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Notes from an ex-apprentice...

Emma Heseltine: Well here I am again; you might remember me from my two year blog about what life was like as a Soil Association apprentice… The Future Growers scheme has asked me for an update on how life has been treating me since I finished last July, so here we go! Since finishing the apprenticeship I have been working on expanding my pig business, The Rooted Pig.

02 June 2014 | 3 Comments | Recommended by 5

Hay at the end

Emma Heseltine: This week has been a whirlwind. I’ve spent most of everyday sat on a tractor making hay. After its been cut the grass needs turning several times and this week we have perfect hay weather to help us along, boiling sun and a drying breeze. Still the hay needs turning to get all the green bits cooked. By the middle of the week we are on to baling and I get to have a go with the brand new rake. I haven’t really done rowing up before but I like the symmetry of the rows. The rake spins round lots of tines to scrape all the hay, which is spread higgledy-piggledy all over the field, into neat rows so the baler can come along and gobble it all up and turn it into bales

14 July 2013 | 8 Comments | Recommended by 3

Barley, mulberry and shaking grass...

Emma Heseltine: I’ve come to the end of last year’s barley for the pigs. I’ve got a good few bags to crush that will keep them going for a while but I’m going to have to go back to some of my other sources. I can get biodynamic bran from the watermill in Little Salkeld, which is a by-product of the white flour making process. The last pigs really enjoyed this so I might add it to their ration and stretch the barley a bit further.

07 July 2013 | 5 Comments | Recommended by 0

Thistle cutting, grass cutting and wool...

Emma Heseltine: It's time to crack out the thistle cutter. It has been sitting in the barn all winter but now we need to attack the weeds in lagoon field. We have decided to not make hay on there this year so it’s a good chance to get the weeds in hand. The thistle cutter is a basically a mower that goes on the back of the quad bike. It has its own engine and is quite incredibly loud, but it does the job. There is no chance of doing the whole field so I do the worst patches of thistles, docks and nettles, mowing little patterns into the field.

30 June 2013 | 2 Comments | Recommended by 1

Jumping cattle, balsam and Skye...

Emma Heseltine: Today we are trying to get some of the cattle in because one is off to Lockerbie this week. Trouble is we have got some of Duncan at Sliver Lea’s little store cattle grazing one of our fields (we have a lot of grass). We have to get the black cattle in the small field so we can get the Longhorns past them without chaos. This proves somewhat difficult as the black cattle don’t know us, don’t know the field and are a tiny bit wild.

23 June 2013 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 0

Open farm Sunday and shearing

Emma Heseltine: Its open farm Sunday this Sunday and like the Cumberland show it looks like we might have nice weather. The day is glorious and we have lots of activities planned. There will be farm walks, cream teas, and the bee keepers are here with a demonstration hive that we can peer into looking for the queen.

16 June 2013 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 1

Weeding, the wood party and Cumberland show...

Emma Heseltine: This week I’ve got some gardening to do. On Tuesday the boss is away so we have a list of tasks to do, none of which are dock digging surprisingly. First we check all the cattle and sheep. Helena is due this week and I’m hoping she will produce on cue for open farm Sunday this weekend. So far no sign.

09 June 2013 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 1

Trailer, lost calf and fallen willow...

Emma Heseltine: I’ve got a trailer to clean out. Funnily enough I really don’t mind this job despite the fact that I inevitably get some form of poo in my hair, all over my clothes and face. I get to use the pressure washer which is a little joy of mine. Muck be gone! You can not withstand the power of the pressure washer, nothing can. Its so much more satisfying than scrubbing the trailer with a brush. I know it wont be shiny for long, but boy is it shiny when I’m done.

02 June 2013 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

Fences, an aerator and pig in long grass...

Emma Heseltine: There are still more fences to put up. We are becoming a well oiled team now at fence building, especially with the post knocker on the back of the big John Deere. We get the posts measured up and lined up along the fence line, then a line of barb along the floor to keep us on track.

26 May 2013 | 3 Comments | Recommended by 3

Carrots, Goosegrass and docks...

Emma Heseltine: The veg for the pigs comes from Eva’s Organics (where I also get my veg box) on a Wednesday. All sorts of things get thrown their way from potatoes and peppers to melons and tomatoes. The only things they can’t eat are onions and citrus, both these would upset their stomachs.

19 May 2013 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 1

On Holiday...

Emma Heseltine: This week I committed a farmer sin, I went on holiday. It seems to me that not many farmers go away for a break very often, what’s the reason for this? Is there no time?

