Following the early snowdrops, varied yellows have flowered in a rush - daffodils, celandines, primroses, vetch, tormentil; flags, buttercups, all against the vanilla scented flowers of gorse.
The early lambs have enjoyed a Winter infinitely better than last years, when it rained incessantly for three months. No calves as yet, but one foal 'Rabbit' and awaiting another.
We have introduced some "guest products" at the markets - goose eggs, wild rabbits, black and white puddings. At Broadway Market organic whole milk yoghurt is very popular. These products are not yet available in the webshop, but watch this space! Our business is always changing and we have a special beef product in the pipeline.
Sarah, who has been assisting Lizzie at Borough Market, is moving on and we will miss her cheerfulness and selling talent but wish her well. The upside is I get to see you more at Borough Market as I will be helping Lizzie to make sure she gets to spend time with her first grandchild who provides wonderful distraction.
A very Happy Easter from all of us at Wild Beef.
Sunday – a grand walk in the morning sun to herd the cattle away from the road, and across the river to the Assycombe Ridge, and relative safety from speeding traffic.
Such hikes are often rewarded with autumnal wild produce – blackberries, whortleberries and mushrooms, including the magic variety for those so inclined. Berries this year have been unusually prolific, especially those of the Rowan and Hawthorn. Our avian winter visitors have a feast in store for them, although they tend to gorge themselves and then be short later on.
The September warmth together with the rains, have given a flush of grass. And the moor, if anything, is under-stocked. The heather has recovered well, but is now inhibited by an excess of Molina grass and gorse.
Last evening, for the first time ever, I heard the roaring of a rutting stag on the hill; a truly primeval sound. It explained the brazenness of two hinds and their calves that were unperturbed by my passing.
A different farming routine this year, with the cows and calves running with the bull on a nature reserve to help maintain the ecology of the area. A different bull as well, a Luing (a Shorthorn/Highland cross), hopefully to impart hybrid vigour to the Welsh Black offspring.
The weanlings and store cattle are summering on the moor, chaperoned by our veteran matriarch, Orphan Annie, now aged 19. They thrive on the hill, enjoying the freedom and summer breezes which give relief from unwelcome insects.
Living and working where we do, I am not given to complaining about the weather, but the incessant deluges vested upon the hills from October until March have tested the most stoic, and has proved debilitating for humans and animals alike. Only now is there sufficient grass and warmth to turnout the weaned calves – one month later than usual.
The flowers, though, kept faith and did their best to brighten lives. Primroses and daffodils emerged before Christmas, while the snowdrops refused to appear before time – how/why?
Now with the advent of violets the countryside is bursting with colour, most noticeably the late primroses in swathes as never before. And most beautiful of all are the hillsides of mixed woodlands. Their buds and young leaves showing every subtle shade imaginable, of green, brown, beige, grey and white blending under the cloudy sun as only nature can – “the loveliest of trees, the cherry now – is hung with bloom along its bough – and stands about the woodland ride – wearing white for Eastertide”.
Lizzie and I have continued our yo-yo routine to London, coping with yet another full-on Christmas, before catching breath into the New Year’s winter that never came. We finally bade farewell to Margriet and welcomed first Claire, and then Sarah, two more lovely people who we appreciate enormously helping us to promote and enhance what we do.
London is more than ever a congested and pressurised building site, and there is a feeling of “marking time” until this divisive referendum is behind us.
This has been a Summer of goodbyes. Both our longstanding helpers have left; Rachael to look after her family; and Margriet; to see more of the world - starting with Iceland. They are much missed, and not only by our customers.
And then our swallows left. Two broods, and ten chicks were raised in our back porch, only feet from our heads. One day they were wheeling and squealing, and the next – silence, gone on their great adventure, leaving behind two cardboard mats thick with “guano”. How many insects went to make that weight of waste I wonder!
Spring was lovely and Summer seems to have come and gone almost sheepishly. A good harvest of silage in July, with a second cut off rented fields to come later this month; the cows running with Jubilee for nine weeks (they cycle every three), before being returned to the moor and their Summer sabbatical.
As the country comes out of holiday mode, the balance between visitors and home shoppers changed markedly. Borough has a dearth of good English products, which are sought by tourists. We are endeavouring to address that, not least by soon offering some of the very fine cheeses to emanate from Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. We’ve been doing a lot of cheese tasting and will share the results with you soon…be sure to watch this space!