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July: toads, bats and lambs

July is normally a month when things grow out of control. Both the things you want, and those you don’t.

Native breed grass fed lambs.
The ewes happily grazing in the park as the sun sets behind the hill.

We’ve started to select our first draw of lambs, meaning the first group that are reaching slaughter weight. We weigh them when they’re two months old, because it’s a sign of how much milk their mothers have been producing, which itself is a sign of how fit and healthy the ewe flock is. We were very pleased this year because they had been growing at over 350g a day.

The second time we weigh them is when they’re 3 months old, around the time they’re weaned (or speined as we say in the north). Again, we were happy, and weaned most lambs around 35kg.

Grass continues to grow at an alarming rate and is difficult to keep on top of. The four fields planted with herbs and legumes are particularly challenging as they’re growing lots of weeds. There seems to be an abundance of clover around, which is lovely to see as it is a favourite of bugs and bees. I’ve seen so many butterflies and dragonflies in particular.

We came very close to signing an agreement to take some cows to graze grass that we would put into our arable rotation, but have decided to now is not the right time. Being so close to Brexit makes decision-making very hard. Instead we’ve decided to push ahead with plans for selling more produce direct from the farm to customers.

We’ve had our share of breakdowns, as normal. The mower that goes behind the tractor has broken twice, involving much welding. We’ve traded it for a newer, more robust one.

New concrete walls have been installed in one of the open-sided barns to give us more room to store barley. We then spent the rest of the month watching where rain comes in so we can seal up the gaps. And on the hottest day on record (36 degrees) and the day we were due to start harvesting our barley, the combine harvester broke down before leaving the yard.

Otherwise it has been a month characterised by fencing. A satisfying job to see new fences go up relatively quickly, but then losing use of my hands in the evening because the muscles are so tired from manipulating wire and hammers all day.

The weather could not be more opposite to last year. We’ve certainly had our share of rain. Many times out in the fields I’ve had to jump under cover or into my truck for fifteen minutes whilst a tumultuous thunder storm passes.

We’ve also had a month of lovely animal discoveries. I found a big toad in our out-house, and a frog in the kitchen that had come up from the cellar. Dad found a bat in a bedroom, clinging to the ceiling, and Katherine found a little owl by the sheep pens. He looked wide eyed in amazement to be found. But when I went back later to check on him he had gone; we assume collected by his mother. 


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