Spring has sprung…

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus / Happy Saint David’s Day and the first day of spring! After what is probably the warmest February on record, rain is returning tonight but what a week we have had, putting ewes and lambs outside has been a pleasure in glorious sunshine.

Quick lambing update; Lambing over 1500 ewes in total. January lambers, mainly Texel crosses (which are normally sponged but this year we used Cidr Ovis), scanned at 165% (average 1.65 lambs per ewe) and all lambs are strong and growing well out in the fields. February lambers scanned at 190% (average 1.9 lambs per ewe) and, after a slow start, have nearly finished. The Epynt Hardy Speckled ewes (native breed) have begun lambing outside and pretty much get on with it themselves, I love that breed!

Epynt Hardy Speckled

So much has happened since my last blog, I am now Monmouthshire NFU chair (man/lady/person), Monmouthshire RABI (Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution) media secretary, Senior Fellow with the University of South Wales, trained as a mental health first aider and we have made our first Perry (pear cider) on the farm which is delicious! During February we had college visits and three Kate’s Country School lambing courses. I often wonder why, on top of the lambing mayhem, we decide to do this but of course the busiest time of year is the best time for people to learn the ropes.

On a final note, (sorry its the ‘B’ word), it is a very unsettling time for sheep farmers in the UK, we invited our MP on farm to explain how a ‘no deal’ scenario would put many businesses at risk. We’re also still awaiting clarity from Westminster to ensure that imported food will be produced on a level playing field – to the standards to which British farmers are required to adhere to. We will watch this space…

Right, enough of politics, I will leave you with this beautiful double rainbow on the farm, apparently a sign of transformation and good fortune, I’m an eternal optimist!

Hopefully a good sign of things to come…
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That dreaded, dangling participle!

Now, I am impressed if you understand the title because before I went on our “Country Writing” course I wouldn’t have had a clue! Split infinitives, there’s another one. I thoroughly enjoyed the day alongside my fellow students with my Dad taking the role of tutor. Lots of laughs and lots of learning, thanks Dad.

You learn more when you’re having fun!

I’m not going to bang on about the British weather but we have managed to start harvest. 130 acres cut and over 1000 big bales made so far. Mainly hay (thanks to the sun) with some silage. Still have 60 acres left so we’re just waiting for another dry spell, fingers crossed. Our spring barley should be ready by the end of August so we’ll bring in the combine harvester then.

Making hay with the Skirrid Mountain in the background.

We’re sponging 150 ewes next week. What this means is that 150 ewes will all come in to season at the same time and will probably all be served by our willing tups (rams) in a day. The result will be 150 ewes all lambing in the space of about 4 days in the beginning of January. With bookings for lambing courses coming in, our January students will be extremely busy! Our other 700 ewes will lamb normally from February to April.

It is Show season and we’ve just returned from Llanthony Show where Jim gave shearing demonstrations and I was spinning wool with children using potatoes and a pencil. Great fun. The wool was bagged up and used on the mountain to prevent soil erosion. Next weekend we are opening the Young Farmer’s Summer Fete in Abergavenny and resurrecting the “guess the poo” competition on our stand. We’ve had so much fun collecting it! Llangynidr Show follows and we’re finishing the month in the Countryside Marquee at Monmouthshire Show on August 30th. I’ll be judging the family dog show and Jim will be judging sheep at Usk Show in September.

Teaching a new generation the art of shearing and spinning.

Would be great to chat if anybody wants to stop by and see us at any of these shows or have a look at our “Wildlife Identification” course on August 31st where you can come and see the poo first hand. We have a daily supply of otter spraint.

Otter poo!

Our “Stone Walling” courses are taking place in September on the Skirrid Mountain in the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park. What better way to spend a day than learning a valuable traditional skill in stunning surroundings.

On a final note, Jim was given a pile of French pears and was wondering what to do with them. The result? 30 gallons of Perry (pear cider) is bubbling away in the cider house. Not sure if it’ll be any good but nothing ventured nothing gained!