springtime at the field …

Well, we have been waiting too long for spring to do its thing this year, my propagators have been full to bursting with plants that ideally should’ve been planted out in the polytunnels by this time in April but it’s been so cold I didn’t dare. Now that we have warmed up the place is buzzing and I am running to catch up and get all the plants in, and started. Lots of seed-sowing, weeding out the beds and getting them manured or composted ready for their annual charge. Everything is about to burst with life I can feel it coming, bulging buds and peeks of that beautiful fresh bright green of the years new growth. The birds are singing loud and proud and the soil has that earthy moist smell of potential…

After much deliberation George and I decided last year to intervene on the very rapid growth rate of our small flock of rare/primitive breed Soay sheep. Even with a small flock numbers can easily double in a year without intervention. I love lambing, Soay ewes make truly the cutest lambs (I accept a level of bias here!) and we love the natural cycle of life that having lambs in the spring lends the rhythm of the smallholding, so we ran just 5 of our 12 ewes with Art the Magnificent for tupping, and we have now welcomed 9 lambs iinto the world. Soay lambs are quick, if I don’t catch them in the first 24hours they will be too fast, so I like to get hold of them soon after they arrive, check them over and get mum and baby into a pen together for at least a few days to bond and have some privacy (this also means I can reward the ewe her hard work with some fresh greens and extra rations).

This year we have 2 new addition’s, just after we finished lambing I went on a wee road trip north into Aberdeenshire and came back with 2 x 3 week old female goat kids. Their mum was sadly no longer feeding them so I took up the baton and am raising them myself, ‘The Pharaohs’ – Cleopatra and Nefertiti – are adorable, lots of fun and add their own querky nature to the richness of the holding. The more diverse we become the more we move towards sustainability, and the more we are able to ‘close the loop’ and be self-reliant. The Pharaohs could give us many years of milk production once they are old enough to meet a Billy, so it’s a big investment but one we feel will be worth it.

So spring is proving busy and tiring, but in a good way. We have a metaphorical mountain to climb each year with the smallholding, each element leading to the next, always with one eye looking to the next thing, never quite catching up, but I don’t think either of us would have it any other way. The smallholding is undoubtedly much more than the sum of its parts and while spring can feel an uphill struggle it’s also when the magic starts with the simple meeting of seeds and soil…

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