Oak before Ash?

Well I am one for old country sayings but feeling a little let down this year.

The Oak is seen here to be in leaf before it’s neighbouring Ash

“Oak before ash we’ll have a splash, ash before oak we’re in for a soak”. Oaks are more sensitive to temperature and when this picture was taken in March, it was warm. Turned out to be more of a soak than splash throughout June but I’m sure the heat wave is on its way.

We are thoroughly enjoying running courses on the farm and judging by the feedback in our visitor’s book, students are too. It is particularly encouraging to see people returning on different courses. Our star pupil to date is about to complete his fifth course here and is now bringing the pudding! We did manage to find 2 consecutive dry days to complete our shearing courses after postponing due to soggy weather. Very proud of all students who were complete novices at the beginning of the day but shearing 4 or 5 sheep in the afternoon and looking extremely competent.

Looking sheepish.

Crystal balls should be available for all farmers as an essential requirement. We have spent most of June chasing dry days to respond to the many requests for shearing. These requests have to be balanced alongside the need to get on with baling, which also requires good weather.

As with most working mums, I very rarely have any “me” time but thoroughly enjoyed an impromptu foraging day out in conditions that can only be described as a monsoon. What happened was……….

I now know that, not only can you rub dock leaves on nettle stings, but you can eat them as an alternative antihistamine (young green leaves taste better). Lady’s mantle, dog roses, tulips, wood sorrel, dandelions Now having a daily graze around our farm all thanks to Liz Knight, forager extraordinaire. Verdict is still out with the family “eating weeds”……

Have been snapping in between showers and have added more photos to our gallery, please have a peek and see what you think Kate’s Country School Gallery.

“It’s not a job, it’s a way of life” is said many times but very true of farming. Farmer’s wives everywhere deserve a medal for their ability to read minds, bite their tongue and bring multitasking to an olympic standard. Saturday morning I was hoping to lie in until 7.30am. Rudely awakened at 6am by not “Good morning” but “I need you to help me get a heifer in, she’s calving”. Bleary eyed I trudged through the mud, in the rain with my sweet husband and sure enough saw 2 feet sticking out of the back end of the poor first time mum. She was looking bewildered as magpies were pecking at the yet undelivered calf. At first glance the feet looked like front feet until further investigation revealed that not only was the calf backwards but upside down! Not good in any calving but made worse by this being her first calf.

To cut a very long story short, Bill (My Uncle Bill visited that day) was born safely without veterinary intervention or caesarean.

Mother and son doing very well

Llanthony Show is a traditional local show run by farmers and is 50 years old this year. We will be there giving sheep shearing demonstrations and reintroducing an old competition. 20 years ago I won the “guess the poo” competition at Llanthony and was extremely proud to have almost full marks (got the bat poo and mouse poo the wrong way around). Since then I have been using this intellectual assessment on students studying Animal Management at Coleg Gwent where I am a lecturer. Not only will this competition be at Llanthony but we also have a stand at Monmouthshire Show where you can have a go (Don’t knock it till you try it)!

Animal droppings are a useful means of tracking and identification and we are introducing a new course called “Wildlife Workshop” on August 31st which offers an introduction to wildlife identification of trees, flowers, animals, birds and freshwater bugs. I had a few enquiries from people who wanted to know what the trees were in their local parks and how to track and identify common wildlife.

2 weeks ago, I took the camera around with us whilst we checked the stock in the morning. It’s a glimpse into a normal day in our “office”.

My Dad was a creative writing teacher for 25 years, working with students as diverse as the elegant ladies of Lytham St Annes and the less fastidious residents of high security prisons. He has had over 1500 articles published, produced three successful books and two CDs, all with countryside themes. Looking forward to him teaching on our “Country Writing ” course on July 20th. I’ve signed up for it!

Finally, due to popular demand, we are adding an extra Sheep Husbandry course. This will be in September (date to be confirmed) keep an eye on our website for updates.