Heading into Darkness

We are 9 days from the turn of the year, and it’s one I won’t be sorry to see go.

We’ve taken defeat on the chin and dug back to our roots in the last few months. I won’t lie, we’ve come very close to giving up.

H is now away at Uni a good part of the time and S is on the final straight down to A Levels. I am working full time and then some in an office job and Neil is building on his success in decorating. Where is the time for the farm?

Well, we’ve got a £500 vet bill for the little pony who got an abscess, so no-one’s giving up work soon. We have to be realistic, and the bills mount up ever higher, they’ve got to be paid before we can move forward.

There is however a lovely looking ram in with the Oxford ewes. We don’t have a boyfriend for the goat girls yet, but hope to soon.

I’m back to studying for my Permaculture Diploma, and with stock pared right back, we’re in a kind of holding pattern. We need clarity of design – we need purpose and intent and then we need to restock and rebuild.

There is light on the horizon. We are going to fight for this farm.

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The hay is baled

We  are still here, and the hay is baled!

20160814_192631 20160814_192651


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All for the want of a horse shoe nail.

With great regret, we’ve conceded defeat this year.

There will be no CSA, no veg, precious few eggs, and nothing happening.

That is because I am being forced to go  back to work full time, and Neil is working all hours anyway.

We’ve sold most of the sheep and goats, and just need now to have a time of fighting to survive.

What’s frustrating is, that we had people and organisations wanting to work with us. We feel like it could have happened.  We needed so little help, one small grant would have made all the difference, but that body decided not to fund our project. I don’t know why, I suspect we didn’t tick some particular box –  but honestly it wasted a lot of my time last year, and I was pretty peeved when they decided they weren’t prepared to support us.

Because we couldn’t afford the fencing required to secure the place safely for children, we couldn’t start our work with the pre school, or progress further in discussing the needs of the school.

Once again, we’ve been flooded, and are still not able to get onto the land to do anything serious. It’s time for a rethink, and I’m off to work for a living to see if we can’t fund a way to make this work.

So it’s not, good bye – but au revoir, as they say!


“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.


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Leave the land far better than you found it.

“Leave the land far better than you found it. In the soil lies all that remains of the work of countless generations of the dead. We hold this sacred trust, to maintain the fertility and pass it on unimpaired to the unborn generations to come. The farmer above all must have faith in the future, even the narrow demands of national extremity must not outweigh his judgement and justify the exhaustion of his farm, for a civilization lasts but a thousand years, while in his hands lies the destiny of all mankind.”

George Henderson – “The Farming Ladder” – 1944

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Now it is really wet.

The tipping point happens, and then, that’s it. You’re underwater. The water runs down the slope and into the swales, and off the field, but more water takes its place. On the mid section, we are now ankle deep in standing (or actually running) water.

Nothing is on that section, gladly. I walk Diva over it to her stable each evening, but apart from that, it is unmolested.

The sheep have been moved to higher ground.


My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me

Unfortunately for those of us moving them every 3 – 4 days, the ‘higher ground’ is where the whipping north wind comes from. We were at best chilly when we moved them today.

In our more sheltered garden at home, early greens flourish.



it’s a weird thing, Alexanders. Looks so sweet and nice, and for now, it is ok thrown in a salad, and can be cooked up ok as well. But as it ages, boy does it turn nasty.

Battling to get a start now, we need to get ahead with planting and producing, but everywhere is so wet, it’s not possible. It feels like forever but I think this is the third spring like this.  We do know of a consultant who might be able to help us, within our ethical framework, but we simply can’t afford it. It’s frustrating, and we keep on trying to work with nature not against it, to solve this problem.

We have lots of interested folk wanting to join us in this project. We just need to get the water to move aside and let them on the land!



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Jobs for January

Well, I was going to return to the monthly jobs to do list – this is something I’m hoping will inspire future weekend or local wwoofers if they’d like to be involved.


As it turns out, the main job for January is going to be: Survive the flooding.

We were doing so well, that only last week I commented that the swales really did seem to be working, and we were for the first time in – 8 years? – not under water.

Spoke too soon.

There seems to be a magical tipping point – the springs on the spring line don’t appear to be running. The main, brick faced spring definitely isn’t. The top swale sits empty.

The lower swale, appears to be doing its job.swaleIt’s holding water up and as it’s off countour, some of that water is draining out at the end, into the main ditch or bourne alongside the field.


groundwaterbelow it, sits (or stands) water on the grass.

In the next few days, we need to do some emergency sheep moving.

Other than that, the jobs for January ought to be:

  • ‘Siding Up’ the new hedges. To me they look huge and ready to lay, but apparently according to them that know, it’s a year or two too soon, and they need all their sides need trimming to grow stronger leaders.
  • Getting plastic out on veg beds. Old and new
  • Planting a few new fruit trees
  • Preparing to start seeds
  • Working with Diva

Oh and mending my wind damaged polytunnel at home. Since its new cover looks less and less likely.

Now I would like it to stop raining.

