This time last month my opening gambit was about the weather beginning to warm up and the ground starting to dry out after the wettest six months in years. Here we are a month later desperately praying for rain, following the driest April in history combined with a bitterly cold but drying North Easterly wind which has sucked the moisture out of the ground. There are now cracks opening up in the ground that you can put your hand into that resemble the Atacama Desert. The grass has stopped growing and is now ‘going back’ and we are feeding more and more hay and silage to livestock that should be conserved for Winter feeding……..just like last year. We used to claim to live in a temperate climate but every year now seems to herald more extreme weather. The forecast for this week is rain every day but three days in and not a drop has arrived yet. I can hardly wait for next month to see what has changed.
It’s been a busy month on the farm. Our first guests arrived on April 12th and very welcome they were. It was a shock to our systems though, having been in lockdown for fourteen weeks and seen no-one to actually socialise with. The vaccination campaign is continuing apace and Covid is being steadily squeezed out from the UK. As our freedom gradually returns and the weather steadily improves we are slowly but surely returning to a nearly normal lifestyle. Dry, warm, daytime temperatures are obviously an added bonus. We managed to get to the Pub three times last week and sit outside for lunch and a pint or three. In just under three weeks we’ll be able to go inside and have dinner and a chat as long as we comply with social distancing recommendations, which in all fairness are just another form of common sense. We shouldn’t consider ourselves lucky as much as privileged……….a lot of people have made huge sacrifices to get where we are today. You only have to look at Europe and most of the rest of the world to see that our guidance and guidelines have been ahead of the curve, globally. As long ago as September last year our Government was the largest single contributor to the global COVAX scheme to vaccinate the poorest countries on the planet. Subsequently, the US/ Bill Gates, Germany and even the EU have now pledged more funding. We’re all in this, together……..let’s just hope enough people choose to get jabbed, then we might get rid of those awful screen dividers at the Pub and be able to sit and chat with old friends, and new ones, once more.
The farm is definitely coming back to life. We now have seventeen orphan lambs to look after. They have an automatic ad-lib feeder to make life easier for their first seven weeks, which is fabulously easy. I just chuck in a bucket of milk and of they go. However, our young guests are quite keen to help out with bottle feeding twice daily and the lambs are very enthusiastic to be hand fed. We used to have ‘lamb rugby’ at feeding times. Now it’s more like a ‘lamb circus’. Lambs are natural acrobats and very greedy and certainly don’t do ‘social distancing’, especially if they are a bit hungry. Warm, dry days are perfect for them now they’re outside during daylight hours and cold frosty nights don’t bother them as they’re shut indoors with a deep bed of straw and a couple of heat lamps and, of course, ad-lib warm milk. All they need now is some fresh young grass to start nibbling on.
We also have two weaners ( piglets ) who are still a bit shy but with some gentle encouragement at feeding time they are becoming friendlier and more inclined to have their ears scratched. Courtesy of our ‘name the pig’ competition they are now called Frank and Furter – well done to Emily, your perseverance paid off, at last – and they’re happily rooting up the top pig-pen. At least, they were…..until the ground became to hard to excavate with a soft, moist snout. It seems we all desperately need some decent rainfall.
Hot of the press from the goose/pony field……..Bianca the goose just spent twenty eight days sitting on six eggs and yesterday managed to hatch out four fat, fluffy little grey and yellow goslings. Today they made their first major trek across the field to the stream – fifty yards being a massive hike for a day old gosling. If you’ve ever tried to walk down the beach with flippers on …..you’ll know what I mean. There is just enough water in the stream to swim about in. I might have to do some dam building tomorrow to create a decent swimming pool……unless of course we get some significant rainfall.
There is now not a blade of grass in the pony/goose field. I have had to put the ponies out with Matey and Moo where there is just enough to keep them going for about two weeks, if I keep feeding hay. Matey still has a bucket of hard food twice a day and is looking really well, which is only fair as he hasn’t worked since Boxing Day …….he has effectively been furloughed on full pay…..! Putting two fillies out with three geldings isn’t ideal. There’s a lot of jealous snapping and snarling going on, especially in the confined spaces like the field shelter, where the hay rack is. Moo, the miniature Shetland , who was quite content being Mateys’ companion, is now being ignored by all of them and has become something of an irrelevance. He spent a couple of days frantically tearing around with the various factions as they formed and then fell apart, but now he’s happy to just keep his head down and grab as much of the rapidly vanishing grass as possible while the rest of them keep skirmishing. Safely ‘ under the radar ‘ you might say. Peace seems to have settled momentarily……looking out from our bedroom window as the early morning hoar-frost lifts and the sun peeps over the horizon they are all laying down together, happily resting and sun bathing.
Must go now…..lamb feeding time, again.
Cheers for now, Farmer Chris.
PS……….Sadly I now have to report that our two-day-old goslings didn’t make it. Due to the complete lack of grass it seems that the geese may have swam up the stream in search of something green to eat. The goslings have disappeared…..No rain…..no grass ……no goslings…!