Spring is possibly one of the preferred seasons by the majority, including myself, however it can also be the most frustrating time of the year on the farm, it’s always the ‘do we’ or ‘don't we’ time. Is it too wet to plough? Can we turn the cattle out or is it too wet? Will it snow like it did three years ago? Will we have enough silage? When will the grass start growing and so on...?
The only thing one can do is to make best use of every dry day that comes our way, the work has to be done sometime and as much as we would like to predict what the weather will do we can’t. Having said that, here's the ultra-long weather forecast for Wales so you can plan your summer up until the end of September, I hope its right, as I'm already looking forward to July!
Spring and the leaves start to appear on the trees, the grass grows green, flowers begin to bloom and many animals are taking care of their newborn offspring. This is a busy season for farmers and here at Rhug the story is no different, lambing is in full swing and this year we are having our best lambing ever. Calves are also being born on our farm on the coast and we wait eagerly for the first Bison calf to be born here on the Rhug Estate.
The chickens are beginning to range out a bit more and are enjoying the warmer days. The fields begin to fill with newly born lambs and the countryside begins to awaken after the winter months. This is the time of year when shepherds put in long hours giving extra care for their flocks. They ensure that the ewes are looking after their lambs, making sure they are producing sufficient milk for their lambs and watch out for any miss mothering, mastitis, lack of magnesium and a host of other things. At this time of year the grass can be low in minerals and it is important that any potential mineral deficiencies are made up for by feeding blocks. The young growth in the hedgerows is also a wonderful source of natural minerals for lambs and that’s why you will see them nibbling at the hedges at this time of the year. Once the weather warms up, farmers also begin to prepare the soil for planting, to ensure sufficient fodder levels for stock next winter.
We have three main flocks at Rhug and one salt marsh flock on the coast at Ty Mawr farm near Caernarfon. Robert Hughes and John Dyke are the shepherds here at Rhug and Deio Hughes and his wife Margret look after the cattle and the sheep on the coast. This is the busiest time of the year by far for them but it is also a very rewarding time to see the fruits of their labour.
Here at Rhug, like on many other farms, spring is the time for cleaning out the barns and the muck that has built up through the winter in the cattle buildings. On an organic farm like ours this is an invaluable source of natural fertiliser for the grass and crops for the coming season.
March is a month when the days get noticeably longer and thanks to the clocks changing the evenings get lighter giving farmers valuable extra hours of daylight.
Just before the Easter break I was very privileged to be able to judge the best Easter Egg drawing competition done by the wonderful pupils at the local school in Cynwyd. It is one of the most difficult things I have to do in the year, the standard of the drawings by these young pupils was amazing and I felt very honoured to be asked to do this.
And they're off!!! I’m writing this as I watch the Grand National…wow what a race, it obviously pays to ‘rule the world’, excuse the pun!
So, other things that have also happened at Rhug in the last month, all our solar projects have being certified and on the first sunny morning of our biggest solar park at Rhug I was thrilled to see it generating at full output. It has also been a good month for the hydro schemes with good water levels and all operating very efficiently.
It is also the end of the financial year, so a detailed stock check needs to be done in all the different facets of the business. As well as this the budget forecasts for the combining year have to be completed and for those involved in doing the figures this is a mind bursting time.
Earlier this month, Joan Redmond, Rhug sales manager visited Kuwait, which might be a new market for our meat and then went on to Dubai and Abu Dubai, I will keep you posted of such progress in future blogs but exploring new markets is vital for us as a business.
Up hill down Dale is a new running event that came to Rhug in April and it was great to welcome everyone involved in this event, runners and organisers alike. Rhug had two entries this year, Dan Blight running in the 20k and Amy Coleman in the 10k and after all the recent rain it was going to be challenging to say the least but well done to both who managed to finish in good times.
Whilst on running events Rhug is pleased to sponsor Mark our trusted and wonderful postman who is going to be running the London Marathon this month, to raise money for Bernardos, a charity very close to his heart and we all wish him well.
There has been a lot of tidying up going round the farm in preparation for the Grassland 2016 event to be held in June, and I always feel that one big advantage of these events is to get everywhere tidy - we look forward to hosting this prestigious event.
John Berkley, head chef and Elliot Knox assistant chef, are due to launch the Rhug Bistro new afternoon tea menu which will be every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoon from 2.30 to close. Come and try it but it might be best to book 01490 411100 Ex1. This will be served to you by our lovely team in the Bistro led by Jane and Emily.
The shop is looking brilliant and Graham and his team have got lots of new and exciting stock to show you and my congratulations go to everyone for being short listed for the best farm shop retailer in Wales in the forthcoming Farm Shop and Deli awards. Please if you think we are worthy for such an award please could you spare a few moments and vote for us here, we’d be very grateful to you all.
Another excitement is that Sally Patterson’s, Rhug farm accounts manager, son is in Hong Kong playing professional rugby and after only a few months of being there he has been propelled to fame and his picture can be seen on the side of every tram in Hong Kong and he has now become the new face for advertising Cathay Pacific. He is a great lad and is making his mark in Hong Kong on the rugby scene and also teaches English to children in his spare time.
So now the weather is better please come and enjoy the farm walk at Rhug and see the joys of spring on an organic farm.
Until next time, best wishes,