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From Winter to Summer (Bridport Times, April 2020)

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

Written by Ellen Simon

April is the changeover from winter to summer. In the winter the animals depend on us for their food and comfort. Most of them, all the ones indoors, would be knee deep in muck if we didn’t clear it away for them and give them fresh bedding; they would be without food unless we gave it to them, and that depends on our having saved the grass from last summer. In summer, by contrast, the animals are all outdoors and don’t really need us. We see them daily but, if all is well, that is all we do: we look, we see that they are comfortable and that they seem happy and we leave them to themselves. April is the month by which the big change-around has happened. It is a relief to finally return to the summer pattern; we have by now become weary of feeding and bedding and it is a pleasure to see the animals enjoying the weather and the sweet spring grass. For the vegetables, there is an equivalent shift around now. Through the winter and well into spring we are dependant on last year’s plants and last year’s work and now we are setting out this year’s and just beginning to crop the earliest of them.

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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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