Winter update on the farm.
Merry Christmas and a very happy new year to you all! We’re now fully into the depths of the French winter, with shorter days, sparkling frosty mornings and cosy evenings around the fire (well, we will be once we get a fire guard to prevent serious toddler injuries!) As we’ve neglected to write for a while, we’ll try to cram as much news as we can.
And now for the weather…
We must begin with our standard weather update (as you’ve probably realised by now, us farmers are programmed not only to be obsessed with the weather, but also to moan about it to anyone who will listen!) Having suffered serious, sustained drought for months, the rain has now returned, and boy has it been making up for lost time. We’ve now had the wettest autumn since 1993. As a result, the rivers are raging, the streams are babbling away in the fields, and on the surface, everything looks a lot healthier than it did a few months ago. However, this has brought its own set of challenges, and we are now tryin g to avoid every field becoming a mud bath as we would quite like the grass to grow again in the spring! Ah well, c’est la vie.
Pastures new (again)
Last time we wrote, we had just acquired some new fields which we used to make hay this year. Following this, we are very pleased that we have been able to acquire another nine hectares of land in the next village, which we will be using mostly to make even more hay, so hopefully this will be the last year in which we need to buy winter feed. Sven is also very excited about the possible opportunity to try growing some more sustainable crops like hemp (don’t panic, the legal kind!) and to maybe try some more sustainable agricultural practises like silvo-pasture. This is the practise of planting trees in a pasture and then grazing livestock amongst the trees. The other major benefit of this new land is that it comes with a property which will hopefully be converted into a holiday let in the next year. We’ll let you know when it’s time to start packing your suitcases.
Baa-rilliant livestock news
After lots of searching, we have finally found a herd of sheep which we are looking forward to welcoming to the farm in the next few weeks. The 12 ewes and one very friendly ram are Charollais-Texel crosses, a hardy breed which will hopefully cope well with the ever-changing temperatures and conditions in La Creuse. They’ll be here just as soon as we’ve built some nice secure fencing and organised their transport.
Our Bovine Buddies
The cows are all looking very healthy and happy. In the next couple of months they’ll be having their annual health check with the vet, and we’ll be reattaching ear-tags to any naughty cows who think that the asymmetrical look is very chic! This will also be the time when we test them for pregnancy – we’ll let you know the results as soon as we have them.
Sven on tour
Way back in the summer, Sven was approached by the AHDB (The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board of the UK) to organise and run a course in France on sustainable farming practises, an opportunity which he jumped at. Fast forward to November when Sven led 25 British farmers on visits around various farms in La Nievre, a county a couple of hours north La Creuse. He had a fantastic week facilitating the visits, translating, running Q&A sessions and getting to know the farmers. The feedback has been brilliant, and Sven has returned buzzing with new ideas to try here, and the possibility of another course for the AHDB in the pipeline…
Katie and Jack are back
After four months working in the UK, Katie has said her final goodbyes to teaching and returned to La Creuse for good. It was a really enjoyable term; Katie really enjoyed being back at school, Jack totally adored his childminders, they both loved catching up with lots of friends in the UK and of course it was fantastic to be able to spend so much quality time with Katie’s dad. However, it was hard to be away for so long, particularly for Jack to be away from his dad, and we were really excited to move back permanently at the end of December. Christmas was a bit of a whirl-wind, what with arriving back late on the 21st, and since then we’ve had lots of visits from both sides of the family. However things are calming down now, we are slowly settling back into routines, and really enjoying all being together again.
The birthday boy
Unbelievably, a whole year has passed since we welcomed Jack to the world, and we celebrated his first birthday earlier in the week. It was lovely to share the day with Jack’s grandad, Aunty Sarah and Uncle Sam. We introduced Jack to sugary biscuits, crisps and chocolate cake which all went down a storm, and jelly and ice cream which did not! It’s a miracle that he didn’t throw up really. He is thoroughly enjoying all the lovely presents which he was given, and climbing in and out of the huge cardboard box that his new car seat came in (everything they say about babies preferring the box to the toy is completely true!) He’s nearly walking, on the brink of talking, and certainly beginning to know his own mind. Can the terrible twos begin at 12 months?!
And so I must draw this blog to a close as there’s some birthday cake downstairs calling me. Do keep in touch – we love to hear from you all – and if you’d like an update before the next blog, you can always check out our Facebook page and Youtube channel. Wishing all of you and yours a fantastic start to 2020.
Katie, Sven & Jack