Autumn. Like so many people, this really is my favourite time of year. Frosty mornings, thick socks, stews and fires. The oldest of our children has started his second year of primary school, with great enthusiasm and a new pair of very cool glasses. Our elder daughter has just started at nursery – a day she has been looking forward to for months. Our younger daughter is approaching six months old, and the introduction of solids – the time I am especially grateful for Fig, our wonderfully greedy Labrador!
On the farm Mother Nature is having her last hurrah before the onset of winter. The hedgerows are full of blackberries and sloes, which we’re carefully picking – making sure to leave some behind for the birds. We only cut our hedges every other year to allow for regrowth, and to maximise biodiversity. Half the hedges are due to be cut in the next few weeks. We wait until this time of year to avoid disturbing any nesting birds and to make sure we don’t cut back any new shoots.
The tractor and seed drill is busy sowing a mixture of oats and vetch in to some of our recently harvested arable fields. This is a new combination for us, and we’re doing it to provide some more winter grazing, as both grass and silage are in short supply after the incredibly dry summer we’ve had. We’re also busy improving our pasture fields, both by overseeding with old meadow grass mixes to increase grass diversity, and aerating and compost spreading to improve soil quality and fertility.
All of the cows finished calving in late spring/early summer and should all now be in calf for next year. This year’s babies are still with their mothers, they stay with them until they’re approximately 10 months. This then gives the mums a couple of months break before the next baby arrives – for which I can be confident they are entirely grateful! The teenagers move in to a mob with a bunch of their mates and older siblings, where they’re given the chance to grow and mature in their own time.
All our cattle are kept outside in the fields as long as possible, but as winter approaches we get the farm buildings ready in case the weather turns so bad that we need to bring them in. It’s no good for them, or the soil, to be out in mud up to their knees. Any running repairs required are being done, and improvements made where necessary.
Finally, the chickens are starting to pick up their egg numbers after the hot summer. Unsurprisingly not many of them felt much like laying in the heat, and a lot of them took the opportunity to go through their moult. Unlike commercial egg producers, we don’t get rid of our girls at this point, but let them have the time they need to grow new feathers, which keep them warm in the winter. They then come back in to lay, and provide the amazing eggs we all love so much.
I hope you’re all enjoying the season of plenty, and are able to take the time to enjoy the crisp mornings with the sun on your back. Do give us a call if you need some beef for a warming stew or roast!