Fun at Field Farm!
I grew up devouring every Enid Blyton book and this sounds like it could be the title to one of her novels. But instead of lashings of ginger beer in this instance it’s lashings of apple juice, pure cloudy sparkling apple juice, with nothing but 100% apples from the orchard on the farm and some added fizz!
Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Jenni Liddiard at Field Farm, St Lawrence. I have followed Jenni’s story over the years as she fought to establish her sheep farm, and although we had never met before she kindly agreed to show me around her working farm. She wasn’t perturbed by this nosey wannabe smallholder. We found Jenni busy in her new pollytunnel, nurturing some newly planted (but 4 foot tall) tomato plants. We wandered through her fruit and vegetable garden, and I fell in love with the neatness of it – so far removed from my little wilderness. Firstly we looked around the yard. The barn, which just a few weeks ago was the centre of attention for lambing time, was now empty except for Mowgli (the farm cat, fast cat asleep on bales of hay) and two escaped chickens. We soon tamed their wanderlust when I learned-by-doing how to trim their feathers on one side to stop them taking flight, much to their consternation.
In one stable there were tiny chicks, hatched from fertilised eggs in an incubator, and now warming and growing under a heat lamp – these are being grown to be sold as laying hens, whilst in the stable next door were a few broody hens sitting on their own eggs.
The last batch of chickens are now fully grown and have a home in another stable, ready for sale, with free range access to the garden/field out back. Unfortunately this means that the laundry drying there is hoisted up high so they can’t peck at it!
Jenni grew up up on a sheep farm, but as a child wasn’t heavily involved in the workings of the farm, that was her dad’s domaine. This meant that when she decided to become a sheep farmer she had to learn it all from scratch – by lots of reading and lots of doing. She now passes on that knowledge with lambing courses at the farm, complete with two toy lambs and a knitted uterus! Sadly I don’t have a picture of that – you’ll have to go on the course and see for yourself!
We decided to hang around and help out with the evening rounds of checks and feeds. Let me tell you, when you have 50 hungry feeding ewes and their bouncing lambs charging at you for food, you need to stand strong!
Jenni farms a Welsh pedigree breed on the farm, and you can see from the photo that they are a stocky lot, not out of place on a Welsh mountain. They must love it here on the flat, lush grass pastures.
The last job of the evening, and my favourite, was feeding the orphaned lambs. There are 5 in total. The first cheeky two bounded up and drank hungrily from a bucket contraption with teats on. Another one managed to drink well from a baby’s bottle, but only if you held him close, and for that you had to catch him. The last two were more troublesome. We herded them into a small pen then had to tube feed them direct into their stomachs. Jenni was in full wet weather gear, and she needed to be, it’s messy work with squirming lambs and balancing milk. We also checked on a ewe with mastitis and her lamb. We decided to tube feed her lamb some milk too, as she was looking a little hunched, which can be a sign of dehydration. We took the opportunity of taking a look at the sheep at the same time, which meant Jenni and I climbing in the sheep hut with her! I held her head steady and blocked her escape while Jenni checked her over and I avidly watched how to milk a sheep.
Although these pictures all look idyllic don’t be fooled, it takes bloody hard work and dedication. Jenni has to work day in and day out, all weathers, checking, collecting, feeding and managing her farm. That said, I’d do it in a flash! Especially when the sun is shining and the lambs decide to have a crazy half hour dashing and bouncing in and out of the barn, enjoying the spring and their freedom to roam and just play.
If you want to see more about Field Farm, where to buy the produce, or learn about the courses on offer (a real hen party?……)
you can look at Jenni’s dedicated website www.fieldfarmjersey.com or on the Genuine Jersey page here.
Thank you Jenni, for showing me around your beautiful home and sharing your knowledge so freely.