Despite the odd few days of frost and snow here and there, we've had a fairly mild winter here in Kinross-shire, and the plants which are still growing around the garden are looking well for this time of the year. Of course, the only slight concern is that a plethora of pesky horticultural pests that might have been killed off by prolonged periods of frost will instead have survived the winter and are currently lurking in wait under a pile of leaves, intent on munching their way through our produce very soon!
The bay leaf plant is HG's pride and joy!
HunterGatherer hauled the big red tubs he's been using as giant planters (in his war against chickweed) out of the polytunnel over for the winter. The bay leaf is looking particularly bright-eyed at the moment, and the rosemary is also in rude health. Our last red cabbage is waiting to be cut for supper very soon, and we've been enjoying curly purple kale right through the winter.
Meanwhile, on the animal front, Ivan the Shetland tup (or 'ram', depending on which part of the country you live in) spent a happy eight weeks amid his fleecy harem in the hill paddock over the winter, but last week - no doubt much to Romeo's grand chagrin - the seven ewes were put back into the front paddock.
We'll have far fewer ladies lambing this spring, as we sold half a dozen of our ewes (as well as almost all of our lambs) this year. We did, however, keep four of our own female lambs and have bought in two 'full pedigree' newbie ewes - the alliteratively named Juno and Jinja.
Fortunately for us, Farmerbruv's horse feed Blox are equally popular with our woolly jumpers. They have tried out all the different types and their favourites are definitely the Timothy Hay Blox and the JustGrass ones. When it's blowing a hoolie outside, it's great just to be able to nip outside quickly and throw a few Blox into the field from the fenceside, knowing that (unlike the loose hay) it's not going to disappear, airborne, into the Kingdom of Fife within a matter of minutes.
And suddenly it was spring! Since 2016 began, life here at The Sparrowholding seems to have been one long, relentless stint of soil sampling and spreader testing (HunterGatherer) or tutoring pupils plus proofreading hundreds of thousands of words (Yours Truly). Our only respite during these four months was a snatched escape at the end of January, which comprised lunch at the rightly renowned The Peat Inn Restaurant in Fife (subject of a future blog post so watch this space!) followed by a rare and relaxing overnight stay at the Dunkeld House Hotel, during which we enjoyed strolling together at leisure along an extremely full, more-grey-than-silvery Tay.
Since that bijou break, it’s been flat out for February, March and April, so it’s quite a relief to see this frenetic period of our respective freelance years coming to an end. The farmers have eagerly returned to working the land (meaning that HunterGatherer now assumes his spring/summer guise of welder/mender of agricultural machinery), and the Scottish exam diet has begun (meaning that my tutoring commitments have reduced dramatically – for a few months at least!).
While we’ve been busy, our Shetland ewes haven’t exactly been idle either… All winter long they’ve been cultivating their own “crop” of bonnie, bouncing lambs, and with lambing now over breakfast time in the feeding area is a guddle of bleating babies and anxious mums, each trying to find the other after all the Ewe-lac nuts and JustGrass Blox (courtesy of FarmerBruv) have been gobbled up. During the day, the 24 lambs split their time between sleeping and playing – just as you’d expect of any self-respecting bambino (or perhaps that should be 'lambino'!).
Here's a mini-video plus a few photos of what our mini woolly jumpers have been up to during the past weeks...