Walking around the farm, moving cows or putting out fences, we look at the round. We look at all sorts of things - the grasses, the litter and the manure. It has been very pleasing to see evidence of dung beetles doing their thing all through the winter. To us this is an indication that the environment here is healthy and diverse. Where there are dung beetles there is vibrant microbial activity in the soil.
We were given a head start here on the farm because Sam's father Jim ceased using synthetic fertilisers in the 1970s. He could see that the native grasses were being swamped by short-lived annuals that boomed briefly but damaged the long-term health of the soil and community of grasses. When we came along and changed grazing management the farm was ready to bounce.
Now that the days are getting longer and warmer we hope that the dung beetles and soil microbes will enjoy spring as much as we do.
Calving is well underway, and going well. Wandering through the mob this afternoon there were another two new babies, taking their all-important first drink on unsteady legs. The calves are beautiful but we all feel that the lambs take the prize for cuteness, and (controversially) even intelligence! Calves are often too busy demonstrating how fast they can run to take notice of where you want them to go and where mum has been moved to. It’s all about speed!
Given the time of the season we are moving the animals onto fresh pasture every day. This has allowed us to meter out the grass so that it lasts until spring growth, hopefully only a couple of weeks away now.
The ducks are pairing which may be a sign that the weather predictions are wrong and there may be good rain in spring. However, if the ducks are wrong and the predictions right we will reassess the amount of grass that we do have and make decisions from then. No matter what happens our land and our animals will not suffer.
Farming, and by extension the civilisation it supports, is inextricably linked to the climate and the changes being wrought. It is impossible not to feel this every day. But as farmers we are in a position to remove carbon from the atmosphere reversing these changes.
Healthy, living soil is key to that soil holding carbon. It is a soil that is covered, not bare. It is a soil that has high microbial activity, not one that has been doused with artificial fertilisers and chemicals. It is a soil where the grasses in it have been allowed to grow fully before being grazed, and then left to recover again. It is where animals recycle the grasses into manure that is utilised by microbes to further improve the organic matter in that soil. A beautiful symphony that is conducted every day.
The beautiful food that we produce, the healthy animals that we care for, all begin with the soil. Regenerating the soil can only be good.
Our sheep have had all their lambs and we do not think it is too soon to call our first foray back into lambing a success. All lambs were born without assistance from us and although foxes are skulking around they did not manage to make a meal of any.
We are putting this down to a couple of things - the ewes are extremely attentive mothers and they shared their area with the yearling cattle who kept the foxes from venturing too close. It would be a very daring fox to brave this herd, who even chase our sweet, little dogs if they venture too close (can you imagine!).
With lambing done, the cows have begun to have calves! Frosts and all, it is a great time of year.
Long weekends are always welcome. Maybe not as welcome for us as for others because they do not mean a holiday, but they are a change (which is supposedly as good as…!). Pigs, cows and sheep still have to be moved and checked but at a more holiday-esque pace. This gave us more time to enjoy the antics of the lambs who do not have to do anything much at all to be completely charming.
New life is one of the greatest joys of living on a farm, but birth can also be a nail biting time when first-time mums are involved. While commemorating the birth of our glorious ruler, one of of these mums looked like she was not going to live up to the name. We had been monitoring her for a couple of hours and it looked like the whole process had stalled - possibly fatally so.
We tried to herd her into a hastily constructed yard but she did not like the idea at all. We tried in vain to catch her but despite her labour issues she was still surprisingly agile. It appeared as though our only hope was to leave, come back in a few hours when these issues had slowed her down enough and try and help her in any way we could. So we left, came back in a few hours, and a brand new lamb was lying next to her just taking its first clumsy steps!