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Homespun (Bridport Times, September 2018)

We write monthly for the magazine Bridport Times. To see this article as originally published, view the pages on Issue.

We do complicate our lives by having a lot of different breeds of sheep. Each is a different colour, has specific needs and their own rams. And they have very different personalities.

We did not select them all for good hard-headed business reasons.We chose the Herwicks (our most recent breed) in a reminiscent mood: we lived in Cumbria early in our married life where we saw and loved them when walking and climbing in the fells. Continue reading “Homespun (Bridport Times, September 2018)”

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A Necessary Obsession (Bridport Times, August 2018)

We write monthly for the magazine Bridport Times. To see this article as originally published, view the pages on Issue.

The weather is a British obsession. “Oh isn’t this rain terrible?” “It’s so cold!” “Could you believe the wind this morning? Blew my washing all over the garden”… But even more than that, it is a farmer’s obsession.

For winter crops we want late summer rain to allow early cultivation after harvest, and dry to kill the weeds before we sow seeds; we don’t want saturated or cold soil over the winter but we do want some sharp cold to kill some of the bugs. We want a warm moist early season to get a good leafy growth on the wheat then Continue reading “A Necessary Obsession (Bridport Times, August 2018)”

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While the Sun Shines (Bridport Times, July 2018)

We write monthly for the magazine Bridport Times. To see this article as originally published, view the pages on Issue.

Our stock live on the grass which grows here. In the winter, there is not enough fresh grass to keep them comfortable and growing. We need to save the riches of the summer to fill the space in the winter larder. The way we save it is to sun-dry grass: we make hay.

In my memory, hay making is a time of sunshine, of sticky warmth, hard work, well-earned aching muscles, and hay fragments down my bra. Now it is different but it has the same quality of urgency and vitality and is an iconic part of the farm’s summer. Continue reading “While the Sun Shines (Bridport Times, July 2018)”

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Ruminations on Grazing (Bridport Times, June 2018)

We write monthly for the magazine Bridport Times. To see this article as originally published, view the pages on Issue.

There’s an old saying that “the best manure is the farmer’s boot”, meaning that careful and frequent observation of your fields and crops is the key to farming. Every day, come rain or shine, we visit our grazing animals spread around the farm to see them all and make sure they are well. We observe how many are relaxing and chewing the cud, whether they look well-fed and contented or whether they are noisily complaining to us that the grass looks greener Continue reading “Ruminations on Grazing (Bridport Times, June 2018)”

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The Hungry Gap (Bridport Times, May 2018)

We write monthly for the magazine Bridport Times. To see this article as originally published, view the pages on Issue.

It’s May; in recent years the weather has been practically summer, and could be the best sun we get until September, but in terms of growing food, we are still in the notorious “hungry gap”. And if we were careless or unlucky we’d be at the end of our stores as well.

So what is the hungry gap, and is it still relevant to us today? It is the gap in crops between winter and summer. The time when Continue reading “The Hungry Gap (Bridport Times, May 2018)”

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April on the farm (Bridport Times, April 2018)

We write monthly for the magazine Bridport Times. To see this article as originally published, view the pages on Issue.

 

For us April is all about lambing, about new lives blinking at the world for the first time, learning to stand and to skip and taking joy in exploring it all.

We lamb in Spring to coincide with when the grass is rich and growing most strongly. Many farmers organise the date of their lambing for the winter and have the ewes indoors when they lamb. This is because there is a price premium for lamb ready for the Easter market, and also because being indoors makes it easier to keep an eye on any ewes that might need help. Indeed, we used to do this ourselves, starting lambing in January, taking shifts in the lambing barn to ensure that help was on hand if it was needed 24/7. But years ago we decided to change to April, using the warmer weather, the spring grass and longer days to lamb out of doors as deer and many other animals naturally do – and we’ve never looked back.

We like it because Continue reading “April on the farm (Bridport Times, April 2018)”

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Soils and Spring (Bridport Times, March 2018)

We write monthly for the magazine Bridport Times. To see this article as originally published, view the pages on Issue.

Taking on a National Trust tenancy of 200 acres immediately adjacent to our farm 20 years ago was a chance for us to expand our arable production. Perhaps we should have been warned by the name of the farm, Labour in Vain, and better remembered the history of it: more than 30 years of continuous intensive grain production had eroded the top-soil and lost organic matter so that over most of the area the soil had become a glue-like clay.

We knew it would be difficult to improve, but taking on this land meant we could increase the arable rotation from the 20 acres we had on the home farm so we were keen to try. It has worked for us in many ways Continue reading “Soils and Spring (Bridport Times, March 2018)”

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February on the farm (Bridport Times, Feb 2018)

We write monthly for the magazine Bridport Times. To see this article as originally published, view the pages on Issue.

Winter is the quiet time for a mixed farm. Next years crops are either safely in the ground, or, like our spring barley, waiting until spring to be sown,? and the ewes and cows are still pregnant for another month or two. It’s the lull before the storm: of late nights, early mornings and constant supervision of calving and lambing.

So winter is a time to catch up on other jobs that have slipped by throughout the rest of the year: clearing gateways and footpaths, tidying the tools and workshops, repairing fences and stiles, cutting back hedges. Perhaps most excitingly, it’s the season to plant trees. This may seem confusing – why plant during the cold season? Surely it wants to be sunny and warm to help them grow? Trees go dormant during Continue reading “February on the farm (Bridport Times, Feb 2018)”

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January on the farm (Bridport Times, Jan 2018)

We write monthly for the magazine Bridport Times. To see this article as originally published, view the pages on Issue.

 

The start of the year is also the end of the year. Our animals are still outside enjoying the last of the grass. 2017 was very good for grass on Tamarisk Farm and we like the stock to stay outside with all the choice of where to go and what to eat. Most of our stock are tough native breeds and as long as they’ve enough to eat and a bit of shelter they are happy outside whatever the weather throws at them. You often see this as selling points for Devon Bulls, advertised proudly as “… overwinters at 1000ft on Exmoor”. All our sheep are breeds originating on islands or high ground. Our part of the Dorset coast has a lot in common with the islands off Scotland; it is rarely cold but often wet and windswept.

Continue reading “January on the farm (Bridport Times, Jan 2018)”

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