For us, February is always a bit of a struggle. It’s too cold for the grass to grow, my hands are like blocks of ice and my lips are positively falling off as they are so dry.
Let me talk you through my clothing situation most days at the moment. There’s the sports bra, then a ‘technical thermal top’ (you know one where it has holes to put your thumbs through), then there is another long sleeved top and then an old khaki fleece which I think I have had since I was 14 (a ‘you’ll grow into it one’ – which now, 17 years later, I finally have – thanks Mum!) all topped off with my new coat (I have invested in a Ridgeline – so far, so good – although I think it’s a bit big!). Then there is a beanie hat and scarf, teamed with wellies with 2 pairs of socks underneath, and, the pièce de résistance – my £14 pair of trusty waterproof trousers. I have never loved a pair of trousers more. 6am panic stricken wake up on a Saturday – no problem! On the waterproofs slide, over the top of my pink pyjama bottoms – and off I trot to go and retrieve 300 lambs headed up the road, and no one is any the wiser that you’re donning your dogeared Primark pjs underneath the waterproof exterior! Gone are the days where I used to pre plan my outfit the night before work, and even at times lay out the make up/hair accessories that I planned to use. Now, I’m lucky if I pick up a clean pair of clothes in the morning. I mean, they’re just going to get dirty again the next day aren’t they?!
Anyway, so February. You can now picture what I have looked like most of the month, with the waterproofs, and copious layers! We have been basically just trying to keep all of the sheep fed and happy. This has meant moving some of our ewe lambs (lambs that are a year old) over to the vineyards down the road to graze some extra grass, and then whacking lots of fodder beet and silage out in various fields for our ewes back at home. We’ve been trying to stay off our lambing paddocks now so that the grass can have a bit of a chance to grow. (lambing being in the beginning of April!).
There have been a few dramas (as per usual!)- mainly with escaped cows and sheep. Andy had to chase a couple of sheep off the main road whilst our friend performed his best impression of a road traffic policeman and stopped any cars from hitting both Andy and the said sheep. They got them back in and barricaded the gap in the fence that they had pushed out of.
That same week we woke up one morning to find that 340 lambs were wandering all around the yard…giddy and confused. We managed to get them all back in with much running around and shouting at each other. Defo earned my breakfast cuppa that day.
We pregnancy scanned the ewes at the beginning of Feb and were really happy with the result of 180% with a low triplet percentage. So all in all we should be expecting around 2,300 lambs! Plenty to keep us busy(!). As I mentioned, we lamb in April/May time. So we will spend March doing lots of prepping – whether that means, doing millions of batch cooking so that we don’t have to think about meals in the evening, or making sure we have some pens in the barn if we need them.
As most of you probably already know, we lamb everything outside. The NZ Romneys we have are really hardy and maternal sheep that are able to give birth unaided and look after their lambs themselves. Therefore we only intervene if absolutely necessary and bring them inside for monitoring. So that means, that the sheep are able to live as nature intended, and we are able to get some sleep at night not having to stay up in the barn all night!
In terms of the cows, we’ve been TB testing – all fine so far which is a relief and then we have welcomed a new batch of calves into the barn too.
All in all February has been a month of planning and sorting ourselves out before lambing. Last year, we were literally running from field to field desperately trying to fence in our lambing paddocks – so in comparison – this year feels like a dream! Maybe that’s the way to do it, have a really difficult first year and then each year just gets easier and easier right?! Hmmm…somehow I don’t think life is that simple and kind, do you?!