It’s funny but the farming year is always planned four seasons ahead and we often find ourselves in the bleakest depth of winter thinking of hay-time and the next harvest and of course the next winter! It is a perpetual circle that must be allowed to revolve unhindered – open a bale of hay on the coldest of winter days and the smell takes you right back to last summer, the smell and the flower seeds trapped in every bale. The thing is, we have to get the growing conditions just right to ensure not only a good crop but also the sensitive management of some very old wild flower meadows that would not take to being covered in man-made nitrogen or slurry. We use well-rotted bedding muck that we compost and spread and in turn this slow release of nitrogen does not affect the more sensitive plants in our meadows but gives a six week window of growth so getting it on at the right time is really key. This method of feeding leaves our soil alive and does not affect micro-organisms and all the good things like our trusty worms and this should set the scene for a good hay-time as long as the weather plays ball.
Another thing that this time of year brings is our seasonal visitors and the first Curlew although alone not constituting a spring, is a great moment because at least we know we are the right side of winter. This is another good reason to have our hay meadows as they provide a fantastic nesting habitat for our Curlews and Lapwings alike. Elsewhere on the farm we are well into lambing and spring calving so maternity and paediatrics are stuffed to the rafters at the minute, it’s a great time of the year with all the new arrivals even if some have you up at all hours making sure that miraculous event of birth goes without problem. Lambs are resilient and get up and go very quickly after delivery but due to the great British weather we opt to lamb inside making sure that ewes are properly fed and that the odd breech birth or lamb with its head back get the best chance of arriving safely. We then await a spell of good (or better) weather to turn out ewes and lambs giving them the best possible chance, the odd straying lamb or separated sheep is swiftly sorted on the morning rounds. During the last low pressure a band of rain gave us a good and prolonged soaking and having been out looking at our still pregnant sheep we return to the lambing shed to load up again and set off round our ewes and lambs only to find a neighbour and his daughter in the shed with 2 lambs that had lost their mother. The best option when someone discovers a separated lamb or pair is to call so we can reunite mother and babies without getting our scent on the lambs and then minimising the chance of rejection by the mother. A few hours in a straw pen and we reunited them later that day with their still searching and anxious mother who was relieved, to say the least, to see her pride and joys again. All we need now is the jet stream to move north and send us some good warm weather to get the grass and these lambs growing…”