No more tears

Yes, it's time to celebrate the not so humble horseradish!

Hannah really has taken one for the team in making this for you.  Us delightful children very kindly bought her some "onion goggles" for Christmas to help, but let me tell you, anyone entering the kitchen when grating is in progress leaves a lachrymose mess.  In fact, it is sometimes essential to tag team the production to allow those afflicted to temporarily recover.  But away from the production, made to a Victorian recipe preserved in a little vinegar, it is delicious!  And of course, grown on (and on the verge of taking over) the farm!  It is available ready-grated in jars (milder), or as an entire root for those brave enough...

In other tear-jerking news, I've just returned from loading the pigs.  I was genuinely sorry to see them go until one decided to bite me.  In their last few weeks, we've given them a slap-up diet of turnips, swede, cabbage, chard and many other vegetables from Humbug's and my scrumping missions to the former kitchen garden at the Anchor Inn - Humbug pictured here looking bored in a turnip patch.  The biting therefore seemed a little mean, however, we think their outdoor lifestyle and a diet full of vegetables, whatever they were rooting up so insistently, not to mention the acorns and garden produce from the good folk of the village will make for delicious pork.

For us, it's not just delicious pork, they have cleared a largely unusable field of scrub that can now recover to grassland.  Good for the cows and massively saving our muscles!  I shall miss their squealing and squabbling and hope to replace them soon and maybe even have piglets born on the farm...Sadly, the next lot will be away from the roadside - they proved quite a draw and definitely played up for the crowds!  The next site earmarked for clearance is Bethlehem, the site of a little wooden hut in a copse, with a spectacular view of the valley.  Only the best for our Horkesley Porkers...!

The Chicken and the Pig

Happy New Year!
 Firstly, a belated thank you to the Stoke-by-Nayland Middle School Eco Club for collecting apples for two very happy pigs. Our second delivery arrived today and as you can see, they are enjoying them greatly!

Here's hoping the apples distract them from breaking into their Eldorado, the hen run - clearly not that desirous of freedom.  The heavy rain made this far removed from a city of gold and the hens have been whisked away in a professional manner (walked along the road) to higher ground and a deluxe new pen.

And GREAT news!  We've got a new worker on the farm, pictured here during his JCB training.

Lesson 2: It's all about visibility
 Such skills!  Totally makes up for the slightly bizarre Christmas present of Jesus, the baby muntjac, who joined the Lower Dairy Farm nativity courtesy of this talented hound.  Surprise!

The Golden Beet Club

A mound of sugar beet at last! Plus about half has already been collected in a rapid and ultra-efficient operation courtesy of some excellent timing by the teams at Brooks' and Hogger's.  I have recovered myself from the foetal position, the broken result of shovelling and sweeping the road by hand to help keep road users safe.  It's interesting, I didn't realise my "Caution - Mud on Road" signs actually said "Accelerate NOW! Then test your brakes".    Fortunately, the stretch of road was not too long and was navigated far more skilfully than I could have managed in a machine half the size.  And the result, a glowing mound of beet safely in and on it's way to the British Sugar factory at Bury St Edmunds(fingers crossed) before too much frost or the factory breaking down.

   If the weather suits, you have to cover the heap with tarpaulins.  I recently realised that for years, my benchmark for new clothing is whether I could clamber up a heap of icy sugar beet dragging a tarpaulin whilst maintaining a degree of modesty.  Fortunately, the sugar beet growers of Essex aren't known for their racy outfits on the farm and stilettoes do crush the beet so.

Without deterioration each sugar beet apparently yields around 3 teaspoons of sugar.  This fact may go down well with Humbug and the sweet-toothed cows, but it massively depressed chief grower Humph and resulted in severe but thank goodness temporary sugar rationing (Silver Spoon of course) in the Taylor household.

But, there are benefits to growing sugar beet including membership of "The Golden Beet Club".  "The what?" I hear you ask.  Well, I have no clue.  Membership is, of course, exclusive (like the Bullingdon of beet growers) and requires the wearing of a miniature golden beet-shaped lapel badge that arrived one day in the post and was the pride and joy of my badge collection as a child.  Here's hoping I haven't broken some secret Masonic code in revealing this club to the world.

  However, in the absence of any communication in the past decade (I don't think they can revoke membership...), we'll have to stick to celebrating our annual finding of the red beet contest.  Located from the heap of beet by Andrew Copsey and beautifully modelled here by Humph, I can reveal it does indeed taste like proper beetroot - if a little sweeter and somewhat gritty.  Golden Beet Club eat your heart out!

