seen by my daughter Molly whilst out hacking).  The habitat is definitely there for them but sadly I think they were young bucks trying to find some does. One, one day a population will evolve. 

My beautiful little friends the swallows are back and they always make me stop and watch them.  What truly magnificent little birds they are.  Their aerial displays are hypnotic to watch, they whizz in and out of the buildings darting to and from, nothing is better than watching them after work sat on the patio just losing time.

The new grass is showing its' face and if the weather can remain at a constant it would help enormously.  But as I said last time regarding our ash and oak trees, the oaks have won overwhelmingly.  So a splash it is, if the adage is true??  We will see!!

The electricians are in the new butchery and gently gently....we are catching the monkey.

I also mentioned bad news, one element of that is the loss of one of our Highland cows after a really bad calving on Easter Sunday. The calf was backwards with its umbilical cord wrapped around its middle.  Sadly both animals were lost and this has hit us hard as she was a good mother and it would have been a smashing calf. It is however, as my grandfather once told me, “if you have livestock you will surely have deadstock”. It’s a fair & true point but does not take away the sick feeling you get.  Trying to turn a negative tino a positive, we have analysed all the information that led to this unfortunate event and have brought in protocols to try and mitigate something like this happening again. For instance, the crush and race will now be in the same field as the calving cows, this would have saved us an hour in time, the result probably would still be the same but it makes you feel better.

The other bad news was Natural England's sudden decision to withdraw the general licence on corvids, luckily we have hit the population hard before this occurred, however their numbers never seem to dwindle for long.  It is slightly ironic that the left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing when it comes to NE.  I have said this on many occasions, certain species need to be controlled through certain times of the year and in some cases year-round, to allow the vunerable and declining bird species the opportunity to repopulate. I would like to think any rational human being would agree. The way the countryside and farming is being treated and viewed is frankly offensive and were any other sector being vilified in the same manner it would be harassment of a minority sector of the country.

But that is not the whole point as it would seem there is to be no debate about it & no platform to present our view beyond our own community?  WTF do these people want, it is their view is right, capitulate or war, no negotiation, no unification for the greater good. That they know best and we have support through our lies, end of.

I do what I do here at Elms Farm because it is what I believe in. There are farming practices that I don’t like and not always agreed with and I don’t buy those products. To try and con and deceive people who want to make an informed decision shows a blatant military style attempt to ensure you believe their view because it’s the only one they will let you see or hear. 

It's about time that we created a united front of all the rural organisations.

Education is the key, I fell out with several teachers during my children's school years because there was no education regarding country matters, how it works, why it works, what species we have, how to identify trees and wildlife and more.  All they received were the viewpoints of the teacher on countryside management or country pursuits, which was sometimes fascinatingly woolly and very prejudiced.  Be warned, these children are now coming of age and will find out for themselves the lies and one-sided view points they have been told about our countryside and now they have come home to roost and fight for our countryside's future. A tough week all round. Onwards and upwards as they say. Till next time.

April 12th

I have just been watching the field fares & they seem very majestic with their flaying abilities, fantastic to see.  Whilst watching the animals, the other day I saw the Dexters and they are truly a family unit, a highly modern one.  They all take it in turns to look after the calves in a creche, even poor old Ace, the bull, has to do his share, however the calves know when he is in charge as they really run rings around him, very funny to watch. 

We've now finished lambing, it has been a good percentage lambing wise, however we have worked hard for it this year.  The Shropshire’s are in Kaye’s wood and thriving well and thank the maker, leaving the trees alone. 

All the drilling is completed except for cover crops.  Rain would be welcome, it's very dry at the moment and the ground testified to this when we were digging a new water main in last week. Apparently el nino is playing silly buggers and depending where it settles will determine if we fight for harvest or have the same as last year. 

The trees and hedges are beginning to look vibrant and enticing to the birds and it makes you proud to be part of Mother Nature's decisions, but like all mothers, she is firmly in control and we must tow the line.  The old adage is "oak before the ash we are in for splash, or ash before the oak, we are in for a soak" so it is a hard one to call at this moment in time, we will see!! 

We are at 44 magpies so far, just think of the damage they would have caused! Crows are probably the canniest quarry and it seems their numbers just grow and grow, we cull 10 and 20 more appear, we will endure, and it would dictate that an all year-round cull needs to be required. The lapwings chase them off and my respect for these wonderful birds grows and grows.   

