Partridge Hill Farm Mid Winter Newsletter 2016

Merry Mid-Winter and all the warm seasonal greetings from the farm to everyone. I hope everyone has been able to enjoy the festive period so far as they’d like to. I’ve already noticed the lengthening of the daylight hours, even just that 10 minutes extra we’re already getting at the end of the day is encouraging me that we’re racing into the New Year as I continue to squeeze everything I need to get done into the day. Though I must admit that some evenings the pigs have had to be fed after dark, but with their sense of smell darkness isn’t going to stop them finding dinner!

This quarter of the year is a busy and important one to me at Partridge Hill, the finishing off and the sale of the Norfolk Black Christmas Turkeys is one of the most important parts of my business year. I’m happy to report that it’s been a resounding success; the survival rate was up from 80% last year to 95% this year, the weight range has moved up 1kg at the bottom end and up 2kg at the top to 3.5kg – 9.5kg, and most satisfying of all was achieving the hardest goal of selling every last one of them! To those of you in East Devon I hope my roadside signs had been spotted and maybe the posters in town too. They are down now and put away until next year. They did bring in several sales, but more gratifying is that most of the sales were from customer recommendations reinforcing the power of customer pleasure with the flavour and colour of this traditional hardy outdoor breed that’s able to forage on natural vegetation.

Early in December I began to sell the larger of my lambs from the Jacobs in the flock, the Badger Face lambs will soon catch up in size, the biggest ought to be ready by the end of January so do let me know if you’re interested in reserving one or a half. The Badger Face lamb was very well received last year thanks to the full traditional flavour of the ancient breed and their year-round outdoor life fed on pasture and hay.

My first batch of ginger Berkshire X Duroc pigs where sold this quarter as well, I couldn’t have been happier with how well they did, in fact the last one to go did so much better that the quarter-pig meat boxes almost weighed as much as a half-pig box might do. The meat was tender and full of flavour which I was very proud of, so those pigs have already been replaced with more weaners from the same parents. While on the other side of the farm the pedigree Berkshires have been thriving in their natural environment beneath the trees rooting up the ground for everything they can unearth to eat. They’ve done a great job of clearing the bracken and brambles to create more grazing for the sheep in the future. My last batch of pedigree Berkshires received the best feed-back from customers regarding their flavour so if you’d like me to reserve you a meat box do get in touch as the first ones will be ready before the end of January.

My tool collection has continued to grow these last months for use on and off the farm, the biggest being a Bobcat 1.5 tonne mini digger for creating drainage channels and clearing ditches, of which I have a to-do list long enough keep me occupied between paid jobs for years to come! The long reach hedge trimmer and pole saw will help make short work of trimming and pruning jobs not to mention how the motorised auger for digging fence post holes has speeded things up no end, I wish I’d bought it sooner! Other gardening jobs that have keep me busy this season have been the routines of cutting back for winter, mulching beds, and orchard pruning work a seasonal pattern that I’m so familiar with. Now the coldest part of winter is approaching I can set to the hedge laying projects and garden clearance jobs that have been lined up waiting for the right time of year.

Ahead of that I’m away on holiday visiting friends and family before the 12 days of Christmas are over and the Wassailing is done, thanks to a helpful neighbour, Josh, who is looking after the livestock I’ve managed to leave the district for 5 whole consecutive days, not something I’ve managed all year thanks to the “golden hand cuffs” that I heard caring for animals described as recently. Of course, now I’m away I can’t wait to get back to be back to looking after the animals, delivering the best meat to the most conscientious of customers and plying my rural skills in the gardens and hedges of East Devon!

Thank you again to everyone for their interest in my farming and landscaping projects this year as well as for your purchases I look forward to hearing from you again and wish everyone the very best for 2017.

Farmer Ben