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Pulling a late one

So busy. We are absolutely full stretch.
None of the admin is getting done and there is so much to think about.
Wouldn’t cope at all without H.
Neil is painting 8 am – 10 pm.
Even Boo has been out helping with Sixth Form open evening until late.
Last lot of lamb was absolute bliss.
Maybe one more lot before Christmas.
Before I fall over, all I can say is – support British farmers. Buy local. Know your farmer. Food is hard work. Don’t let any supermarket tell you otherwise. x

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Autumn on the Part Time Farm

There seems to be a note of hysteria in the air, this autumn.

I think it’s probably the same every year, but it’s like childbirth, you forget in time for the next one.

As the days grow shorter, the to do list grows longer, and for at least two days this week,  H and I have been hurtling round like crazy people, trying to hold all the livestock tasks together. We’ve had absolutely gorgeous, crisp, clear autumn weather, with blue skies, chilly mornings, and smokey dusks, in which to achieve all this, but we have been pressed.

The goats have had some foot problems, so we are painstakingly trimming and treating feet each morning, in addition to milking, bedding, feeding haying, and generally messing about with four does and eight babies.

The ram for the Oxford girls has arrived and needs to be in splendid isolation for a few days, before going in to do his duty.

The Jacob flock need checking and sorting (‘drafting’) prior to breeding  and as you may know, we have grazing hither and yon, so that involves driving a lot from field to field and holding conversations you then forget later in the day, unless you take note of all your thoughts and decisions.


Summer production in the polytunnel is closing down and so far only a few salads and the odd leafy green is taking over, as we really, really need to recover the tunnel this year.

We are mid way through building a new pen for all the laying hens and bantams to enjoy some more space and comfort.

I am still working on opening up space to the PreSchool and ultimately hopefully the school, but technicalities and health and safety are hiding round every corner.

We found time for some foraging, coming home with blackberries, hips, haws, and crab apples.



We have lambs going to the butcher next week, to be ready for delivery/collection on October 31st. It’s not too late to book a half lamb (for approximately £50, depending on weight) but it will be very soon! So if you’re interested please email.

As proud Part Time Farmers, these short days and long lists cause us to dig deep. Neil and H run a successful decorating business, and have been working all hours on projects in Bath and Bristol recently. Our shepherdess is back at school, stuck into A level courses, and preparing for Silver DofE.  I am in an office two days a week, as well as supposedly running our office.

We’ve been watching BBC2’s ‘Harvest’ though, and finding the time was definitely well worth it. We are so proud to be a tiny, tiny part of Britain’s amazing farming industry.



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It’s that time of year again when the ram should be going in with the ewes and we haven’t actually got a ram yet.

On various occasions we’ve made off on cross country treks to buy in the ram, often when the girls were younger, en famille, and once, memorably returning with a stonking Wiltshire Horn ram in the back of the Volvo.

He was fine, not a bit worried about it, until we got stuck in traffic in Melksham. The thing about that was he began to feel a bit threatened by the car behind.

At first he snorted and snuffed, stamped his foot a bit and generally tried to look dead hard.

When the pesky car behind didn’t go away, he decided the best thing was to start head butting the rear window.

To this day I wonder what on earth the bloke in the car behind was thinking.

I am also eternally grateful that they don’t build any cars, not even modern Volvos, like they used to build the earlier Chieftain Tank models, and that the glass stayed put.


Over the years we’ve had least trouble with Jacob rams, all of whom have been mannerly and efficient.

Onslow the Charollais was a fearful slob (hence the name) and did very much look as if he sat around all day in his vest drinking lager, but to give him his due, his crop of lambs proved otherwise.

We had two rams one year – Wiltshire Horns again – who were called Charlie (as in King) and Ollie (as in Cromwell) (We were doing the ECW in Home-school that year I imagine) and they were dandy while they were in with the ewes, but the minute we took them out and put them in a paddock together, no word of a lie, they had a massive bust up and Ollie killed Charlie –  tragically, though with laudable historical accuracy.

This year, a good couple of months late, we are still without a sire for the Oxfords, and the time is now for the Jacobs, so we need to be looking for them as well.

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Farm News Friday – #fbt10plus

The TFA’s Annual Conference last week got sidelined by me, because of the refugee crisis.

However, as we’re members of the TFA and have been affected by the FBT issue, it’s worthy of a mention.

We don’t get to go to Conferences and the like though, we can’t spare the time, so we follow along online.

We’ve been tenants on our land for over a decade, and often feel as if we are getting nowhere.  For most of that time, we had short, 3 year FBTs, and I can confirm that the instability and insecurity will do for you.  We are a very tiny outfit. We have to work – Neil full time and me part time – to even  capitalise our little farm, and work on our ideas, be it ever so slowly. We really need a long view to enable us to get anywhere.

After a long series of negotiations, which took most of last year, and with help from George Dunn and the TFA, we finally got a 10 year FBT this year. We’re still not quite sure what to do next! But at least we know, it’s not start the process of re-tendering next year!

The arguments are set out here, in an earlier article, and I don’t think I need to say which side I come down  on.

Council Farms are all but gone,  and getting hold of a private tenancy is well nigh impossible unless you have a farming background to start with. Making a start as a first generation farmer is incredibly hard.

At the very least, it seems to me, if you’ve run the race and got your name on that tenancy, it should probably stay there until a bit after the ink is dry.


Find Out More from the TFA





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