Take 5 on the Farm in February
In this new blog series, we will be digging deeper into our surroundings here at Duxmore Barns Farm and giving you an insight each month into the other side of our life and how farming our land intertwines and continues to inspire us at Duxmore Botanics.
As a family, we have farmed here since the 1960s and have many happy memories including getting married, building a house and now living here with our young family.
Share our journey with us and discover our ‘farming life’ each month as we take 5 on the farm…
#1 Hedge planting
In the early days, we planted new hedging across the farm, which is beautifully established now, providing shelter to the animals as well as a bounty of berries for the birds and a safe habitat for all sorts of wildlife. Each year we plant hundreds more native hedging plants to maintain this shelter and create new habitats for the wildlife we share the land with, which is plentiful - we have a little partridge family who pass through every day, as well as pheasants, robins, sparrows, woodpeckers, goldfinch, yellow and pied wagtails, jays, buzzards, pipits, starling’s and I spotted my first turtle dove the other day too (which is quite early)!
Although we have had a couple of early calves, most are due in February making it quite a busy month. Our Aberdeen Angus cattle have their babies at Quarr which is about a mile away, where they graze out all year round, thanks to the well-draining soil there. We check on them daily (we make sure our pickup contains everything we could need in any given situation - it’s very well-stocked!) to see if we have any new faces and it’s quite typical for the new mums to have hidden their calves in the hedge line and wandered off, they always come back to them though.
#3 Fencing repairs
February is the perfect time to catch up on the fencing repairs across the farm, as we get ready to let out our animals who came in for the winter. Clearing fallen trees (we have certainly had some strong winds on the Island this winter!) and removing or replacing rotten fence stakes might not be the most glamorous of tasks, but it's a necessity and worth it when you see our animals let out for the first day in spring - they are definitely smiling!
Now that we have passed the shortest day and have a few extra hours of daylight, February should (hopefully) bring brighter days with it. Sunshine, even cold sunshine is a balm to the soul in the winter months, so in the best of the weather, we treat our ewes and new lambs to some time outside in the sunshine, to feel the warmth on their backs, although they still come in at night.
Some of our flock are veteran showgirls (and some show-rams too) as well as some of our lambs born in January, and now is the time to start their ‘pre-show regime’ in readiness for the season in the summer. We show across the south coast at Shaftesbury & Gillingham, the South of England Show at Ardingly, the Isle of Wight County Show, the Newforest and more. From now they start coming in as part of their preparation which includes introducing cereal feed to their diet and shearing them in order to give them a nice new coat in time for show season. There's a lot to it when choosing what (or who!) to take to the show. Ultimately, they need to be an excellent example of their breed, featuring all the classic characteristics. For Jacobs, that could be their distinctive markings - they are black and white but don't often have any black on their legs. If they have black on their legs, they won't get placed. We show our pedigree Suffolks and Jacobs at the shows and have won many prizes, taking home the champion and reserve across the years. All of our rosettes are stapled to the barn wall to remind us of how far we've come.
Meanwhile, in the garden...
In the woodland, the children and I are clearing the fallen branches, making way for the spring flowers to emerge including Primrose, Green Alkanets, Comfrey, Daffodils, Snowdrops, Bugles, wild hocks and wild garlic. We plan to grow a lot more veggies this year and have started sowing seeds indoors. My youngest has planted chill seeds, garlic and celeriac, but we have a huge tray of seeds to make a start on this month. We harboured dreams to produce a small amount of our own Lavender essential oil, we have a still at the ready, but just have been so busy the past year - we have decided that this year will be the year, so watch this space!