For now however, the big machinery has left, and tomorrow we're clearing a path through the remaining heap to get the bullocks into their winter housing.  Bullocks are far more nimble than I am heading up and over a beet heap, so I'm hoping for best behaviour.

Finally and most importantly, CONGRATULATIONS to the lovely James and Louise, Dorset's newest farm tenants!  A very wise decision by the council and an excellent addition to Dorset society (although I'd watch out for the Rogers - dreadful bores).  We wish you all the best in setting up your new farm and discovering what is inside "the unsurveyed room"...

How do you keep a calf warm?

...build it a nuclear bunker. Yep, the satellite may not have crash-landed in Essex, but we were prepared all the same! It's rare that a cow doesn't take to a calf straight away, but just occasionally they need a little time to get used to the idea. Our new micro-calf is quite small so probably popped out with very little fuss leaving one confused cow. We've been alternately feeding it on it's mother and bottle feeding. This means lots of time to sit and improve our mental state through meditation (or more accurately, falling asleep) as it slowly (very slowly) drinks a bottle of milk before waking you up with a headbutt to demand MORE FOOD!

Anyway, a cracking start to British Food Fortnight with the help of the Transition Nayland Food Swap Stall. I swapped an embarrassingly sub-standard marrow (compared to those grown by the great and good of Nayland) for a mountain of apple crushings. Feast day for the chickens and pigs!




Thank you to all at Transition Nayland for an excellent village event and for making the menagerie very very happy.

Further pig news. They are now free to roam and root in their own exclusive paddock! Pigs are very clean animals. They eat, sleep and poop in different areas. You can therefore guarantee that when you launch into a victorious try-scoring dive (think Brian Habana minus the accuracy or athleticism), you will land (faceplant) in the least favourable of those areas. It is only slightly less humiliating when you emerge holding a pig. The pre-faceplant catching is shown below.




We think you'll agree they look happy. We on the other hand now have a daily game of "Find a Pig" aka "Have the pigs escaped yet?"

Previously on Lower Dairy Farm...

...harvest, piglets, puppies and poultry.

Yep, harvest is done (bar that unintentional "conservation area" at the top that needs baling). So here's a quick recap of what's been going on...

Between the rainy days, we completed our harvest and Dad's baling marathon means we've got enough fodder for the winter. This year saw Lower Dairy Farm's first Bale Census - a hi-tech compilation method involving a post-it note on the fridge.

Hundreds of bales = lots of bale hauling from around the village. It's my first year hauling bales on the road (thank you patient drivers, shame on you impatient idiots) and I enlisted the help of Lower Dairy Farm's newest member, Humbug the dog on his first tractor adventure. I like to haul bales in style, as you can see from the picture below.





It's safety first on the farm, and when tying bales on it really helps to use all your weight and I like to harness the power of the dog pulling on the end of the rope...provided Humbug the highly trained puppy gives the rope back... Tying on provides great amusement for those watching, particularly on a windy day when flinging the rope accurately over a loaded trailer is nigh on impossible. Apparently it's "really funny" to watch when the rope flies back over and hits you in the face before the dog runs off with it. I really have no future as a team roper, but for now, I'll blame the driving wind. Turn the trailer round? What a waste of fuel.

Anyhow, with all bales back at HQ and counted, it's time to get stuck into everyday chores. The cows are out on pasture, and we're about to head into our next block of calvings. This will coincide with (fingers crossed) duckling hatching - far less stressful than calving!

August saw the first pigs on the farm for over 50 years. Dad has a faint memory of Grandad keeping pigs in the same place we are today. Our two are Gloucester Old Spot x Tamworth, so should make for good pork and bacon.

What with the piglets, calves and puppy arriving within one month, we've had lots of visitors. I am now positive that the pigs have a better diet than I do as the people of Nayland and Little Horkesley bring them surplus veg from their gardens. It really does take a village, and you know you've reached a new low when you consider rescuing a cabbage from a pig pen.

This week has been particularly insane, finishing harvest, hauling, chicken windproofing (the excitement knows no bounds), sorting the house out etc, the puppy (I'm not reknowned for my enthusiasm and boy does he require a lot), selling a ton of books through Amazon, being pimped out at the farm gate (yep, I would make a good Bathsheba, stop encouraging the men over 60 Dad) and an unkept promise that I would actually get round to weighing the pigs - piglet catching requires fast acceleration, great hand-eye co-ordination and the ability to think fast...none of which I am blessed with! Oh and the PhD - yesterday was the first night I've had a chance to look at anything properly for a month. So of course, I am simultaneously searching for books on pig husbandry, setting up the blog and researching poultry drinkers online. It's quite a search history!