Newsletter 4 - Spring 2013

Farming

In the last newsletter I started the farming section by talking about the weather and ended by talking about sheep. Well, sorry, but I am going to start this one by talking about weather and end by talking about sheep!

This time it’s snow! It is snowing as I write, we have drifts around 2-3 feet and it’s still snowing. It is far worse than the last snow we had, it is now coming over the top of my wellies as you walk between the barns. The Highlands have 6” icicles hanging from their sides and the sheep a 2” layer of snow on their backs so it shows how insulating their coats are.

Highland Cows

We started lambing early this year, in February, and have been lambing ever since. This was not planned! Unfortunately a neighbouring ram got into our flock. We have been having more twins and triplets which is not normal for native breeds and have been having to foster some of the lambs. New arrivals are out in the snow, in the hospital area in the barn and in the barn yard.

We shouldn’t have started lambing until later this week (Easter weekend) when normally (what is normal these days?) the weather is warming up and the grass is beginning to grow. If you remember last year we had a week of heat wave – as well as some snow!

lambs

Our rams went into the main flock as normal, just before bonfire night, which means lambing end March early April but they obviously didn’t have much to do this year. Once a lamb is pregnant she isn’t attractive to the rams and he ignores them.

We’ve also had some deaths. This is one of the disadvantages of organic farming. A ‘normal’ farm can and usually will, use preventative treatment. Animals will be injected, drenched and sprayed for all sorts of conditions whether they need it or not. Sheep will be handled (and therefore stressed) several times a year, which is why farmers will say that sheep take up a lot of time. An organic shepherd however doesn’t (and by the organic association regulations cannot) do this. They must be observant and only use treatments when it is necessary for the animals, so, when they actually become ill, or lame or are looking poor (although they cannot tell you what is wrong with them!) Sometimes though, you cannot always spot that something is wrong, as the animal looks healthy and is eating. If any die suddenly we will have the carcass analysed . We are then allowed to treat the rest of the flock if it is likely that they will get the condition. Also if a sheep gets a contagious condition or one that is likely to be in the rest of your flock we can treat the remainder of our animals. It does mean that you have to know your job! For example a ewe that is unsteady on its feet after lambing may be suffering from ‘Staggers’ that is a magnesium deficiency, that, if not treated will mean the sheep cannot produce milk, the lambs starve and the ewe will die. So of course we would treat it immediately.

Anyway - we have a lot of lambs already and more to come as well as calves. We have had a Hereford calf and just yesterday in the snow a Highland.

What else has been happening

We have run some fun courses – here are some pictures of the Herbal Heaven work shop. The attendees learnt a lot about the use of herbs and made herb sachets and herbal chocolate truffles which, I have to say, were delicious, as was the herby lunch.

Herbal Heaven

The animals in the barn all presented good opportunities for the Drawing and Sketching Animals from life run by Eva Dutton and, despite the weather, cold and damp – no surprise there – (sorry a banned subject) was a great success. We will definitely be running at least another of these during the summer.

Later in April we have.....................................

‘Forage and Feast’ with Rob Rowe. Did you know you can eat marsh thistles?!

marsh thistle

 

And ‘The Practicalities of Bee Keeping’ with John Hall, maker of Clun Valley Honey. This is a morning talk and costs £7. April 20th 10am – 1pm. Apparently, this is the time bees begin to swarm.

bee

The time table for more courses will be out soon – We hope to have:

  • Building a Cob Oven
  • Permaculture
  • Willow weaving
  • Botany
  • New clothes from old

Education and Care Farming

We had a fantastic time earlier in the month with a local Special Needs school. Here is the press article:

Fantastic week for students from Brynllywarch School Students from Brynllywarch school ranging from 16-19 from both Powys and Shropshire, spent an amazing work experience week at Brynmawr Farm, Newcastle on Clun, in South Shropshire earlier this month. These were students with varying educational capabilities but they all found areas in which they could excel and enjoy. Their experiences at the farm ranged from laying hedges, tractor maintenance, building a trailer, painting and building a barn, handling sheep, cooking for the group, feeding colostrum to lambs and even being a sheep midwife! and much much more.

The students worked with support staff and teachers from the school and the farm. Every day a couple of students would cook for the whole team, who would then eat together in The Bales educational building at the farm. One budding young chef put his creative talents to use making a delicious lamb dish using the organic lamb raised on the farm.

The week encouraged team building as well as self reliance and confidence as they learnt new skills.

Trevor Wheeler of Brynmawr Farm said, ‘Once they found their niche they worked well. It was reward enough to see them applying themselves and enjoying what they were doing’. Richard Rendall of Brynllywarch said ‘The students have gained a lot this week and it has been one of the best weeks I have had since being at the school. We hope to build a strong partnership with Trevor and the farm. The students are already developing a presentation to give to the entire school’.

Trevor also provides free farm tours for community groups and schools for all ages, and an educational programme that links to the school curriculum or teaching themes. His farm is organic, with a sustainable ethos. He is also building a special ‘Care Farming area’ for people, young or old with mental health or educational problems, with the aim of giving people confidence and skills to find their own way forward.

For more information on Brynmawr, educational visits, free farm tours and Care Farming, contact Jacky Harrison to book on 01588 630666 or jackyharrison51@hotmail.com, or look at www.clunvalleyorganics.co.uk.

cooking   Working

Next term Trevor will be presenting in their assembly the guys’ Achievement Certificates from
Brynmawr. We are hoping to develop the Care Farming area and looking for grants and sponsors – let us know if you have any ideas.

Other Stuff

The website has had a revamp – we will continue to improve it, so do have a look at it and give us your feedback. www.clunvalleyorganics.co.uk.

Don’t forget we are running smallholder courses – now is an ideal time to come on the ‘Starting with Sheep’ course with lambs coming out of our ears. (one on 2nd April). That’s all for now – here is something to look forward to...........................

Brynmawr in summer.

Contacts

If you want any information about The Bales or Free farm tours don’t hesitate to contact us.

Trevor Wheeler - clunvalleyorganics@googlemail.com or 07799 681134, Brynmawr, Newcastle on Clun, Craven Arms SY7 8QU
Jacky Harrison - jackyharrson51@hotmail.com or 01588 630666