The world has altered dramatically and last month we had to bow to the inevitable and close the holiday cottages. They will remain shut until the Coronavirus lockdown is lifted and the farm feels very quiet without our usual flow of happy holiday makers. Once we know it is safe for visitors to return we will re-open bookings and very much look forward to welcoming you to Press Mains again.
Although we all live very restricted lives, with visits off farm now being a rare event, the actual rythm of life remains virutally unchanged. We started lambing at the very end of February and lambs came at a steady rate until the end of March. As always there were highs and lows but we had a particularly good survival rate with virtually every ewe being turned out with two healthy lambs at foot. The majority are now on the hill above the farm. We had bought in two new Texel tups (rams) last year and it is already evident that they have improved the quality of this year’s lambs significantly.
As always, however, there are one or two lambs that are unable to go out with their mothers. Sometimes it is because they were ill at birth and just not strong enough to keep up with a more robust sibling, sometimes they are one of a triplet (very few ewes can rear three lambs successfully), sometimes they just didn’t seem to be thriving and were brought in for some extra TLC. This year we have nine pet lambs who live in the small paddock near the farmhouse. They are fed milk via a warm bucket system and milk pellets in a trough. They are also now eating the fresh shoots of grass. They are all charming in their own way. Some are self-contained and don’t ask for much attention while others just love people. Florence is a special favourite because she just loves cuddles, snuggling into your neck. She is also the noisiest by far, bleating loudly whenever a human walks nearby.
With the crops, the main issue at the moment is lack of rain. After a wet winter, the crops had not had the best start but they were beginning to green up in the early spring. Having had no rain to speak of in the last 6 weeks, however, we now really need some rain for things to grow on. So much for April showers! If John could do a rain dance now, he would. It’s not all bad, though, because without weather to interrupt things everything is up to date and there has even been time to catch up on some maintenance jobs around the place: a new water trough in the sheep field, two new hard-standing pitches on the caravan site, some clearing of field drains and a lot of grass cutting. We continue to keep all the cottage gardens up to scratch, just waiting for the first visitors to arrive.
The other good news is that the spring crops are sown and getting established and the ground is all prepared in anticipation of sowing vining peas. We were pleased to hear the other day that some of the wheat crop, which is traditionally sold to the whisky distilleries is now being used to make alcohol-based hand sanitisers to support the fight against Covid-19. It is great to know that something from Press Mains is providing the raw ingredients for this type of product.