There's something about the soft winter sun that is very special and unique to the period between mid November and February. It's very hard to capture its beauty but it really is rather breathtaking. There were some days last week that were especially lovely, with an almost smoky sunlight over the gently rolling Gloucestershire slopes. With the heavy snowfall down here this week most of the animals are sheltering inside. Cow rubbing is a very popular pastime in the pens and it always makes them go a bit gaga. There are two scratching brushes in the cowshed and each one has a horizontal and vertical set of bristles. It's a natural activity for the cows who are partly woodland animals anyway and so by nature would rub on trees and branches when outside. A friend on his farm has an electric motorised scratcher and it's an hilarious sight when it activates to the touch. The cows get a lot of pleasure from it, becoming incredible contortionists as they wriggle and writhe to scratch those parts that are hard to reach!
More stories on The Weather
Feb '09 6
Sep '08 10
The farm animals tend to react to the rain in different ways. For example, the lambs have been wandering up and down the hedgerows with their heads down, bottoms to the wind, trying to get some shelter. They are not putting on as much weight as they usually do at this time of year but this will change when the sun comes out. The cows have been collecting quite a lot of mud on their feet which means more cleaning in the milking parlour for us! And the pigs simply take shelter when it rains and come out again when it stops - which seems quite sensible really!
Jul '08 11
We've had a lot of rain in the last week which was needed, but now we've had enough! So far in July we've had three inches which is quite a lot for this time of year (but not last year which we prefer to forget!). Because of the rain we can't make hay which is annoying as we've still got another 60 acres to make.
Jul '08 2
We've mown some grass and started tedding it (spreading it around to get the sun on it). Although the weather is not completely settled it's good enough to risk knocking some grass down. We mow it with the doors on the mower open which means the grass lies flat on the ground, then you give it a day or two and you turn it once or twice a day until you've got hay.
Jun '08 10
Jun '08 8
The cows are outside 24 hours a day now because the grass has starting growing and it's milder at night. They look an absolute picture grazing in the fields. It's always a difficult juggling act to keep the grass at the right height. At this time of year, grass is trying its hardest to produce seed heads. As it reaches this stage it becomes less nutritious so we try to maintain the grass sward a few inches high.
Jun '08 5
When I see a forecast for heavy rain my heart sinks. It affects us hugely because it dictates what we can and can't do on the farm. The main problem is the ground becomes waterlogged and tends to slow growth down. Given all the rain we've been keeping busy doing dry jobs around the farm like clearing up the vegetable line in the shed where we do all the grading.
Jun '08 4
We're grading last year's carrots which came out of the earth in October/November. They've been stored at 3 degrees in a refrigerated vegetable store. They go into our vegetable boxes and we also sell them to other box schemes. The carrots are also used in the Duchy Originals vegetable crisps. We planted most of our potatoes three weeks ago. We have five varieties: Cara, Cosmos, Robinta, Sarpo Mira and Remarka. The reason we grow so many varieties is that it never pays to have all your eggs in one basket. Some varieties will do better than others in a given year.
May '08 28
We've almost finished lambing now and luckily haven't lost any lambs to foxes which I'm pleased about. We normally lose a few each year but this lambing season, for the first time, we borrowed two Alpaca (which look like mini Llamas) from a neighbour to deter foxes. They are intimidating animals and if you go into the field with a dog they are very defensive in the way they strut around.
May '08 14
Crops in the Spring are affected by two things: temperature and day length. We started sowing the Spring crops the first few days in March. The malting barley (Plumage Archer and Westminster) went in first followed by the Spring oats. The last crop we planted was the mustard in mid-April. The rye is the most advanced crop, about nine inches high; with the long days it grows quickly and will go up to 6 ft. We start harvesting the rye in late July, early August, and we go straight through with the wheat and malting barley. It's always a frantic time. No lying on the beach for me.