Spring Farming Diaries: Entry 5

Here is the latest spring (although it may also be dipping into summer!) farming diary entry from Rhi. You can read her previous entries here: Entry 1, Entry 2, Entry 3Entry 4.

Hello! I would like to start off by thanking those who have sent me emails, texts and messages about these blog posts! Such an appreciated confidence booster – kindness really does go a long way!

I just thought maybe I would leave a little brief about my experience of farming during the stressful times of the pandemic… Covid-19, so here goes…

In a nutshell, it hasn’t made too much impact on day to day running as a business, through the way we farm and the time of year that it has been forced upon us. For me personally, I know that I would have found the experience an awful lot more challenging if the weather had been bad because it would have meant I couldn’t lug my girls about the place as much or as easily as I have been able to since March. However, I have really missed being able to go to my grandparents for lunch like we used to most weekdays, and to be perfectly honest, my food shop bill has really demonstrated this and if you read this Nan… I’m sorry, I didn’t realise how much I cost to keep!

Luckily for us, I had finished selling all of our lambs (except 10) which meant that I haven’t had to think about markets which is so lucky as understandably, children aren’t welcome in the markets with measures in place. On the one occasion I had to take the final few, I literally backed up, opened the trailer, closed the trailer, threw the licence to the auctioneer and drove home. I was there minutes. That drive was the furthest I have been since March and the drive there made me feel like I had stolen a car as it had been so long since I had driven any further than our land! Although, that said, it is the prime time of year for us to begin buying our replacement cows (with calves at foot) and it does mean that I would love to start going to the markets again so may have to finally cave and ask someone to watch my ‘littles’ so I can go cow shopping, or at least browsing (budget pending!)

If I had to describe lock-down in 1 word, it would be ‘productive’. With nowhere to go, nobody to see, no appointments to meet, and no events to attend, there is little else to do than work! Usually, we get to late autumn and panic that we haven’t filled the log shed… the log store is almost full! We usually get a week or so behind before we start to vaccinate the lambs and that’s been done twice now. Tagging calves, vaccinating cows for BVD and 8-in-1, machinery prep, fertilising, muck spreading… the list goes on and for once we are on schedule! I know this is the case for every farmer I have spoken to lately… from Scotland, New Zealand, Ireland… if you’ve been in lock-down, you’ve worked your ass off… and you’re also probably happy!

I’m not too sure how I can comment on whether or not Covid has affected the marketing of meat in the UK, but I can say that I strongly believe that it has made the public really question where their food comes from! So many people are supporting their local farm shops, butchers and other sources of local produce and I think it is fantastic! People seem to have become very aware of where their food has been grown and prepared which is something I feel extremely passionate about. Supporting local businesses and keeping the local cash-flow rolling whilst enjoying produce that you feel is safe and sustainable is something that I think, is currently more important than ever! The network for sourcing and providing local food produce is amazing in our area. The landlady of our local pub is definitely a credit to our community as she has not only provided fresh and frozen meat at affordable prices, but also delivered it to locals too. In fact, in the first weeks of lock-down, she even sold off all of the stock from the pub at trade prices to ensure local people had necessities on the doorstep. I don’t know if I’m really allowed to advertise via these blogs, but I would highly recommend “Mossy Rose” produce, if you’re looking to support local business and food production and ultimately, support a young business who deserves the custom.

The one thing I can honestly say, is that my house has never looked like such a bomb site. I mean, I am never the most house-proud person in the world, but it looks like an explosion in a toy factory. There is a sea of multicoloured toys sprawled through most rooms. Within a metre square of me right now is a jumperoo, a father Christmas printed blanket, a sensory ball, two puzzles (mixed of course), a highland cow plush toy, a toy Dyson hoover (maybe she is hinting), several Peppa Pig’s a flip flop and a crayon. So, whilst most of the country has immaculate houses because they have had valuable time to spring clean and rearrange their homes, storage and life admin, I really hope that there are those out there who can relate to my mess! Please tell me I am not alone!? Its been too nice to be indoors… that is my excuse!

Stepping away from the tragic state of our home, and out onto the footpaths… We have all noticed that there appears to be an increase in arrogance and ignorance from many of the passing public. It seems that some people have been going out of their way to act disrespectful towards the countryside and the landowners and farmers. It seems that many dog owners have lost their leads, many passer-bys have lost their maps and manners. When a dog is off its lead, it is so likely to disturb the ground nesting birds. The birds are highly vulnerable and a dog who has been let loose can cause awful disruption for the birds which is something I doubt many people really consider when they are out enjoying the countryside and trying to let their dog have a good run around. Just last week a group of men walked past us as they approached a field of our cows and calves so my partner politely asked them to put their two Labradors onto their leads. The one man replied “don’t worry they don’t chase sheep”. So, politely, again, we asked them to put their dogs on leads and explained that there wasn’t even sheep in the field but the dogs can still cause problems to the wildlife … several excuses later, the men reluctantly pulled leads from their rucksacks and continued though the cattle. I don’t let my own dogs run in the fields that I believe could be homing Curlew so I don’t want to have to see somebody else’s!

The Curlew here are fairly quiet at the moment which I’m hoping is a good thing! We tend to hear them more so around teatime so I’m assuming its Perhaps when the birds are off looking for their tea too maybe? My little girl can now establish a Curlew by the sound of its call. (She also identifies the Red Kite by its forked tail and she calls the crows “the naughty birds”.) I must also admit on her behalf, that she also called the seagulls ‘lots of Curyooos’ as they invaded the freshly drilled cover-crops near by. We have been trying to keep a bit of a diary of the Curlew around us and their behaviour throughout lock-down, however there has been several very regular visits of people watching the same birds as us in recent weeks so we hope their feedback and notes meet the project too!

Time for me to nip around the calving cows again before I get myself to bed! I was adamant that I would keep this short and sweet but I’ve babbled on enough once again!

Thanks for reading!

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