After weeks of just Nick and I on the farm and the odd appearance from our own children it was a delight to welcome an excited group of youngsters for the February half term feed run. The tractor and trailer picks everyone up at 9 am sharp each day and after a few wise words from Farmer Nick about farm safety and from me requesting permission to take and share photos we are off to the farm.
Every year around half of the guests have been before and for the first day or so the confidence and familiarity these children bring makes them natural leaders, paving the way for others to follow their example. However so as not to make things too routine there are always changes, whether it is new animals, a different tractor route or new fields set up. Last year a national bird flu scare had us create a winter indoor home for our chickens to keep them safe. This year the biggest change has been moving our rabbits. A nasty viral disease meant we lost ours and have disinfected their home and moved our one new rabbit to a new location central to the morning feed run. The kids spent all week naming him. He was Brutus, Marshmallow, Polar Bear and Snowy at various times! He is a New Zealand White and a real gentle giant. We are on the look out for some friends for Brutus for the summer season.
Egg production from our chickens has fallen right off with the cold weather in February and there was never enough to go round, but we still managed one for every family during the week and searching for them is always a favourite morning task.
Despite the rain in January we have kept the duck field open for winter visits by lining the muddy slope with plenty of chippings to help stop anyone sliding over. Farmer Nick challenged the children to catch a goose, they had great fun racing round but in the end it was Farmer Nick himself who caught one for all the children to stroke.
The children were equally excited to try their hand at removing King Arthur’s Sword from the stone in the duck field. Groups of them pulled and tugged each morning, alas the next King or Queen remains a mystery!
It is only the brave who venture in to stroke the pigs as they gobble their breakfast.
When all the ducks, chickens, rabbit and pigs have full tummies for the day the children hop back onto the trailer for the next stop and a tour round the lake. The animals are tuned into the sound of the tractor and know it signals breakfast. Many call out to us, but not the deer; they hover nervously and wait for us to leave their breakfast and move on up into the far reaches of their field before coming down to eat. On the plus side their field is full of interest and adventure where the children love to stop and play (more on this next week).
The goats on the other hand are far from shy. The older children carried in their hay while the younger ones fed oats and barley though the fence. Goats don’t have upper teeth at the front of their mouths and so there is no danger of being bitten when hand feeding.
Back on the trailer for one last stop, the alpaca. These two cheeky moneys have been behaving really well and welcome being hand fed a chunk of carrot and a handful of hay.
We also have a field of pregnant (we hope) sheep who didn’t bother to come and see us for breakfast and two Shetland ponies currently grazing on the other side of the valley. Grooming them and bringing them back over to the farm will be a job for our Easter or May half term guests depending on how fast the spring grass comes through. Whenever you visit the farm there are things that will be familiar and things that will have changed; that’s the beauty of farm life and draws many families back year after year.
“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.