January and the New Year started well with a very positive and motivating visit to the Oxford Real Farming Conference. A fantastic event, ORFC delegates are those from across food and farming, with an interest in new agricultural models. Those interested in meeting global food system challenges in innovative, environmentally sustainable ways. This two day event is affordable to everyone working on the land or in the food industry, it is a brilliant networking event that delivers the most up to date research on sustainable and regenerative farming techniques and practices. A great start to every year.
Since then and back on the land in January it is hard to stay motivated in Mid Wales. The days are short and the weather harsh. Farming with animals keeps us working the land every day all year, keeping animals in winter is so much harder than during the summer. But we love them, even if we don’t like the mud they create. We rotate our animals which take more work keep moving fencing, houses, feeders and water, but it keeps our animals clean, happy and with fresh grazing. This year is proving difficult. All birds now have to be kept in by government ruling, due to the risk of a new strain of bird flue. So before Christmas we built a new run for them with an enclosed roof. It looked great for less than a week before the wind took its toll, then the weight of the frozen rain on the netted roof. So with the new year and Brian’s help we did a patch up job. The poultry aren’t too happy about being copped up every day, but at least they have a good size run, even if it is starting to get a bit muddy. But it looks a green joy compared to the pig pens. We now have 12 pigs, 2 full grown and 10 still growing, but these youths are getting to be a very forceful gang of thugs. We turn them onto fresh grazing each week and within the day they have churned it up and by mid week it is hard to see any green. The feeding area needs to be moved more often as their little feet pummel the mud into a wet soup that sucks in your boots to prevent you from moving anywhere but onto your butt. I struggle to stay upright in the pen with so many large pigs, so feeding has landed onto Dave. On top of this the youngsters have learnt to run at the electric fence and take the shock to give them freedom onto the veg and flower beds; enjoying eating swedes and digging up tulips. The piglets will be five months old at the weekend, and are already quite a size, the destruction this amount of large piglets can make in no time at all is incredible. To contain them they have had to go back into the permanent fenced area, with extra fencing, barbed wire and base boards each day. Until…At last they are secure and haven’t escaped for a couple of days. So much for rotational strip grazing, we will leave that for the old’ns who know how to behave. Note to self…..12 pigs is too many to keep over winter.
January is snow time….so i was busy last week covering plants and preparing for heavy snow, but it hadn’t prepared me for the damage of last Wednesday’s gales. This time last week i was being lifted into the air as gusts of wind ripped my polytunnel plastic from the frame and flapped it about 30ft above the tunnel. Hours later and literally freezing we managed to make a temporary repair. Thank goodness for the full moon that night, we eventually finished ‘battened down the hatches’ at 10pm. I have never been so glad to finish work at the field and get home. Although we made a repair, with lots of gaffer tape and we managed to clamp the plastic back down to the side rails, i still have a huge rip across the roof letting all the cold in. We threw a net over this to stop it flapping or ripping again and probably i will just have to live with it like that for now. Even if i could buy a new cover i couldn’t fit it till the weather warms up in late spring. So this is going to delay the early spring crops and early propagation in the hot box.
So to look forward …..i have bought 10 new assorted roses to plant in the new scented flower cutting area, which will also have long beds of different lavenders. The first of this years daffodils have been harvested and are now available in the local shops. The new raised flower beds are ready to go in spring. Two have been planted with tulips. The last of the winter crops are being harvested and the beds covered to protect them ready for the spring planting. The compost order is about to go in, as it is nearly time to start sowing seeds for the new season. This year i am getting Melcourt Sylvagrow peat free organic compost.
Roll on the longer days and a bit more blue sky.