Friday 31 December 2021


I regularly sweep up clumps of moss, which grows on our roof, from the paved area outside our back door. The photograph below was taken about an hour after I had finished sweeping up the last lot. Through the patio doors from our sitting room there could be seen a regular drop, drop of moss from the roof above. The culprit is a jay, sometimes a pair of jays. I doubt they are collecting nest material at this time of year. Perhaps they are looking for insects. Or maybe its just for fun.

A jay. Image taken from the e-bird website.

Monday 27 December 2021


For the last two or three months our neighbouring farmer has left a disc harrow on a field edge. It is used for breaking up clods of soil after ploughing ready for drilling. In this case I think it was last used following the wheat harvest to chop up the stubble to help it rot down more quickly before preparing the ground for the next crop. By the look of it, I suspect that it has been regularly used on the farm for many decades.

I walk past the harrow most days when walking the dog. It is small beer for a Massey-Fergusson but each time I walk by I wonder if I would be able to pull it long myself so I gave it a try today. I can't.

Tuesday 21 December 2021

“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light."

Today is the shortest day with sunset timed for here at 15:46. Recently the days have seemed even shorter as each day has been one of constant grey skies and frequent drizzly weather. Hereafter the days get longer and the nights get shorter. Bring on the light!

Isaiah, of course, was not referring to the winter equinox but alluding to the celebration of a few days hence. Nevertheless, it is quite understandable why prehistoric peoples, who had a surprising understanding of observable astronomical phenomena, might have cause to celebrate the equinox. The same might be said for agriculturally based pre-industrial societies for good reason.

For us on our smallholding day-to-day life is governed much by the seasons, although admittedly to a far less crucial degree compared to times past. Now is the time we start compiling our seed order, and with that increasing anticipation of a new growing season. The hens' physiology is exquisitely perceptive to changing light levels and they will soon begin to increase their laying. The ewes have a little way to go before they lamb but the barn needs to be made ready and necessary supplies gathered. Many of the regular winter maintenance jobs have been ticked off the list. It won't be long before snowdrops begin to sprinkle the nearby woodland. 

Lots to look forward to and prepare for. 

A photo I have previously posted of a winter sunset -
a view from our front window.


Saturday 11 December 2021

Catching up with the pigs

At present we have two sows (sisters) and one unrelated boar. They are registered pedigree British Saddlebacks, of which there were only 409 sows and 100 boars as at the end of 2020 in the UK. This year's figures are still being processed following the recently completed annual survey of 14 traditional breeds conducted by the British Pig Association.

Although, so far, not quite as wet as the last two winters, the pig paddocks are collecting pools of water following recent rain and becoming muddier. During the summer we built an additional pig house and small run to add to our commodious farrowing house. The intention was that this would provide enough indoor accommodation, if it was needed, over the winter. A week ago I decided it was time to take advantage of this and bring the pigs off the fields. Pigs will tolerate muddy conditions but it is not at all their preference. It is not very pleasant for me either. When mud freezes and becomes rock hard, this also has welfare issues for the pigs as they can turn ankles and cause lameness.

Bringing the pigs in also had another benefit. One of the sows failed to get pregnant this year having had two spells with the boar. This is a concern as the longer a sow goes without producing a litter the greater the likelihood of becoming permanently infertile. We know that the problem is not the boar as the sow's sister has not had any problems conceiving. After discussing with our livestock vet we have commenced a hormone medication to regulate her cycle and induce ovulation. The medication is administered orally for ten consecutive days. This means mixing it with her food but also preventing the other pigs from hogging the food themselves. The sow in question is now in the new pig house whilst the other two pigs are in the farrowing house which facilitates the administration of the medication. She will join the boar again after the ten days are up and we will see what transpires. Hopefully this will do the trick.

Our boar. Pedigree name, Tudor Dominator 6,
otherwise Alfred, or Alf to his friends.

Thursday 2 December 2021

Annual Census

Tending the sheep has been a little easier since their amalgamation last week with the ewes and ewe lambs in one field and the rams and ram lambs in another. I've replenished the hay supplies which should see us through into the New Year. They all get a small amount of supplementary coarse feed each day, including the three remaining ram lambs  I do not want them to lose condition over the winter. This is how they will remain until I bring the ewes in at the end of February ready for lambing.

Still on sheep. All sheep keepers (and goat keepers) are required by DEFRA to complete an annual census of their livestock as of the 1st December. The notice to complete this came through last week and I have duly completed and returned mine. Along with tagging, movement licences for each movement on and off the holding and individual keeper's obligatory holding registers, theoretically every sheep in the UK is traceable. This is of significance if there is a serious disease outbreak and is the reason why detailed livestock recording has been put in place. It is even more detailed for cattle. 

It was not very long ago that the devastating effects of Foot and Mouth Disease were felt by cattle farmers.  The major current concern is with African Swine Fever which has been edging closer to the UK. We live in a world of pandemics.

Wednesday 1 December 2021

Sky views

The view from the front of our house yesterday evening, the last day of November.

The view from the back of our house this afternoon, the first day of December.