News

Winter 2009/10.

 

Winter can be a great time. Less outdoor work, time to enjoy blazing wood fires in the hearth, and to catch up on what we failed to get done in the autumn. But not this year. Cold weather here has been probably the worst we have seen since the year we first came here, some thirty years ago. Overnight temperatures have sunk as low as minus 14 degrees C, and stayed low for days on end. After a frosty start in late November, the ground has been frozen for much of the time since then, encouraging deep snow in early January. Heeding the first snow forecast, we collected all the sheep, Jacobs, Dorset X and Shropshires, off the hill the evening before, and brought them down to the shelter (and safety) of the yards. They are not due to lamb until late March / April, for we gave up Christmas lambing some years ago, to guard against the impacts of cold weather.

Extreme cold has meant that we spend much longer every day on routine tasks. Even touching metal had to be done carefully during some days, as bare fingers stuck to it! When temperatures fell that low, even some outside water pipes that we had carefully lagged froze, meaning that all water had to be carried to livestock by bucket. The water flow improved with extra lagging (Chris’s sheep fleeces came in very handy here), and so far we have not lost our mains electricity supply, thank goodness. Thirty years ago when our supply failed in a blizzard, we were not re-connected by SWEB for about 16 days. Western Power are much better these days. Apart from our Jacob lambs that would have been ready for customers in January (they have not gained sufficient weight), the livestock seem to thrive on the cold when well-fed, though our hay and straw supplies are declining faster than usual. Luckily each summer we get in extra hay and straw - we always believe that one year we shall have a bad winter again …

And the benefits of the freezing weather? Well, if our honey bees survive, they should have less competition from wasps and disease, killed by the cold. Fruit trees and bushes too should benefit. In our veg garden, November-planted garlic planted is growing happily through the snow, and will taste good after this hard start. And Chris has taken some beautiful snow photos around the place. Now we just have to get rid of the cold, and see the grass growing. But moles are back with a vengeance, ever since the government has stopped farmers managing them. Always something to keep you active …

 

 

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