MIDDLE CAMPSCOTT FARM, December 2007
The strange weather this year changed the natural order of events. The dry spring meant that the grass did not grow and by the time that the rain that seemed to last all summer came, the grass had matured too much to respond. We cut our silage more than a month later than usual and had a lower yield. It was also difficult to find a dry spell for cutting. After the dry, sunny start to the year, summer was so wet that some of our WWOOFers hardly saw a single dry day during their stay. Some did not see much at all as the visibility was so low!
In the spring we erected the greenhouse that Lawrence had been given, and although there were hopes for tomatoes and other wonderful goodies, most of the greenhouse was taken over by several triffid-like squash plants, while the tomatoes were devastated by potato blight. We did manage to produce a few squashes, however; and a good crop of vegetables on the kitchen garden, despite the enormous slugs that thrived in the wet conditions. Lawrence went out on night patrol and collected these to feed to the ducks. One night he weighed the haul from the vegetable garden: and found he had collected 1.5 kg of slugs!
Lawrence again milked only once a day so that we share the milk with the lambs. They are out in the pasture during the day with their mums. There was a bit more milk, both ewes’ and goats’, this year and the cheeses have been going well. There should be plenty of ewes cheese, goats cheese and ewes cheese with cumin for Christmas.
The lambs grew well, particularly those from our new Zwartbles ram. This coming year will show us if his progeny are good milkers too. Both the lamb and the mutton have been delicious – and the beef from the Devons has been exceptional! We have invested in a new Devon bull so the beef should continue to be better than good.
We heard of the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease around Pirbright with horror. It fuelled Lawrence’s suspicions about the true origin of the 2001 outbreak. The movement restrictions associated with this and Bluetongue did not have much effect on us, because we move very few animals on or off the farm. We did have some anxious moments when we thought that we might not be able to bring in a replacement for the Shetland ram that had died last year. In the event, the restrictions were lifted before it was too late; and we were able to find a handsome beast with impressive horns to run with the Shetland ewes.
Our wonderful knitters have knitted lots of jackets and jumpers of various sizes to fill various orders and this year Karen has also been experimenting with natural plant dyes on the Friesland/Dorset knitting wool and fabric. Results have been interesting; and experiments continue. The sheep have also provided us with some wonderful sheepskins which we have had cured organically by Nicki Port in Hereford.
With the milking regime that Lawrence has had for the past two years, we have the chance to go down to Woolacombe where Lawrence can surf (if the weather and waves are right). Now that autumn is upon us, and the summer visitors have gone, we can also give the dogs a run along the beach.
Our young trainee Border Collies are coming on really well, but Jess, our oldest bitch, slipped out at a crucial moment, (despite our vigilance) and much to our surprise we have a lovely selection of pups representing the two Border Collies and a Springer Spaniel belonging to a neighbour! Hopefully we will find good homes for them all before Christmas. If you want to see them, go to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/northdevonfarmer/sets/72157602814708991/
And so another year draws to a close. We wish you a warm and happy Christmas and the same for the year to come!
Karen and Lawrence.