Monthly Archives: February 2015

And so it continues…

Reports indicate we had triplets and twins last night in the lambing shed and that the Rose family have a new granddaughter. Mother and baby doing well.

In our family we arrived at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, expecting to bring Number Two son home from day surgery only to find they had done both jobs on his knee instead of just the one. That’s good, but the result of four hours under general anaesthetic was that he had to stay overnight. So I’m setting off for another three hour round trip in a few minutes.

It wasn’t a total waste of time because we did visit some nice farm tea rooms and spent our time in the hospital cafe planning or our 2015 events so watch this space. Big things are afoot!

We eventually got home and checked our emails to find two messages from people wanting to come to the farm with groups, so the day ended on a high.




Lambing starts!

Finally! We had lambs today, and though we have had a couple die we have three survivors. It can be a bit like that at the start. They are a couple of weeks late according to the calculations but it’s been miserable weather and you can’t blame them if they’ve been slow to appear.


The goats are still hanging on, though you can see definite movement from the kids so things are moving along. Same goes for Farmer Rose’s new grandchild, who is being similarly reluctant to show.

Sometimes farming can be a bit like fishing – lots of waiting and not much to show for it apart from cold feet and a pessemistic view of life.

Meanwhile Tim reports seeing bonding behaviour from the buzzards, with an amount of close formation work and some upside down flying. He was on his bike at the time and they were flying at the same sped he was peddling so he got an excellent view. To be honest with you he’s not the biggest of people and if I’d have been his size I’d have worried they were sizing me up as prey. Fortunately I’m big enough to be beyond the capacity of our native birds. I’d have trouble if a roc ever flies over, as they can apparantly handle an elephant, but it’s unlikely to happen so I’m not going to worry about it. Tim’s also reported seeing what looks like a Merlin twice in the last week. He’s unsure about it because it’s not something you’d expect to see round here but there’s been one spotted in the north of the county today, according to the Nottinghamshire Birdwatchers’ website.

Planning is underway for the tree training next month, we’ve been drawing trees and discussing photosynthesis. People seem to have enjoyed the painting more than the photosynthesis. We’d probably have more luck in late summer when we had plums and walnuts to use as examples…

Meanwhile we’ve harvested a couple of the remaining leeks for tea and the last few will be going next week. It’s been a poor showing from the vegetable beds this year, mainly due to a poor showing from the gardeners, but we’ll be conducting composting trials on the raised kitchen beds this year so we should do better. We also have the bean trench and quite a lot of compost so our intentions are good.

To be fair, my intentions are probably the best thing about me. As Augusten Burroughs said: “I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.”



Days of contrasts

I did an internet course on Food Allergies on Friday. It was nothing spectacular – a couple of hours of reading followed by 15 not very searching questions and a button to print out a City and Guilds accredited certificate.

It isn’t so much about Food Allergies as about the legal requirements around food allergies that we need to know about when running the community cafe on Saturday mornings. So after a weekend of domestic servitude I was faced with a day of admin and lists, hence the lack of posting yesterday. I like learning, but to be honest, I really don’t like the grind of putting it down on paper so that people can advise me on how to improve it or how to make it into the subject of a meeting.

Talking of which, we dodged the bullet last night and didn’t have to hold a weekly meeting, though we’ll pay for that today as we’re having a quarterly meeting. Yes, the farm is run on the principle that more meetings make for better management. Shame it’s a misguided principle – more meetings make for more talking and, in my case, more danger of falling asleep.

It wasn’t all admin and lists to be fair – we also had visitors. Beth who used to work in the farm ofice came to see how we were. She’s happy with her new job in catering and hospitality, up for promotion and even seems to have grown, though I suspect that’s due to higher heels. You can wear higher heels in hospitality than you can in farming. The group found her a set of wellingtons (a size too big) and made her go out to see the new piglets, the pregnant goats and the obstinately non-lambing sheep.

Bea the sculptress visited for a working lunch. She’s going to be helping us make a tree sculpture for use with the Woodland Trust project we’re doing and, later, for the Education tent at Flintham Ploughing Match.

This morning (Tuesday) julia has just completed the new flyer for school visits – it features a watermarked picture of a small tortoiseshell butterfly and brought back memories of summer. For a moment I felt quite summery.

That lasted until I looked out of the window and saw a goldfinch hanging on to the nyger seed feeder for dear life. There’s a  20 – 25 mph gusting wind outside and the feeder is at a fair old angle so the bird is really having to work for its seed.

Roll on summer.

Into every life a little rain must fall

I’ve fed the birds, who seem to be developing quite an appetite, tried to mend a broken lock and sold a jar of honey. Apart from that I’ve just answered emails, tinkered with my outbox and taken a selection of poor photographs of birds. They weren’t meant to be bad but I seem, without intending to, to have cornered the market in second quality snapshots of birds. I have blurred chaffinches, goldfinches facing the wrong way, dunnocks that blend with the background and over-exposed blue tits.

The good news is that the goldfinches are really taking to the nyger seed. That’s a film from someone else, so far our highest number has been four.

After failing to find suitable chilli seeds in the garden centre (six seeds in a packet!) I found a packet in TESCO. They have a magazine stuck to them so I have something to read as well.

Having spent the morning enjoying myself I’m now going to do an internet course on Food Allergies.

Oh the things I’ve done to put it off. I’ve even looked up the correct Longfellow quotation for the title and decided not to be pedantic. Or accurate.

