Spring births on our working farm are a little like London busses, as in you wait and wait and then they all come at once. It shouldn’t be so difficult; we have a master spreadsheet with all the animal gestation periods so we ought to be able to plan things right? It would appear not. I mean how many of you Mums had your children right on cue, just when you wanted them? I certainly didn’t opt for 6 children in 6 years and it turns out that after 13 years of running Coombe Mill we have resigned ourselves to the fact that nature takes its course for the animals here just as it does in humans. Our bunnies failed us for February half term as did our Bantam chickens and the start to our lambing season was heartbreaking. Then Rocky the abandoned goat survived and our farm fortunes turned around with all our Christmases coming at once.
We have had 12 months of no baby rabbits, plagued first by a visiting fox and then by disease our most popular animals were dwindling in numbers and certainly not producing. Nick moved them all over winter into Peacock world sterilising their home and leaving it empty for 6 months. It was only when The Three Musketeers returned for the spring to their old quarters that we found babies in the hutch. I was too scared to announce them and kept it a secret for over a week while I watched them develop, too scared to announce their arrival and temp fate. Now they have opened their eyes and beginning to explore the world beyond their nest I can safely say they have made Easter on the Farm.
When I think of Easter I think of bunnies and chicks, and just as bunnies were born so these adorable chicks hatched. They are a Bantam Sussex cross and fluffing up beautifully in time for Easter. The children love nothing more than a gentle hold each morning on the tractor feed run, though they can still only safely venture out for short periods of time before returning to the warmth of their heat lamp.
Hopefully we have succession planning in place with the incubator in my laundry room for the next Bantams and Mother goose now sitting on her clutch of eggs inside Jurassic Park
After a worrying start lambing is now back on track and Nick’s plan of putting a new Ewe in with the Ram every week has given us the space we need to rotate the fields and shelters so that the newborns and their Mums are safe from birth as well as extending our season. So far we are up to 5 including twins Solar and Eclipse, whose birthday we will always remember in the mid morning darkness and there are still more to come for our holiday makers arriving in April and May to enjoy.
For a while I thought Rocky was going to have a lamb as a friend. Our guests found one dear little chap that had wandered into the line of electric fencing. We brought him into the house as he was so cold, clearly abandoned and close to death. It was the day our boiler had packed up too so we lit a fire and wrapped him up in the hearth. He responded well and happily took a bottle. I thought we were winning but two days on and it was clear he was abandoned with good reason, he was blind, deaf and had kidney failure; we did our best for him but he slipped away from us.
Our ‘oh so gentle’ Billy goat who seemed so gentle and friendly we allowed to run with the nanny goats over winter. Usually we restrict his lady friends but he has been uncharacteristically friendly and not nearly as pungent as a breeding Billy ought to be and so we thought we had nothing to lose. It turns out he was just being coy as Rocky now has adorable twin cousins from the Nanny goat we thought was due a month earlier. We saw her alone in the field shelter and suspected she may be in labour, sure enough a few hours later we had two white fluffy bundles and Mum taking good care of them. We moved them all straight into a ready made pen in Nick’s shed to keep them safe from any preying wildlife as they were so tiny. I have tried to take Rocky to meet them but he shows no interest at all in his own kind, a problem I know I need to tackle at some point.
Nature has given us our fair share of worries this season but on balance the farm is looking spring like and full of newborns even if they have all arrived at once, at least it has been in time for our Easter Holiday guests who have all they hoped for and more. Nick’s master spreadsheet may need some tweaks but on balance we are measuring up to our website holiday planner.
“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.