This is the time of year where it feels almost impossible to keep up with it all. The garden is bountiful (but so are the weeds), we have more animals on the farm than ever before, we have more garden to maintain, pastures to create, grass to mow, trees to fertilize….the list is long. It’s a good kind of long, the kind that I’m grateful for and dreamt of for a long time. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that, I have to remind myself that all this work is good, when the tiredness takes over and a rest seems a long way off.
But then the work gets done, it all makes me feel so proud. The produce we can bring in from the garden, meals made entirely with home grown and home raised food. The chance to make ice cream with our own eggs and cream. Sunny days that stretch on and on, giving chances for swimming and warming our bones. After the long winter we had, with such depth of cold I thought I might never warm up, even when the heat gets oppressive it seems like more of an opportunity than it has in the past. It’s good to soak up the heat and sun, soak it up right to the marrow.
Right now there is a lot going on at the farm. We have 3 piglets as well as the parent pigs; two will go to slaughter but the unrelated girl is going to stay right here and grow up to be another breeding Mama. While she doesn’t have an official name, I always think of her as Beauty. There’s something about her I adore already and I think she’ll be a wonderful second wife to our Arthur; I’m sure Lady B won’t mind sharing his attentions, he can be demanding.
Speaking of the Lady herself, she seems to be once more in the family way. We’ve seen no signs of heat on her and, more importantly, neither has Arthur. He’s a heat seeking machine is that one and wasted no time jumping all over her in June when she came into the fertile way. Since then all has been quiet, which hopefully means little piggles come September. We wait and watch as ever.
The cow pasture is as full as it’s ever been, with 5 head in there now. Our steer from last year is counting down his last weeks before we send him off to slaughter. We are very much looking forward to the meat he will offer, a full beef steer that he is. A cross of the two top beef breeds I have no doubt his meat will be exceptional, and it’s been quite the life for him. Born and raised alongside his Mama, never parted and allowed to live the way a bovine should. Munching grass, resting in the shade and enjoying the odd treat that will add a little fat to him and makes life a little bit more fun along the way.
With the two calfs in the field we are never far from entertainment, or trouble. Those two calves are inseparable, hanging out in the shade of a tree or hedge while the Mama’s graze and make milk for them. They’ve started sampling the green stuff themselves now, chasing after tasty treats and flowers. I’m grateful that we have plenty of hay ready for the winter ahead, we’ll be taking 4 head into the winter and want to make sure they have plenty of good stuff to eat. The hay was taken so smoothly and successfully this year it was almost a non event, Stephen was so efficient with it all and, with the help of our good neighbour, it was under cover in record time. We both breathed a big sigh of relief when the stack was nicely undercover; I still harbour vast buckets of pride at Stephen’s ability to take on new skills and assimilate them so quickly. No doubt where the manpower on our farm comes from.
Each morning as I stumble out into the pastures, feeding our now 3 flocks of birds, 2 fields of pigs and 5 roaming ducks, I listen for the rattle of the milk cart as Stephen heads off to milk the cow and feed the dog. We each have our list of things to do, divided up by who can do what more easily. But I’ve noticed this week, as the heat scorched down on us even at 7am, that the cow chores are done first as the expanding needs of chicken and pig take up more time. This is the time for maximum capacity, the summer months of plentiful grass, sun and long days that allow us to cram in as much as possible.
But today, driving down the motorway after picking up yet more chickens an hour East, I looked for and saw, that first hint of Autumn. I had noticed, even driving the car, a tell tale whiff of smoke on the air, the tiniest shift that it’s coming along as it always does. Though we are finishing up the final touches to our Late Summer/Fall garden, and I know we have months to go, I saw red leaves among the green as I sped home with chickens in the back.
Tomorrow, though, I’ll plant peas. Our first crop is out, replaced with beets and salad, we’ll be planting our second run of carrots too; these are the ones we’ll freeze and enjoy all winter long. I’m beginning to harvest nettle and clover and my own herb garden will be next, yielding mint and lemon balm for cosy winter afternoons of tea by the fire. We’ll be planting a new border of mint too, hoping that it will run rampant for a bumper crop next year; is it possible to have too much mint? I really don’t think it is.