Winter Newsletter 2017

Dear Friends and Customers of Partridge Hill Farm,

 

Merry Mid-Winter 2017-18 everyone! In my life the Mid-Winter season isn’t over until the Apple Wassail happens on January 17th and that’s tomorrow so I’ve just got tonight to finish this newsletter before I’m too late.

This winter quarter at Partridge Hill Farm has been one of new heights of standards being set which I’m determined to maintain throughout 2018.

The main event of the last few months of course has been the Christmas turkeys, although over a couple of weeks ago now and all the family visits are over and the decorations gone but I’m still brimming with satisfaction with how the turkey sales went. I sold out a couple of weeks before Christmas and had to take down my sale-signs early which was a first, but the best part of it was seeing how well all the birds finished. Everyone of them was plump and appetising and a true justification of a different feeding regime. Plucking was a little harder this year due to a really cold snap a week before the birds got sent off however the extra work that caused was soon forgotten about once they were all dressed up so well for the oven and packed in the refrigerated van.

Of course the farm is quiet without them but I’m already planning for their return in the summer and looking forward to it.

But without the birds on the farm there is no let up in things to get done at this time of the year, the Berkshire pigs are growing fast in their woodland pens and keep me returning to them twice a day with more feed. I’m expecting most of them to be ready before the end of this quarter and already have orders for some of their rare breed high welfare outdoor pork, so do let me know if you’d like to join the queue for some to be reserved for you.

The sheep need feeding each day at this time of the year too, there maybe grass in the fields but it’s not got any nutrients in it so I’m moving them on round the paddocks, stocking their hay racks and supplementing those which need it with some sheep nuts. Feeding them has helped the new Beulah ewes start to trust me more now which is nice to see them settling in to Partridge Hill, I still doubt they will ever eat any nuts out of my hand though they are just not that sort of breed.

The ram was returned to my neighbour’s ram flock at New Year and I’m expecting the lambs to begin arriving in mid-April once the weather has warmed up and the spring grass is feeding the mothers suitably. We’ll see if there are any early ones this year that beat the next issue of this newsletter!

This time of year has so many jobs to be done on the farm that juggling them all during the short daylight hours is some task. This year I’ve scheduled January for hedge laying, February for tree planting and March for fence building but sticking to isn’t always as easy as I’d like it to be. The wet and windy weather of late has up rooted a number of trees in the soft sandy soil which need tidying up and there always seems to be bonfire on the go.

And if all this wasn’t enough to get me out of bed in the morning there’s an ever growing list of money earning jobs off the farm. I’m helping folks in the area with their fences, hedges and orchards at this time of year which I’m happy to do as it keeps my tools in use and the whole show on the road.

Now the mention of orchards brings me back to the Wassail, that West Country tradition of blessing the apple trees for a good harvest later in the year. I’m looking forward to joining the crowd that shows up to do that around the orchards in Whimple tomorrow night, it’ll be a fun evening out ending with music, cider and songs at the cricket club, a lovely way to mark the end of the darkest days of the year.

I wish everyone a Happy New Year and hope you’re all as filled with the same levels of optimism as I am. Each year gets better than the last!

 

Farmer Ben