by the barn March 2017
Posted: 28th Feb 2017
“Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
And saw from the elm tops, delicate as flower of grass
What we below could not see, Winter pass”
And here we are- spring beckons at the end of the month! Still the change won’t happen overnight and we may yet have to contend with contrary weather.
Hopefully, it will be kind enough to let our lambing ewes run outside during the day (they are brought in at night so we can keep a closer eye on them) and turn our newborn lambs out with their mums. It makes things so much easier if the weather isn’t against you!
One of the largest breeds of sheep is the Lincoln with long twisted locks of wool and one of the smallest is the Shetland-from, well, can you guess? The Soay is one of the most primitive unchanged breeds in Europe, but the most unique must be the Manx Loaghtan. Its’ name translates as ‘mouse brown’, a good description of the colour of the wool.
Most of ours are Texels, a very white (usually), calm animal, bred for the meat as much as the wool. We’ve had a few calves already, born inside and, after testing for Btb, we would like to be able to turn the cattle out by the end of this month too.
Around the farm, we have several ponds and are bordered by streams on two sides. Some of the ponds are fenced off, which the livestock can use for drinking if inclined, others aren’t and it makes for diverse habitat.
Along the brook, amongst other species of tree, we have pussy willows and Alders, both having catkins appearing this month. Alders have long, male, yellow catkins and female cones; whereas the willow has yellow, male catkins and green, female ones (these tend to get overlooked) and early Insects are attracted to them.
Next to the ponds are the ‘marsh’ zones, where the ground is boggy, hoof -printed and sludgy. The plants here often have their roots in wet soil and the Marsh Marigold (larger cousin of the Buttercup) will be flowering soon with its’ kidney shaped glossy, green leaves.
The Reed zone, where the land and water meets, has tall, dense and crowded plants, which stand in shallow water and provide cover for the waterfowl which nest amongst them, such as Coot, Moorhen and Mallard and, around here, colourful Mandarin ducks.
In rivers, these zones might also contain Pike, which like to feed on ducklings and frogs and these are spawning now too.
River catchments in Nitrate vulnerable zones affect farmers- these are where the levels of nitrates in the water are higher than liked. Farmers have strict regulations to adhere to, which add extra costs such as large slurry stores (and increased dangers with those) and these areas are expanding.
Ted has proved his worth with his cattle handling skills this winter and has become invaluable because he is the only one who can get our very stubborn bull to move!
Posted by: Angela