Monday, 27 April 2015

Sowing, growing and mowing...and just a little birding...and lambing...and no showers

I couldn't decide what to call this post. It could have been 'Sowing, Growing and Mowing' or 'My 500th Bird' or 'What No April Showers' or 'HELP! I've got to deliver a lamb'.

In the end I went for a mash up!

There's always something to be done here on the smallholding and April is no exception. There's sowing, growing and mowing to be done, and when that's done then there's more sowing, growing and mowing.
But yesterday was one of those rare days when there was actually nothing particularly urgent that I could be getting on with. The reason for this was the woefully dry April we've had - not one shower all month so far! Because of this, the sowing has ground to a halt. As so often seems to happen, forecasts of heavy rain have slowly changed to occasional light rain showers which have, in the end, never actually materialised.
So the plan for Saturday was to potter around in the polytunnel and possibly get the mower out later in the day.
That was until, just about to let the chickens out early morning, stunning news came through of a Hudsonian Godwit on the Somerset Levels.
So that was Saturday taken care of.

Hudsonain Godwit (3rd from left)
My 500th species in Britain
It was a big twitch.















I rolled back into the farm at 8 in the evening having driven a total of 461 miles and successfully twitched a very rare bird (the last gettable one was over 30 years ago!) This bird was for me more significant than most, as it was my 500th species in Britain, a goal which has taken me 17 years to achieve.

April is not supposed to be like this. I don't mean the complete lack of showers. I mean two trips to the Scilly Isles and a mad dash to Somerset in the space of less than two weeks. Anyway, I'm not complaining and I'm still relatively up with things on the farm.

Then last night we finally had some rain. Not enough to soak the ground, but enough to tempt me into sowing some seeds. Unfortunately I was due at the Green Backyard in Peterborough to further hone my skills at lime rendering the straw bale wall which we built a while ago. Sue was off to the Fenland Smallholders Meeting which was all about bees.
I say 'unfortunately' as it would otherwise have been a very good day to catch up with some of that seed sowing and potato planting which has been waiting for a little moisture in the soil.

I spent the morning sowing beetroots, carrots, turnips, mangel wurzels and fennel before reluctantly packing up ready to head off. It's not that I didn't want to go to the Green Backyard, far from it, just that sometimes the breaks in the weather happen at just the wrong time.

But all my plans changed as I popped in on the two ewes in the stables before leaving. The paler of the two was huffing and puffing and clearly going into the early stages of labour. (This was truly a great surprise to me, for reasons which will be apparent in hopefully my next post about the birth)Now I have delivered piglets and hatched all sorts of poultry (well, actually most of it was the pigs, chickens, ducks etc), but lambing is new territory for Sue and I.
All plans were cancelled so that we could be on hand if needed. This did at least mean that I could make the most of the opportunity and catch right up in the veg plot.

But I'm sure you'll want me to tell you about our first ever lambing experience. Well, it's now half past midnight and I am still on lambing duty. Our ewe is just sitting and huffing and puffing. I shall be checking on her throughout the night and if I think that the birth is imminent I have permission to wake Sue up!
I've a feeling it's going to be a long night.

Finally, as a contrast to zooming around the country in my quest to see new species of bird, I am delighted to report that the two tree sparrows continue to visit the feeders and to collect nest material. They are in very steep decline so it is a privilege that they they have come back onto the farm. The same goes for Grey Partridges. I was fortunate enough to get a glimpse of the two which currently seem to spend much of their time down near the empty pig enclosure. And this afternoon a Lapwing, yet another bird in steep decline as a breeding species, was displaying at the bottom of my land. Then tonight at least two Barn Owls were flying around calling. I managed to see one quite high up against the stars and another flutter into the hollow stem of one of the old ash trees.
I don't quite know what I'm doing, but I must be doing something right. Maybe, just maybe, it's small scale, integrated farming which is doing the trick.
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