Rain, glorious rain…..at last! It is the beginning of October and after a month of wonderful weather, the paddock grasses have ceased to grow and as far as the lawn is concerned we could be playing croquet in the Gobi Desert. Our sandy soil exacerbates the problem of course.
This has been a great year for the kitchen garden and orchards. Steve has been able to deliver 81% of our menu content to the restaurant during August and September. With around 150 apple trees in full crop, Fabrice is in his element again pressing apple juice daily for his beloved restaurant. In the background, working steadily and surely is the indomitable Tony Broad, 77 years young and wielding a spade like no other – his vegetables are the living proof. For some 37 years he has tilled the vegetable garden at Fallowfields and a more delightful man you have yet to meet as you wander our grounds.
The condition of the grass is important for our Dexter cattle of course in that unless we get a spurt of growth, there will not be enough for our 5 strong herd to over winter. Supplemental feeding will be necessary bringing added cost. Over the summer we have added to the herd a black 2 year old heifer Diana together with her two calves. One her natural is a gorgeous red steer Flame and she adopted at birth an abandoned black heifer calf Annie. They have both delighted our guests over the summer, with their gambolling games and their propensity to hide in the buttercups like fawns. After two happy years with us, our first steer went to that great cowshed in the sky, during July and our menus have benefitted enormously. Red heifer Claire spent a couple of months on holiday with a little red bull [six miles away] and as a result we expect a new arrival in the spring.
Headline news from the piggery – Ophelia our Oxford Sandy and Black gilt [young sow], on September 11th, delivered 10 of the finest little piglets ever imagined. Watching these little devils is the highlight of my daily farm walk. One of them, Abercrombie, developed a condition at day 1, requiring his removal from mother and siblings for 24 hours of bottle feeding. Quite an experience for “non farmer” me. Were we organic, I believe he would have to be put down as he had lost the use of a leg and could not compete for his mother’s milk – it really is an object lesson of survival of the fittest, in the farrowing sty – he required antibiotics, allowable in my “sustainable regime”. Suitably administered by yours truly [under vetinary direction] these drugs saved his life. He is back now busy bullying his litter mates and looking wonderfully rotund, albeit the weeniest of our weaners [the runt of the litter but an inappropriate choice of word for such a little stoic]. Abercrombie is everyone’s favourite.
I can not keep you in suspense any longer [well those of you who have followed my meanderings about Tabatha Tamworth], she is at long last “in pig”, a state lasting 3 months 3 weeks and 3 days. End of January is the happy date. Thriller, the 3 year old Tamworth boar is responsible and has lived up to his name! Meanwhile, Another Oxford Sandy and Black gilt is also “in pig” – due end of December this year. During the summer we acquired 5 Tamworth weaners, from a breeder some 8 miles away – apart from an hour long operation conducted upon the woodland floor on one of them, Porter, these little guys have settled in and operate like the Red Arrows in close formation – you get all or you get none – always all if they think you are a likely prospect for food.
Our breeding programme for the Sussex, a traditional breed of chicken, is moving into a new phase as we have some 50 pullets approaching the age they can be run with some fine Sussex cockerels that have been selected for them over the last 12 months. More on this next time.
With kind regards, Anthony