Happy new year from all of us at Butterbox Farm! And there IS one more of us on the farm now as we welcomed little Oliver, born on Bonfire night last year, a month early.
4am on the morning of Bonfire night, Gavin was searching the house frantically for a clean pair of jeans that he could wear to the hospital. I threw together an overnight bag, washed my hair and then spent double the time scrubbing cow muck off Gavs only smart pair of shoes, eager to be semi respectable for our arrival at the hospital. Pretty sure, and I’d like to hope that this is a unique labour experience. Once we had scrubbed the farm off, we were ready, and delighted to go and have our little baby boy!
Bringing Oliver home to the farm earlier than planned was lovely as we had more time before Christmas to get settled into life as a family of four. But we did leave farm manager Peter solo and slightly in the lurch with a list of ‘before the baby comes’ jobs - such as bring the cows in for winter, straw the barn up etc. All important things that we had scheduled in with PLENTY of time before the baby was due…sorry boss!
The following week we were back to boxing up and dishing out beef. On behalf of our small team at Butterbox, we want to thank everyone who came and bought a beef or lamb box from us last year. We met so many of our neighbours and local community which has been fantastic, and it’s so wonderful for us to be able to sell all of our grass fed beef and lamb directly from the farm with minimal food miles! We are so grateful for your support in our endeavours to farm sustainably, and it means that we are able to look to do even more in the future. Farming has taken a hard hit the past year, getting a lot of bad press in relation to climate change and the environment. It’s so important to us that our customers can come and see the way that we farm and chat to us about it, so that they can see the benefits of grass farming and of buying your meat from small regenerative local farms. British agriculture can boast some of the most sustainable and high welfare farming practices in the world, and it has never been more important to back our British farms! It was great to chat to so many of you who were keen to know where your meat comes from and interested in learning about our farming practices. Many people had watched Clarkson’s Farm, and were keen to chat about farming and were so positive about it. Gavin (big Top gear fan) was excited to watch the series, and William (aged 2.5, big tractor fan) was keen to get in on the action and watch in his daddy’s lunch break. Well, if you haven’t seen it yet, for every tractor you get to see on Clarkson’s farm, he also drops the F-bomb about three times. We got two episodes in and realised we had to stop William watching it after he backed his toy tractor down our patio steps into the flower border and shouted a loud profanity in reference to jack-knifing his trailer. Thanks Clarkson! Five months later we can safely say he has not thrown any curse words around since we finished the series. It’s strictly Paw Patrol in the lunch break now!
Currently on the farm we are doing winter routines. This involves feeding the cattle our home-grown silage from bales that we make from our cut grass in the summer. We put silage out in front of our cows twice a day which keeps them full and very happy. We also throw fresh straw about in the pens every morning so that they are clean and warm. William loves to get up and help daddy do the cows in the morning. We had however got used to our morning routines being a relatively toddler-friendly walk across the fields to check the cows. Wellies and a jacket had been sufficient for a long time. The problem with taking a toddler into the barn for morning routines is that there are a lot of cows in a smaller area, which means a lot of poo in a smaller area too. Your toddler tripping over in the field is always a little concerning, has he hit a cow pat? Are his trousers still clean? But when he takes a tumble in the cow shed…yeah, its head to toe covered in the stuff, guaranteed! Luckily for us, he loves it, our washing machine less so!
We are now gearing up for lambing time. We lamb indoors for a variety of reasons, to protect our lambs from exposure to the elements, to aid mothering up between the ewe and the lamb, to protect from foxes, and to enable us to be on hand if our sheep need any assistance. Prepping for lambing involves building big pens for the sheep to be fed in and to give birth in, as well as individual pens for the new mothers to be moved into with their lambs. We scrub up the feed and water buckets, put up hay racks, and prep all the equipment that we may need - gloves, lube, bottles and milk powder. Finally, it’s time to pressure wash off the lambing shed kitchen. Only Pete and Gavin are brave enough to eat or drink anything that comes out of that dusty cave in the corner of the barn. Casually rinsing off a mug, thick with a year worth of dust and cobwebs, Pete shakes last year’s Nescafe jar which has solidified over the past ten months. Tins of ‘treats’ adorn the worktop, will you get a freshly baked sausage roll? Will you pull out one of last year’s choc chip muffins? I’ve seen Gavin eat questionable items, unable to confirm if it’s from the current spring or lambing 2015. Finally, if you do brave a hot drink, I’d recommend taking it black. When milk supplies run low, it is not uncommon for Pete to top the tea up with mixed up lamb milk. The boys won’t be winning any awards with their guests for their food and hot drinks - quality or presentation. But, it is always service with a smile in the Butterbox lambing shed!
We begin lambing at the end of March. The general rule of thumb is that if you put your rams in on Bonfire night, you will get your first lamb on April 1st. We were a little busy on Bonfire night last year, but luckily those rams had gone in the week before. We are also expecting our calves next month. We had a lovely surprise this weekend when Gavin went to feed and bed up the cows and found a little heifer calf, born three weeks earlier than expected. He checked that the calf and mother were doing well and continued his work in the shed, when shortly after he noticed she had begun to push again. Calf number two was coming out backward, so Gavin intervened and helped to get her out. This is the second pair of Dexter twins we have ever had on Butterbox Farm as it is quite rare! But mum and the little dynamic duo are doing really well and we are hopeful that she will rear them both herself. Being Dexters, the calves are always really small. But being Dexter twins – these two are no bigger than our little terrier!
This spring we are hoping to offer our customers the opportunity to come and visit the lambing shed, see the lambs and hopefully get to see some being born. If you have had a meat box from us in the past year, and are keen to come and see us for some lambing in April then keep an eye on your inbox. I will be getting in touch soon…!
Wishing you all a happy February!
Holly & the team at Butterbox Farm.