12 May 2013 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 1

Sheep in the garden, lameness and goslings...

Emma Heseltine: Beechnut is in the little paddocks. She was getting picked on by some of the other cattle at Aglionby so we brought her back for a little TLC. She is in calf and looks a little thin so a bit of grain just for her and a shed to sleep in wont hurt. We have put a couple of ewes that have no lambs with her to keep her company, but it seems they are not keen on the arrangement.

07 May 2013 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 1

Weeds, Acorn and dairy...

Emma Heseltine: A weed is merely a plant growing somewhere it shouldn’t. Today it seems everything is starting to grow where it shouldn’t. First the ground Elder that is rampant in the orchard is creeping into the veg patch and fruit cages, where it is certainly not welcome.

28 April 2013 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 1

Harrowing, potato planting and rolling...

Emma Heseltine: We have had our soils done at Houghton and have some recommendations for helping our fields. It’s been a tough year so they could do with a boost. One of the things we can do is to use a grass harrow to scrape at the moss which has sprung up all over the place (seriously where is it coming from, there was grass here before) and aerates the soil.

21 April 2013 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

Confused lambs, a cheeky lamb and the last lamb...

Emma Heseltine: We are giving the ewes and lambs in the big Houghton field their morning feed and it’s usually chaotic. The ewes all come running for their food and the lambs all mill about in confusion bleating until mum has finished breakfast, then there is much running around and baaing until everyone is matched up again. We leave them too it, a few lambs are testing out the goods on offer but most are milling/bleating.

14 April 2013 | 3 Comments | Recommended by 1

Dont get stuck, tiny lambs and rolling...

Emma Heseltine: Today it’s starting to feel a little bit like spring, finally and I’m learning to plough. It looks so easy, up and down turning over the soil but as with everything it’s harder than it looks. The ground is a bit wet and I’m in the little Massey which is two wheel drive. The trick is to give it lots of oomph apparently and remember to raise the plough up if I get to a sticky bit and the wheels start spinning. Also ‘whatever you do, don’t get stuck’, good advice.

07 April 2013 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 1

Lambs, pigs talking to ewes and my last seminar...

Emma Heseltine: Sunday brings us no lambs at all but Monday morning is chaos. Three ewes have lambed and there are six lambs but it seems as though nobody knows which lambs belong to whom. We get them all in the pens and then start the task of sorting them out. It’s pretty easy to tell if a lamb doesn’t belong to a ewe as she will push it away so after a bit of trial and error I think I get it sorted. Trouble is when I go down the field to feed the cattle I find another lamb under the trailer… back to the drawing board. I get it sorted to a certain degree but one of the ewes has decided she is only having one lamb, the middle ewe meanwhile has four and doesn’t seem to mind that very much. Looks like someone is going in the adopter, there is no way that one of these ewes had four lambs, and there is no way she can feed four.

24 March 2013 | 2 Comments | Recommended by 6

More calves, a bonfire and lambs...

Emma Heseltine: The calves are coming thick and strong, Cypress has a little bull calf which is named Lincoln. He is born on an extremely snowy day (obviously, best time to have babies) so we bring them up to the paddock near the house and put them in the shed for 24 hours, it’ll be much better than being out in the freezing cold blizzard that proceeds to lash down all day.

17 March 2013 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 1

New calf, bringing the ewes home and feeding the pigs...

Emma Heseltine: This week Ellis decides to join Croft and has her calf on Tuesday morning. It’s another bull calf and even more strapping than Lawrence! They are moved up to the field next to the orchard and my newly ensconced pigs. Ellis apparently does not like pigs and has taken a particular dislike to mine, huffing and mooing at them. I’m not sure what they have done to offend her as they are being remarkably good considering what pigs can be like.

10 March 2013 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 5

Laurence and some little ginger pigs...

Emma Heseltine: This week there are several calves due but I’m sure, as per usual, they will not be when we expect them. Ellis and Croft are both due and look about ready, just waiting to see who is first. On Tuesday afternoon Croft wins the race and produces a strapping bull calf, Laurence. She is not keen to be moved up toward the house but we want her in the top paddock to keep an eye on them both. Eventually with some coaxing from Susan and some beeping from me (I’ve retired to the quad bike as she has taken a particular dislike to me today) we get them up to the paddock. A bit of peace, some extra feed and a watchful eye is in order. Come along now Ellis, join the party!

03 March 2013 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

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