As usual our farming calendar has been dominated by the weather. The very wet July was followed by a cool, disappointing August, and September was wet. But remember; be careful what you wish for – we almost wished for a cold winter to make use of our log piles, and we certainly got it!
After a dry October, and a cold but dry November with some snow, December broke records, both for the amount of snow – two weeks of continually lying snow, and fourteen days on which it snowed – and for the temperatures: it was the coldest December for more than 30 years.
What a time we picked to visit our son in Australia, leaving the farm in our daughter’s capable hands. She struggled with transport, towing her car to the end of the lane with a tractor and parking it at a neighbour’s house. The vegetable garden was ‘stripped’ by hungry wildlife and given a thorough sterilisation!
The cattle struggled to get water, as all the pipes around the yard were frozen, and they had to be let out to drink from the stream along our boundary. The fields have a trampled look, but the stock are well, indeed they seem to be healthier and fitter than in previous winters.
Animal health has been much in our minds, with the now annual TB testing routine, maggots in the sheep in October – the latest date we have known this horrible problem to occur. We had a really lame cow – our oldest, Babi, could hardly walk but it transpired she has a vicious piece of blackthorn embedded in her foot!
The blackthorn spike may have been the result of hedge-trimmings left lying in the fields. We layed another hedge all along one side of the drive and top pruned tall field maple hedges; this will give more light and air to the orchard which again produced a bumper crop of apples and plums. The passing redwings and fieldfares feasted on the rotting fruit and we stocked up the freezer for the coming winter months.