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Thursday
Aug172017

15 AUGUST 2017

If you went down the farm walk today, you might have had a big surprise. Hein, Jennifer, Patricia and I moved these young ladies across the road and up the hill to pastures new this afternoon. Even to my untutored eye they are a particularly handsome group of young ewes. These are a completely different group to those featured in last week’s email. I asked Jennifer to explain what’s in store for this group :

These are our replacement ewes.

Come October the main sheep flock will once again be brought in and each ewe checked over.  Those with unresolvable problems involving feet, teats or poor body condition will be culled and the flock will diminish in size.  To take their place, we have picked the cream of the crop from our homebred lambs born in March and they will meet a ram once fully grown next year.  We make improvements to our management routine regularly and I must say we're particularly proud of this bunch!

See you soon.

Tom

Thursday
Aug172017

08 AUGUST 2017

As you can see these lambs are  rapidly approaching slaughter weight. The reason I mention this is that we still have some of last year’s hoggets in our freezer and we need to clear space for this seasons lamb. To help us do this we are putting together a special offer freezer pack which will be available later this week at 33% discount off our normal price. Details will be posted on facebook on Tuesday.

Has anyone else been aware of the profusion of rose bay willow herb growing in the hedgerows and field margins, where none grew before. Another thing I have noticed in profusion this year is goose grass, that weird clinging weed that attaches itself to your clothes. In years gone by, some doctors used it as a cure  for cancer. I imagine if it worked we would still be using it.

For some reason I associate a good blackberry crop with particularly cold winters to follow. If the enormous numbers of blackberries I see just starting to ripen are anything to go by, we are in  for the coldest winter of the century. Remember – you heard it first here, from the sage of Ballylagan. (The last time I made a prediction like this, we had an unusually mild winter.) In any case I’m looking forward to making industrial quantities of bramble jelly this year

We have decided to delist our jams from our Organic licence. The jams are still made with only organic fruit and sugar (and water in some cases) –  we just don’t use the word organic on the labels any more. We decided to do this to reduce the burden of record keeping require to satisfy the organic inspectors. Homemade raspberry, strawberry and blackcurrant jam (and marmalade) available in the shop now.

Visitors to the shop will notice that we have had to put all the soft fruits under mesh – this is to protect it from  the wasps – a perennial problem. For the first time we have home grown plums for sale and though I say it myself they are delicious.

See you soon.
Tom

Thursday
Aug172017

31 JULY 2017

You may remember a photograph a few weeks ago of the ducklings swimming across the dam in a very orderly file, and my asking how the photographer managed to persuade them to be so disciplined. Similarly, any time I attempt to photograph butterflies, they disobligingly fold their wings. Hein took this photo of what I am told is a common small tortoiseshell, and very beautiful it is, though I suspect its antenna is made out of an old wire coat hanger. Common it may be, but I don’t see many of them and certainly not as many as I see of the beastly cabbage white – of which there are legion, laying their wretched eggs all over my brassicas.

The third sow (the wallower in last week’s photo) across the road finally popped. Unfortunately it was not an easy birthing and only three of the piglets survived. They remain out of sight until she gets her strength back.

When Jennifer and Matthew were young, in the best traditions of Ulster farming they were expected to contribute to the business by doing some unpaid work on the farm or in the garden. A lot of the time they were less than enthusiastic about their chores and I swear I can remember Jennifer assuring me that when she achieved her independence she would never again so much as lift a trowel. Last night I was shown round her garden – an astonishing array of colour made up of exclusively nectar rich, bee friendly flowers. Almost all of them grown from seed. It’s funny how things turn out.

Our weather seems to be reverting to type. Yesterday afternoon we had a deluge that lasted about half an hour – enough to send the turbine into overdrive. In fact there  was no increase in output at all. I went up the hill to make sure the intake wasn’t blocked and it was as if there had been no rain at all. It really is weird how localized the weather is.

See you soon.
Tom

Tuesday
Jul252017

25 JULY 2017

So follow me follow,

Down to the hollow,

And there we will wallow,

In glorious mud.

This big girl has just had her breakfast and is now attending to her beauty treatment. Just because she is due to farrow in about a week’s time, does not mean she allows herself any slipping of standards. When she emerges from her bath she looks like a primeval beast auditioning for a part in Game of Thrones. Her two sisters are in the paddocks beside her and have between them we now think 18 piglets. It’s difficult to tell because the piglets are small enough to melt through the stock fencing that is supposed to separate them. Besides which the grass in their paddocks is extremely long and until they emerge near the lane you can only hear them but not see them. 

There was an item on the news last week which caught my attention. Apparently the relentless increase of longevity in the UK seems to have stalled. My immediate reaction to this was ‘thank god for that.’ On the Today program however some hapless spokesperson was berated by the interviewer as if civilization itself was threatened by the news. It reminded me of the eruption of the Icelandic volcano bringing aviation to a halt, and a BBC journalist demanding of the geology professor ‘What’s to be done?’ The professor, for an instant non-plussed by the crassness of the question, then replied ‘It’s a volcano.’

The underlying premise of both journalists was that nature is something to be brought under control, dominated, brought to heel. This is not a view I subscribe to. I’m all for medical interventions if a quality of life can be maintained, but just as no pleasure in life is worth giving up for an extra two years in a nursing home, so if all greater longevity means is more suffering, what is the point? Can any agricultural production method be justified that permanently denies the livestock the right to exhibit natural behaviour. See above picture. (And don’t even think of telling me that we are morally obliged to produce more and more food to produce an infinitely large population.)

See you soon

Tom