Just a few days to go now until we can wrap up for the year and prepare ourselves a feast that we always look forward to. Amongst the last-minute orders, the poultry dressing, the ever so excited collectors of Christmas trees, we have taken a little time to reflect on a year packed with highlights.
The farm has been lying under a cool winter sun during this cold snap, no snow, but deeply penetrating frosts for almost two whole weeks. Good for bulbs, woody shrubs and fruit trees that need a cold period, referred to as vernalisation. This is important as it initialises flowering and the subsequent development of the crop at the right time of year, flowering in the Spring and fruiting thereafter. A hard frost is also useful to physically shatter soil helping to create a light seed bed ready for the Spring, disrupting the life-cycle of pests such as aphids and slugs. With thick hedges, log piles and untidy perennial flowering beds dotted all over the farm we are able to provide a protective habitat for hibernating predators who will be our army when Spring comes again.
Winter wheat crops have germinated and established well in the late Autumn ready to overwinter and take off as soon as daylight lengthens. And talking of daylength, the first to notice are the egg layers who have been in moult but quickly return to lay in January along with the new birds (pullets) that arrived at the end of November. We can’t be sure when the confinement of our birds will be over, but they have adapted well to spacious sheds and a polytunnel where they are protected from the risk of avian flu.
Also in the barn over the coldest months of the winter are the cattle. They have super thick winter coats, typical of the Hereford breed, handsome animals that grow steadily on a diet of wonderful winter hay. Favoured by butchers for their marbled meat, tiny layers of intramuscular fat that significantly add to the flavour and juiciness of joints and steaks. On cold winter mornings you can see how much body heat is given off as they mooch about and chew the cud.
Certainly, a highlight from the Autumn were the two open weekends we held in October and November. On two glorious days, a month apart, we really enjoyed the opportunity to show our customers behind the scenes on the farm. The discussion continued over the lunches that followed answering many questions about farming hand in hand with wildlife, working within the sensitive environment of the Lower Teme valley. Look out for more open days in 2023, kicking off with a lambing weekend in late March, details will be available on our website.
As usual, we’ll take a short break after Christmas and then turning to the New Year, our online shop will reopen for orders w/c 16th January for delivery (locally and in Cheltenham) on Thursday 19th January or collection on the 20th/21st when our shop in Rushwick reopens. We return to Cheltenham Farmers Market on Friday 27th January.
We have nearly finished potting up our goose fat, the orders are collated, the shop is brimming with wonderful fresh vegetables, fruit, fabulous beef joints, salmon from Ullapool and at the time of writing one or two birds are waiting to be snapped up! All that remains is to wish you all a very merry Christmas and to send our good wishes to you and your families for a happy and healthy 2023.