Winter on the Farm
Over Christmas and new year we have a quieter week on the farm, though the animals still need feeding and tending to, the yard is subdued and we enjoy some family time.
We step out into the new year full of enthusiasm after the break, and straight back to work with lots to do!
The sheep are all in the sheds, bedded on our straw and enjoying our meadow hay. The girls are always ready to come in, out of the weather and mud. Having the sheep inside also gives our grass fields a rest, so they are in good order ready for turning out the new lambs. Before the sheep come in they are scanned to see how many lambs they are expecting. This really give the NHS a run for it’s money as we scan over 200 ewes in under an hour! The ladies scanned out very well, most with pairs, rather a few triplets and even four ewes with quads! The grandchildren at the farm will have lots of bottle feeding to do this year!
We do have sheep outside grazing through the winter, these sheep graze our ‘cover crops’. A ‘cover crop’ is a mixture of radishes, cereals and legumes which are planted in August after harvest, these crops are then grazed from September to February when the Spring crop is planted. This benefits the soil greatly as there is a root in the ground all year, preventing soil erosion and helping soil biology. The sheep eat the cover crop and also the weeds, and of course naturally fertilize it constantly! There is also the benefit of legumes which fix nitrogen in the soil. All of these principles are part of our regenerative farming approach, which using traditional farming methods as well as tools from the organic tool box, and holds the soil at it’s heart.
Out in the fields we are winter ploughing. This is a traditional method of cultivating, which we still use in our rotation. It is great for bury the weeds, hopefully we will get a couple of frosts this winter with provides us with a perfect seedbed to sow into in the Spring. The children also had their first go at ploughing (hence a rather wiggly furrow!).
Whilst the sheep are in we spend time fencing the fields, keeping in the fences in good order to prevent the sheep escaping! We are so lucky to have so many beautiful hedgerows here at Rectory Farm. Our Grandfather was a ‘grazier’ which is a cattle farmer, so we still have smaller fields will bountiful hedges for birds to live and feed in. Through the winter months we manage the hedgerows, cutting them every 2-3 years which provides different hedge lengths for different species, and we don’t trim our hedges until now, to ensure the birds get the full benefit of any berries for food.
Feeding the birds is of course a very important job here at Rectory Farm, and of course we have lots of exciting seeds for the birds to enjoy! Phil goes out every week walking the farm with seeds for the birds to ensure they have enough energy to survive the cold winter months. With the Eyebrook Reservoir as a backdrop it really is such a lovely job. We feed the seeds in feeders, and scatter on the floor for all the birds to enjoy. The huge populations and range of species here at the farm show just how important and successful supplementary feeding is. We also provide our supplementary feeding mixes to local farmers to feed across their farms, helping birds across the county.