Last Saturday we sheared the sheep, we had hoped to start at around 7.30am in the morning but a completely unexpected shower at 5am scuppered that plan. You can't shear the wool when it is damp because it won't flow over the cutters and storing damp wool is a bad idea. It's only the ewes we shear. They need to be shorn to stop them getting too hot and to reduce the incidence of fly strike, caused by flies laying their eggs on the animals, which occurs during the summer months. The lambs are now between seven and nine weeks of age and although they are getting quite big they don't need shearing. The first job we have to do is to shed the lambs through a drafting gate to separate them from their mothers which creates a bit of a din as they call for each other. The shearers then arrive and set up their equipment and off they go. Because they are paid per head, the quicker they work the more they earn - in wet weather they earn nothing so when conditions are right they really go for it. The shearers are incredibly skilled and can shear a ewe in less than a minute and a half. Two of the shearers we use shear all around the world for most of the year.
The Latest from Home Farm
Jun '09 26
Jun '09 8
With office biscuits often the first victims to feel the bite of the current crunch, we're coming to the rescue and offering those suffering the Biscuit Blues the chance to win a Duchy Originals Biscuit Ration Box for their crumb free office. While the biscuit barrel is never barren at Duchy Originals, there are many companies who, in the current economic climate, have called time on our favourite British treat. We're calling on all those working in biscuit bare zones to enter our weekly competition to win a Duchy Originals Biscuit Ration Box until we see the end of the crumb crunch. Biscuit starved workers suffering the biscuit blues should click on the link below and state why they think their office is in need of some biscuit TLC. Winners will be chosen every Friday and the Duchy Originals Biscuit Ration Box will be delivered bright and early the following Monday morning. CLICK HERE TO ENTER OUR COMPETITION We've recently relaunched our organic biscuit range and now have a flavour to suit every office behaviour: The Office Gossip With a bit of chew, our Sultana and Honey Biscuits half coated in Dark Chocolate will give her something else to exercise her mouth on. The Stroppy Secretary No questions, our Chocolate with Vanilla All Butter Shortbread - with just the right amount of vanilla to soothe her and chocolate chips to sweeten her.
May '09 18
Since mid April about 650 lambs have been born on the farm. We started with a very big spate of new arrivals but now there are just a few stragglers left. We've had a few sets of triplets as well as one set of quads - which is particularly unusual when you consider that an average ewe has 1.75 lambs. They have certainly provided a lot of the aaah factor around these parts! Watching the lambs at play is very reminiscent of most mammals; sticking together in their little cliques and groups is deeply embedded in their behaviour - rather like humans really. Lambs are considered lambs up to 9-10 months and then they are known as hoggets or 'old season' lambs. We are saying goodbye to Ken the Shepherd (pictured) this week after 11 years with us. He is moving on to another farm to look after beef animals. We are going to sorely miss him and wish him well.
May '09 11
We're delighted that our delicious Gooseberry & Elderflower Posset has been included in The Sunday Telegraph's selection of 'Best Summer Desserts'. They described our organic posset as 'indulgently grown up' and said that 'Two great English flavours join forces in this wonderfully tart and tangy fool'.
Buy our Gooseberry & Elderflower Posset from Waitrose and tell us if you agree!
Apr '09 22
Spring planting will go on for weeks here, with carrots, onion sets, radishes and many other vegetables going in. We are slightly all over the place because we're also busy planting the apples at the moment and need to clear the ground ready for them. It is full steam ahead, planting as much as we can of everything while it's fine. The most exciting bit for us is the harvesting of the spring greens which I feel are really emblematic of the start of spring, marking its official arrival and signifying new growth. I think we almost crave them by this time of the year and they taste absolutely delicious.
Apr '09 15
Back in February, on a sunny but frosty Valentine's Day, we held our latest hedgelaying competition, organised by the National Hedgelaying Society. It was a marvellous spectacle, with quite a bit of snow still on the ground, and about 40 competitors taking part, displaying several different styles, including Welsh, Midlands and South of England. We had planted these particular hedges over 10 years ago and the laying signifies the final establishment of the hedge. So many traditional skills have been lost in many ways and running an event such as this helps to attract the younger generation by raising its profile in this way. We are always trying to improve traditional skills and crafts here at Home Farm and hedgelaying is such a great example of this. HRH The Prince of Wales came and did a section of the hedge himself at this latest competition and he provided some of his damson gin for all those taking part! As well as many certificates and prizes being awarded throughout the day, it was topped off with a wonderful woodland lunch served with some of the award-winning Duchy Originals Ale which contains a barley, called Plumage Archer, which we grow here at Home Farm.
Apr '09 14
Turning out is a great spring event and the animals always race around the fields like newborns again. It's a lovely sight to see a sedate dairy cow suddenly gambolling and leaping about like a baby calf again! The cows will be turned out for a few hours at a time in the next week or two to begin with but we do still bring them in at night and ensure their smooth transition by gradually switching their diet from winter silage to summer grass. Much of the beef cows have finished calving and are already turned out because we're always trying to take advantage of any nice dry weather. Although there isn't really much growing outside for them we're still turning them out with their calves to get a bit of sun on their backs. Meanwhile, we are spiking and harrowing the grassland. This gets the pasture all perked up by raking all the dead matter, levelling out last year's cowpats and letting air into the top. We try to do all the grassland - there's about 1,000 acres to do - and it's ongoing work through to the middle of April at least.
Apr '09 7
We are in the throes of spreading well-composted farmyard manure on to the potato grounds. This muck has been regularly turned over the past few months to maximise aeration and to ensure the best quality compost. Our Jack-of-all-trades here, Andrew Baker (who coincidently has the same name as Duchy Originals' CEO), is our Head Tractor Driver but he's also our relief milker and looks after one of our beef cattle herds. He has been helping with the muck spreading and will incorporate it into the top few inches with one pass of the cultivator to mix it in with the soil. While he was doing this the other day no less than 14 buzzards hovered overhead. They seem so much more commonplace these days, yet I well remember when my boys were younger pointing out an occasional buzzard to them when they were such a rare sight. Shortly after the muck has been spread, Andrew will plough it quite deep and then leave it and hope for a bit of weathering (wet, dry, frost), and then we'll probably start on planting the potatoes in about a month's time. The general rule of thumb for us is that if we can get all of our spuds in by Easter that's a good thing.
Mar '09 25
There is an awful lot going on at the farm at the moment now that the days are lengthening. The last few days have been absolutely glorious, with warm sunshine and not too cold nights. It really does feel that spring is well and truly on its way now, which is fantastic for us, although there will always be a whiff of winter around the corner for at least the next six weeks or so. We are working long days to make the most of the almost perfect conditions when they do present themselves and I suppose the most important operation to begin with is spring drilling. We are very busy planting spring oats at the moment which will be used for the Duchy Originals biscuits, as well as barley for the Duchy Originals ale and plenty of vegetables. As soon as Nick, the Assistant Farm Manager, has finished planting one field, we roll the seed bed down to conserve the moisture and make sure that there is good soil to seed contact. The rooks appear to recognise a seed drill instantly and within the first few minutes they are desperately trying to pitch into the crop, determined to eat as much as they can before we are on to them.
Mar '09 2
We have a very appealing flock of Hebridean rare-breed sheep which are almost jet black and very fine-boned, with pretty features, as well as our Lleyn ewes. The Hebrideans produce very tasty, low-cholesterol meat. Normally they would be grazing on stubble turnip and mustard crops but it was simply not possible to plant them last year with the unbelievably wet summer we had so we will have to buy extra feed in for them, which is more money off the bottom line.