June 28th 2013

On the Farm - July News and free draw From Higher Hacknell

Higher Hacknell hay

Its a beautiful time of year and great to be getting on with the silage and hay making. They always say June made hay is the best and compared too last year, when we were pretty much flooded and couldn't get on the fields without sinking in mud, it's a great relief. The quality is good but the crops are very light as growth has been late this year, so Tim will have to cut the fields again later in the summer to ensure there'll be enough. Walking through the fields in the evening the drying hay smells amazing, though probably less so if you suffer from hay fever.

TB testingLast week we had our TB test which is incredibly stressful on man and beast. When we came here over 25 years ago, there was very little TB and it wasn't something we were worried about, but now we dread the actual testing as well as the chance of our cattle coming down with it. Every bovine on our holding has to be tested and at this time of the year they are roaming in many groups in different parts of the farm, including land the other side of the village, so getting them all back here is a big job. Then they all have to go through the cattle race and be injected by the vet, which can be dangerous if the cattle don't want to go where they are meant to! Then 2 or 3 days later we have to do the whole process again when the vet returns to check each animal to see if there is a reaction. That's when we might get the bad news that we have a 'reactor' which means the animal will be culled or an 'inconclusive ' which means more testing and our farm would be under movement restrictions. Recently our neighbour had a 'reactor' which had to be killed and then retested but came back as clear of TB, so he lost a valuable in-calf heifer. The testing isn't always accurate and it is a situation which is causing real hardship on farms in terms of economics as well as the danger and stress, which understandably is making some farmers think it's just not worth carrying on. I hope that research into vaccines brings positive results for a way forward. Fortunately we went clear, and we'll just keep our fingers crossed that it stays that way.

Gloucester Old Spot pigsWe have some new arrivals on the farm, some Gloucester Old Spot weaner pigs, which are very gorgeous, though when my spaniel sniffed their noses, he's not quite sure what to make of them! We bought them from some organic farming friends who've given up pig keeping. It's very easy to while away the time watching them play, happily exploring the little meadow by the farm yard. Gill, the head chef at the River Cottage HQ, has been particularly asking us for fatter old fashioned breeds, so we are giving them a try.

On Saturday, the shearers are coming to shear the main flock back here. The 'two tooths' were shorn a couple of weeks ago as they are at Mullybrook, our land the other side of the village and there are more woods and consequently flies, over there. If the flies start laying eggs in their wool, they get maggots and that's bad news, so hopefully it will stay dry and shearing will go to plan. I've been getting very excited about the wool, as this year I'm going to get some of the best quality wool from the young 'two tooths' spun and dyed ready for knitting. Please let me know if you're interested in buying wool, what 'ply' you'd prefer, and it will be available from the Autumn on our website. I bought some Jacobs sheep a few months ago, as they have nice browny/black and white fleeces which are great for hand spinning. I used to spin as a student, but farming and family meant my spinning wheel gathered dust over the years, but now a friend has encouraged me back to it again. We'll also get some wool washed and carded, ready for spinning or using for other purposes such as stuffing for toys or cushions. To know more about the wonders of wool, do look back at our July 2010 blog! .

In couple of weeks, I'm off again with a van full of our lovely meat and sausages to the International Food Festival in Cardiff which is from the 12th to 14th July. It would be lovely to see you there, or I can bring a meat box to the show if you'd like to pre order. Then we'll be at the North Devon Show on 7th August, just down the road from us at Umberleigh. I'll put all these dates on our Facebook page, so you can catch up with our latest photos and events there. We welcome comments , 'likes' and sharing! It would be great to have your recipes and photos posted on our Facebook page too. I'm now getting to grips with Twitter (@HigherHacknell), so please follow or tweet me! We have also made a FILM! We've just finished the editing so look out for it on the website, Facebook etc. I'm no film star, and it was more difficult and embarrassing than I thought it would be! However we hope it will be interesting for those of you who haven't been here to be able to visit us in a 'virtual' way and Tim was persuaded to play and sing one of his songs 'Down the Deep Lanes' to accompany it.

There's been a lot going on, and this July we are offering a free draw to all of you who place an order this month on our website www.higherhacknell.co.uk. We will do the draw at the end of the month, on 26th July, so do get an order into us by then, and you could win 30 worth of our delicious award winning ready meals. We are really grateful to you for buying your meat from Higher Hacknell Farm and as always appreciate your comments and feedback.

I hope you have a great time this July, whether you are off on holiday or staying at home.

With best wishes

Tim and Jo and all at Higher Hacknell Farm