Tag: stay on a farm

Our Farming Year

So many of our guests ask about our farming life and are interested to know what we’re doing, what we do each month or season and why. So here it is, our year in brief at St Oswald’s Farm.

A farming year could probably be described as none stop, each month brings new tasks and inevitably new challenges and with the annual to do list on top of the usual daily farming routine. Each day begins with all stock being checked and fed, any that aren’t well are attended to or if there are any animals not accounted for then they need to be found. Sheep and cattle love to find out if the grass really is greener on the other side of a fence or wall! We ensure there is a water supply for all animals and if in the winter troughs are frozen they need to be defrosted. From October to May when cattle are housed indoors then they require clean bedding every couple of days and that in turn means mucking out the sheds too.

alt="farming life collage of feeding sheep and calves in the fields"
Checking and feeding the stock every day

The year begins in earnest and January sees the start of calving time, the cows and heifers are checked continually each day and we’re always looking for those who we think will calve today. Some deliver on their own and others will need assistance, day or night, and then like any newborn we are checking to ensure they are feeding and Mum is happy with her baby. If not it could mean bottle feeding and trying to keep them warm until Mum steps up.

During January our flock of sheep are scanned to let us know how many lambs each one is having and throughout the month we are also selling the last of the lambs from the previous year and buying store cattle. Through February calving and buying store cattle continues and we begin vaccinating the sheep in preparation for lambing. Fields are ploughed for Spring crops and we’re starting to prep the sheds for lambing time.

March and April is all about lambing which is the busiest time of year with the livestock, lambing time is hectic and depending on the weather can be particularly stressful, and I’ve dedicated a whole blog post to this important event in the farming calendar. Fertilizer and muck are spread in March and April and Spring crops are sown. Any cattle we have bought are wormed and the bulls go out to the cows and heifers.

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Cute lambs…around 1900 of them!

During May we hope that cattle can be turned out, and it’s always fabulous to see them kicking their heels in the fields after being indoors all winter. As the grass begins to grow so do the weeds and that means treating the fields to eliminate them. Our arable fields are ploughed and sown for our forage crops whilst other fields may be topped (cutting off rough grass to promote new growth) and if possible our first cut of silage is made.

Summer is mainly about silage and hay making, we have to ensure we have enough fodder to feed our animals through the coming winter. In July our sheep are clipped and we’re still topping fields and then during August we’re beginning to wean the lambs from their mothers, to enable us to begin selling our new season lamb at the local mart which we continue to do right through until January. If you’re wondering how we know when to sell them, they are weighed each week to ensure we sell them at the correct weight. Winter barley is also harvested, grain stored and straw baled.

alt="farming life hay field with tractors and baler"
Hay time

In September we’re spreading muck, weaning the calves and harvesting our Spring barley and it’s this time of year when we buy any replacement sheep that we need, buy any new tups and we begin to prepare all 1000 of our ewes for tupping time. We’re ploughing and sowing our next crops and buying in the additional straw that we’ll need for winter bedding.

Our calves are sold during October and our tups are put out with the ewes, cattle are clipped in preparation for being sold in November and the cows are brought in for the winter months. During December we continue to sell our lambs and our store cattle are sold and we’re looking after our heavily pregnant cows and heifers who will begin to calve in January.

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Our calves at 8 months old

After all that is done and dusted then the maintenance of sheds, fixing fences, repairing stone walls, clearing fallen trees, digging ditches, vermin control, paperwork, movement licences, registration of animals, passports, book-keeping, Countryside Stewardship and SFI applications, medicine records and mandatory records for Red Tractor Assurance are all done too.

Farming life is so dependent on weather and very often the annual timetable is stopped, paused or even destroyed by what the weather throws at us, each year brings different challenges and as farmers we have to be adaptable and be ready for whatever the weather decides to do. Farmers are eternal optimists as we always think next year will be better or as John says “next year will be different”. Farming life is all consuming, it’s 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 52 weeks a year, it’s about loving your animals, being a caretaker of your land and taking pride in what you produce. We get to live in a beautiful place working alongside nature and get to enjoy the most amazing views every day. We could say that’s it’s the best job in the world but farming isn’t a job, it’s a way of life and I have to say it’s a way of life that we love!

