Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Back to work

Well we have arrived at our first WWOOFing placement, Smiling Tree farm, and what a beautiful place it is. The house is a 500 year old thatched farm house currently being restored in a very sympathetic way and set in the very rural South Shropshire hills. Our host Christine is a fountain of knowledge about all aspects of smallholdings – livestock, land management, renewable energy, finances, and more! I feel like we’ve learnt so much already. And we’ve had delicious food: home reared lamb, bacon, sausages and pork; nettle soup; apple tarts; home baked bread; and fresh eggs from the chickens.

That brings me on to the animals. We arrived on Sunday evening and almost straight away got whisked off to meet some of them. We shut the mother hens and their chicks up to prevent the foxes and badgers getting a quick snack. Then we went down to see Dolly (a Berkshire pig) and her 9 two day old piglets – they are so sweet. We made sure all of them were suckling and checked each of their bellies to make sure they were full. They were and they’re growing fast! Then we went to see the Shetland sheep – a pretty small breed. All bar one of them have very recently lambed and the new mothers (those only a year old) seem to have produced extra small lambs, they’re tiny!

Our first day started off with the morning rounds – feeding all the animals and meeting the remaining ones – the larger and more fluffy Dartmoor sheep, two more pigs (Dotty and the boar Little Bear) and 4 cows (the Jerseys are Marmalade, Lollipop and Ginger and the Jersey crossed with Aberdeen Angus is Daisy). They are very placid and Ginger the calf is gorgeous with his big dark eyes. Our first job entailed catching lambs, holding on to them and then tagging their ears with their ID tag. Matt was a bit dismayed when the lamb he was holding wriggled free with only 1 tag attached. But he redeemed his self by catching a wanted lamb!

On Monday and Tuesday we spent most of our 4 hours a day of work mulching two belts of newly planted trees as it’s been so dry lately and this should help them survive the summer too. This involved watering each tree, putting a good load of manure around each one, then we put old fleece over each one for some further moisture retention. It was satisfying to start and complete a task and Christine said she’d refer to the tree belts as Laura and Matt’s! Today we’ve fed the animals; done a bit of weeding on the veg plot; a bit of putting muck on the muck heap; penning the cows up to worm them; observing the vet who came out to check on Dolly (she’s become very stiff and couldn’t get up to eat this morning, much better by this evening though).

Other than the work we have been going on lots of walks in the beautiful sunshine (I think it’s hardly rained since we left work) and chilling out. Feeling quite sleepy now.

Now that we’ve started WWOOFing there seems to be much more to say!


1 comment:

  1. I want a baby pig!! PLEASE get me one, you could hide it til you get back to the shire!!