By the barn February
Posted: 9th Feb 2018
“And slowly as the days of lent
Waxed and were spent, Trees, birds and flowers all increased In expectation of the feast.” Vernon Watkins
Short month it may be, but February can still pack a punch if it wants and Candlemas- a pagan and Christian festival marks the halfway point between the shortest day- the winter solstice- and the spring equinox.
Being in a temperate, maritime climate we are affected by the Gulf stream, Jet stream and by being close to a Continental climate too.
This does cause farming to be weather dependent and too much of anything has a serious impact. Flooding of traditional flood plains and meadows brings a rich, fluvial deposit, but flooding on grass or sown arable land that hangs around for a while can make the ground sour or rot the seed.
Also, in cases of serious flooding, rocks and branches, fallen trees and rubbish are also left on the fields- costing much in time and effort to clear.
Snow (and the cold temperatures ) can cause havoc, as it did several years ago when it came unexpectedly during spring lambing, as we have to carry feed out to any outlying sheep and cattle, make sure they have access to water and it makes every job take that little bit longer.
Of course, any hot, dry spells out of season will also cause problems- young shoots can shrivel. So this is why farmers are always glued to any forecast they can find- searching for the one that will suit them best (and heaven help them if they’re wrong!).
This month, we are starting to feed our pregnant ewes. As our crops have not been so successful these past few years (the weather has cost us a lot of money) we are considering using bought in ‘ewe rolls’, which should have all the nutrients a sheep needs, but we must not waste them!
Our cattle are still inside and we will be having a few calves now. Health and safety being a serious issue, we have invested in a calving gate, with which we can trap the cow around her neck and so we need to get them used to feeding through it whilst unlocked.
We will be seeing Snowdrops poking through the snow at this time of year- a part of the Daffodil family. Loving damp places and woods, these are grown from a bulb and are pollinated by bees during this month.
Clashing with the white of the snowdrop, if we are lucky with the weather, will be the bright sulphur yellow of the Brimstone butterfly, which feeds overwinter on Holly and Ivy and lays its eggs on Buckthorn- both are a welcome sign that spring is just around the corner.
Ted and Pip seem to have spent this winter wet and dirty and consequently I am forever, it seems, wiping down walls that have a ‘Jackson Pollock’ splattered effect up to waist height.
Ted is three now (and Pip is one) and works really efficiently and well away from home but when he’s back on the ranch, he still think he knows what we’re doing better than us- unfortunately he is not always right!
Posted by: Angela