Stay on a farm

St Oswald’s Farm is where we live, its’s what we are and it’s what we do. But what is it like to stay on a farm, to be a guest here, to come and stay in a holiday cottage on an actual working farm?

A stay here is just what you would expect from a stay in a luxury holiday cottage, it’s welcoming, it’s relaxing, it’s ultra comfortable and it’s peaceful and most importantly it’s your special break from your everyday.

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Heavenfield Cottage

Heavenfield Cottage allows you to enjoy everything you want from your holiday, lazy mornings, day trips, visitor attractions, meals out, leisure time, long soaks and time to enjoy your book. However a stay on a farm perhaps also gives the opportunity to see the countryside in a unique way and take a glimpse into a way of life.

We have over 750 acres of ‘back garden’ to enjoy, there are stunning walks and views to die for without even leaving St Oswald’s. The scenery, the birds and the wildlife around us are fantastic and depending what time of year you visit you may be lucky enough to spot a curlew or lapwing, you may be here when the cotton grass is out or when our preserved hay meadow is in full bloom.

Any walk you take you will undoubtedly see our animals, John’s beloved sheep as they go about their daily business and during the Spring and Summer months you will see our lambs, thousands of them as they play. You can admire our cattle grazing and visit the hens that provide you with your welcome hamper eggs! You can even collect some eggs if you wish..do just ask us.

You will see our dogs hard at work. Sky, Dot & Bea are an integral part of the day to day running of the farm and always keen to do their job. You may see them rounding up the sheep whilst out in the fields listening for John’s call, well almost always listening for John’s call. They are more than eager to please and they don’t care about the weather or the mud and can normally be found within a few yards of John! Although they have been known to wander off in search of a tummy tickle!

I don’t think anyone could stay here without seeing the beauty that living on a farm brings or the time and dedication that goes into farming, the love we have for our animals and for where we live. Our guests are able to see at first hand John’s comings and goings as he gets on with his everyday routine.

alt="stay on a farm heifers of different breeds in a field with blue skies above stay on a farm"
Our ladies enjoying summer days

One of the questions John is most frequently asked is “do you get a day off”? The idea of a day off to John is odd, he doesn’t think about days off, and in answer to the question, no he doesn’t not unless we actually go away and leave someone to look after everything on the farm.

John would however tell you that he does get the odd day off, but what he means is he gets up earlier to do all his work before he goes away for the day and then works late when he gets home to get everything done that needs to be done. That’s John’s idea of a day off! I’ll let you decide if you think he’s right.

January and February is calving time and during March and April a stay at St Oswald’s Farm will mean seeing lots of activity, you will undoubtedly see lambs born and can feed lambs if you would like to. It’s a busy time of year for us but we’re always more than happy to answer any questions that you may have and you are more than welcome in the lambing sheds. We love that people are interested to know about our way of life.

If you happen to be here at the start of July you might witness John shearing his own sheep, and there’s even the odd chance you might witness me wrapping fleeces, please feel free to have a go, the lanolin is great for your hands!

Of course the summer months are also about making silage and hay for the winter. The tractors, machinery, the mower, the baler, the wrapper are always great to see in action. In fact the distant sound of the bale wrapper in the fields is for me a real noise of summer and it always feels comforting to know that our fodder for the winter is being safely wrapped up for our stock.

alt="stay on a farm John shearing a ewe on a clipping trailer in the sun at shearing time"
Shearing time

Staying on a farm is without doubt a pleasure, it’s all a holiday should be with perhaps just a little added extra, a real experience of the countryside and a small yet real glimpse into farming life.

If you would like to experience a stay on a farm and enjoy the best of our countryside and all that Hadrian’s Wall has to offer, then we’d love to welcome you here. For all availability, prices and details of Heavenfield Cottage then please go to our website. Or if you’d like our monthly updates from life on the farm then we’d love if you signed up to our newsletter here.

We look forward to sharing St Oswald’s Farm with you!