Spring is my favourite time on the farm. New growth and early spring flowers fill me with hope and the desire to spring clean the farm. Every year it catches me out how quickly we seem to move from winter to spring as the days lengthen; apparently here at about half an hour a day at this time of year!
The storms of February caused plenty of problems and we have been hard at work to make good the damage and introduce some changes before we start to get really busy with holiday makers.
House Makeover for the Chickens
In the chicken field it has become extremely muddy over the winter months and especially so inside their houses where they roost at night. The houses were moved to new fresh spring grass while the old worn patches reseeded. This was a team effort as they are really very heavy. Such a simple way to lay a new floor, if only our properties were this easy to do!
Move Over Goats
Now that the baby kid goats have grown, and the worst of the winter weather has hopefully passed, it was time for them to move from their corner of Nick’s shed into the big wide world and be introduced to the older goats out in the field. The kids clung to their mothers at first unsure what to make of the grass beneath their hooves, but soon found their way and began to play.
A rainy day followed and trouble was brewing. Whilst on the farm Nick noticed the new mothers and their kids enjoying the stable while all the other goats were standing in the rain outside. Clearly there was a “goat tiff” in progress that needed dealing with. Nick left the children and I to devise a plan, in the pouring rain, while he was off on errands for the builders. We took the bully of the group and her kid back into Nick’s shed, then dragged an old play house from the soon to be lambing field across two fields, added straw and hay and four grateful goats huddled up inside tucking in while two mothers and their kids looked out from the luxury of the large shelter. A good job done in the rain short term, but we had to sort things out before the new donkeys arrived needing the indoor space, or before we began lambing and needed shelter for any struggling newborns. Suddenly space in Nick’s shed was at a premium!
Fortunately a couple of days later without the mummy bully goat around the others were all sharing the main shelter again. The big test was to return the bully and her kid. I’m delighted to report that some time out, a bit like going to the naughty step, did the trick and equilibrium in our goat hierarchy seems to have returned. Hopefully we can now move the reserve shelter back in time for lambing!
Help for Rolo the Donkey.
The home in Nick’s shed was then scrubbed out again ready to welcome two lovely new visitors to the farm. All the way from deepest Wales came Winston and his lady friend with no name. I knew if I asked on the Coombe Mill facebook page I would be sure to receive some good ideas. I was delighted with the imaginative and tempting responses. Clementine was the overriding favourite and so Winston and Clementine they have become.
They are only eight months old, nervous yet beautifully behaved and the most gentle and pretty donkeys I have ever seen. They are unrelated so I am hopeful we may have baby donkeys in years to come, now that would be magical. Theo. Clio and Guy were keen to give them a first groom; I feel we may have a few little helpers willing to do this over the summer months.
However the one who will be most excited to meet them in due course is Rolo. It is for Rolo that Nick drove all the way to Wales to buy these two beauties. Rolo lost Maisie, his soul mate, to pneumonia over the relentless wet winter and we have been doing our utmost with supplements and extra food to overcome the depression he sank into when Maisie left us. If I hadn’t witnessed it with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed the depth of feeling from a donkey. Skippy and Dinky the shetland ponies mellowed towards Rolo but were just not the same for company. I will be sure to report the coming donkey introductions, but there is one thing that needs resolving first:
The field we hoped to use fell victim to the storms with the field shelter toppling right over in the winds. This weekend Nick and the children have been laying a proper concrete foundation to ensure the new shelter they build will withstand any such storms in the future. As soon as this is finished, the donkeys can move in together and Skippy and Dinky will be rid of Rolo, who they tolerate but really don’t have time for. The sheep can then move across the road and swap with the donkeys to be under closer surveillance and away from the woods and the risk of pray in time for lambing. The children all worked so well with Nick that I’m confident we will be ready for phase two by next weekend. I’m already excited about posting this and hopefully the arrival of our first lambs.
A BBQ supper in our indoor hut felt like a fitting end to a hard working weekend.
This is still my favourite time on the farm, despite the workload, as the rewards of seeing the new life emerge, spring buds all around and the animals visibly relax with winter behind them, is a joy to behold.
“Tales from the farmers wife” shares the funny and interesting happenings on our lovely holiday farm with Farmer Nick and our 6 children. A behind the scenes look on balancing family, farming, the holiday business and cooking for all.