Ah well…no more delays…



Nest boxes and planning…

It’s a crisper day today, still nice and bright but with lower temperatures and higher winds than yesterday.

It’s National Nestbox Week this week – does the cornucopia of bird-based activity never end? The group has been helping out, resiting an old nestbox that was donated to us. If you look closely you can see one of last year’s boxes on the tree to the side. We have a couple more to put up, including one for the flycatcher that lives behind the recycled bus shelter, but they are in a box near my front door, where I forgot to pick them up this morning.

We now have a volunteer to build us two kestrel nest boxes, and along with the volunteers to put them up it’s looking good. One is going to be built into the statue where they roost and we’ll have to look for somewhere to put the second. I entered the kestrel I saw yesterday in the national kestrel count. They don’t really need it because the Midlands are thick with sightings, but you have to make the effort don’t you?

Meanwhile it’s full ahead on tidying up. We have a farm talk tonight and we just realised how much the grass has grown.



Now that we’ve finished with the bird count we’re moving onto trees as a subject. They’re certainly easier to count as they don’t flit about and hide in hedges.We have the Woodland Trust coming down next month to give us some training on trees so we want to be properly prepared.

A day for poems

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things”


You may well recognise the poem as High Flight by  John Gillespie Magee, Jr, and if you do you’ll probably be wondering why it’s appearing in a blog about life working on a farm, seeing as I definitely didn’t fly to work this morning.

Well, to be honest, I arrived, I looked up at sky and mentally quoted the peom to myself. I could have muttered “I remember Adlestrop“, despite it being a bit early in the year, and the lack of trains.

I find it a similar sort of poem – uplifting and somehow reminding me of bright skies. There are probably more appropriate poems to quote – but I just don’t know that many poems. I’ve always meant to learn The Windhover, particularly as we have kestrels out on the field, but I can’t get my head round the words: there are too many of them and words like “dauphin” and “chevalier” haven’t lasted well over the years.

Have you got any favourite poems for day to day use? Or any that you can’t get on with?


Birds, frogs and staying inside while my wife gets cold

Life only seems to have two themes at the moment – birds and paperwork.

Last week it was the Big Farm Birdwatch, this week is National Nest Box week. We have some boxes to put up so it’s a good memory jogger to have the week.

Meanwhile, after having another memory jog (this time in the slightly menacing form of an Environmental Health Officer), it’s time to go through the kitchen diary. It’s a bit like the frog boiling exercise so beloved of management gurus – we’ve changed a few things over the last couple of years and although it doesn’t seem a big thing at the time it accumulates to become a major change.

When we had the kitchen registered, and I first filled in the handbook, we were mainly doing bread and (vegetarian) pizza sessions with schools, youth groups and our own bread group.

We were also catering for the shoot about 8 times a year, and we added catering for groups using the centre. Open farm Sunday came round and we used it for the weekend and when someone suggested opening as a Saturday morning Cafe it didn’t seem like a big jump.

But when someone from outside arrives and points out all the changes, you suddenly realise what the words “victim of your own success” mean. In our case they mean that although we’ve been producing a quality breakfast and have plenty of repeat custom we don’t have, for instance, an up-to-date list of suppliers, or ingredients used in the kitchen or allergens or…well the list goes on.

I must add here, if only for the sake of the cafe’s reputation, that frog isn’t on the menu and we have no intention of adding it.

Looking on the bright side, while I’ve been inside risking RSI to both my tryping fingers Julia and the group have been outside in the pouring rain doing useful and healthy things.

Useful, healthy, cold and wet things. Ah well!

Finally – the list!

Here, at last, is the list of birds we say in our half hour. Despite a great deal of excitement, which showed itself as chatter and rapid hand gestures, we managed to see 14 species.

Blue tit, Great tit, Long-tailed tit, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Rook, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Yellowhammer, Wood Pigeon and, finally, Buzzard.

Not very impressive, particularly after the list on Tuesday, but it’s another step forward for the people doing the census.

I’ll put some pictures up as soon as I can.






A busy day today. Amongst other things, we got a decent bird count under our belts with a buzzard and a picture of long-tailed tits on the fat balls. I’ll write that up tomorrow.


We also had a birthday party (with cake), wrote a few lines on each of our sausage varieties (I’m well on my way to becoming the Sausage Laureate), wrote a couple of emails relating to the rebuilding of Number Two son’s knee, did the admin and did the cleaning ready for the yoga group and kitchen visitors tomorrow. I’m good at cleaning, a fact that infuriates my wife, who thinks I ought to do it at home too. As if…

Finally I had to look up recipes for guinea fowl. There’s probably no easy way of breaking this to you, but there aren’t as many guinea fowl as there used to be in the barn. I like them, I even admire their indomitable spirit, but when it comes down to it I’ll eat pretty much anything apart from people and beetroot. I never have liked beetroot.


The madness goes on

I’m just taking a break from filling out an Equality and Diversity Pre-Qualification Questionnaire.

As you can guess, it’s the sort of thing that is dear to my heart and always at the front of my mind. At the breakfast table this morning we spoke of little else…

Well, that might be an exaggeration. In fact the only true part of the paragraph above might be that I ate breakfast, and that wasn’t at a table.

Why, you ask, am I filling out etc…

Well, you may remember the old days, when you did a job and got paid for it. Things have moved on since then, you now have to fill in forms, have purchase numbers, wait the best part of two months and have an Equality and Diversity Policy.

They call this progress.