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!
Pigs are very human in the way they react to the different weather conditions, taking cover in their sties when it gets too cold or wet for them. The Large Blacks and the Tamworth are both rare breeds and the latter has a very fine intelligent face, with a long snout, pointed ears and surprisingly good eyes. As the boars of both breeds get older, they start to develop tusks that they can use when fighting so as a rule we keep them apart. The Tamworth is our oldest indigenous breed and has a direct genetic link with wild boar - at the Cotswold Farm Park, they cross them with wild boar and call them 'Iron Age Pigs'!
Some of the Large Blacks are pregnant and a litter is expected shortly, which always provides a huge 'aaah' factor around here!
Meanwhile, there's always plenty of cleaning up and digging to do in the polytunnels while there's thick snow outside. Trying to harvest parsnips and leeks while the ground is frozen solid is hard work but these two frost hardy vegetables always taste best freshly dug. We currently have a few sprouts, cabbages and kale left in the field but it will be the arrival of the Spring greens in March that mark the end of Winter. There's something rather wonderful about the first greens of the Spring because by then you always feel you need them! But this is something which seems a rather distant prospect at the moment....