The new farmhouse Bed & Breakfast has also been very rewarding, some great reviews and we have met some incredibly interesting people.   

The butchery is coming along at pace and the new shop front is being fitted on Monday, happy days.  Looking forward to seeing how it looks.  Everyone tells me that Rome was not built in a day, well that was their problem, all hands need to be at the pumps this week and the back of it will be broken.  I am ever grateful to my team for their constant hardworking efforts and it is very much appreciated. 

On a more relaxing note, Jen and I manged to slip away for a day and a night last week where I had a hot stone massage. I am one happy man. 'Till the next time farmlife lovers.

 

March 11th - 25th

Sorry for the delay everyone, everything seemed to happen at once. We began by having our annual TB test which is always a nervous time especially when there has been a breakdown within three miles!! Thankfully we passed and have received confirmation that we have now been redesignated as twelve monthly testing as opposed to six monthly, so our cows will be happy with that news. Whilst the vet was here we seized the opportunity to pregnancy diagnose the cows and they are all in calf, so the bulls are doing their jobs with vigour. 

Lambing is still going strong with the ewes being exceptionally fit due to the mild winter, it is the first year we have not had to supplementary feed the ewes as much pre lambing, however the size of the lambs has created some difficulty for them. 

The battle against the corvids is working well, with 29 magpies, 32 crows & an extra seven shot by beater Ben on Sunday. There seems to be an abundance of magpies about and I expect the figures will rise significantly. The squirrels are creating devastation amongst the new tree plantation and we have culled 28 so far. I wait in ambush and thin the ranks whilst they raid the wild bird feeder. Talking of wild birds, the lapwings are back and with them comes some beautiful signs of true spring, for the record I have noted the following birds over the past months - 

Lapwings, barn owl, goldfinch, yellowhammer, skylark, snipe, woodcock, little owl, buzzard, kestrel, sparrow hawk, tawny owl, thrush, blackbird, bull finch, nuthatch, bluetit, sparrow, woodpecker (both types) pheasant, French partridge, robins, herons, swans, geese, cootes, egret, crows & pigeons. 

Not bad I reckon. Me also thinks we need to up our game with our predator control!! 

We finally had a decent week of weather which allowed us to clad the new barn that will be the butchery (subject to planning), it was all hands on deck and it looks great. The brick layer is in on Tuesday and hopefully it’s all systems go. 

All the ploughing is now done and we should be finished drilling the grass this week, fingers crossed. 

My son Oscar is back for the Easter break at the weekend so I shall be putting him to task with cover crop planting and various tasks that need doing, be nice to have him back home for a good spell. If we have finished lambing by then, the family and I are going to try and slip away for a few days as I think a short break from the farm will do us all good. 

The lake still looks low but I am hoping that after the amount of rain we have had over the past couple of weeks it will start naturally percolating back to the lake and increase its levels. 

Spring really looks like it is coming the grass has a beautiful sheen over it and the trees in the new plantations are budding up, the hedges are forcing their way into life and it makes you feel its all worthwhile, even the animals have a spring in their step, even though the springs in our steps are 

So am signingi off as my body is creaking due to 24hr lambing, calving, ploughing, gardens, building renovations, but we are nearly there so the muscle ache is all worth it! Till the next time.

March 4-11th

It's quite staggering how quickly a week goes past, so here we are again. The weather has thankfully turned more seasonal and the rain is most welcome and will hopefully start to replenish the lake.

Ploughing is now finished, happy days all round, and the parrow harrow and drill will shortly be going on. The new grass is looking fantastic and should yield well to replenish very dwindling stock.

We had a Murray Grey killed ready for the shop, I had not seen one for at least 20 years, it killed out very well and looks fantastic! 

We also started lambing the Shropshire this week and have had to help all of them so far. The lambs are good and strong. A couple of our loyal customers put our name forward to GEM 106 radio as a go to destination so we had a visit from Jo and Sparky, the radio show's presenters, along with their producer Paul. They all popped along to see us and made some sausages and very kindly promoted us on Gem Radio whilst doing it, infamy infamy they have all got it in for me. 

Sad news this week in that we had a visit from the hare coursing people who very kindly prompted the ewes to have abortions, thanks very much for nothing. The police were quite helpful and gave us a crime number and reported it is criminal damage. Just what we needed at this busy time of year. 

We have TB testing to look forward to next week and if the wind drops we should also be able to get the sheets on the new butchery. Can't stop for long, too much to do. Will be abck next week with more News on the Farm!