March on the farm (2023)

Richard Fonge writes:

With hopefully the last of the snow behind us, we can look forward to more spring like conditions, with warmth and sunshine and some much needed rain to counteract the very dry February.

Lambs are now being seen in the fields around the village. Vital for their survival is colostrum, which is the first milk of the ewe. Provided they have this milk in the first few hours after birth, (and most lambs will be up and suckling within the first hour) they will thrive. The milk is full of anti bodies and lines the stomach to retain body temperature, which combined with their coats allows them to withstand cold weather. Putting coats on them is a bit of a gimmick. It’s not practical for most farmers and if the ewe has been prepared for birth properly she will have the milk to rear her lambs. Late winter, early spring lambing is done indoors, with the ewes and lambs turned out at a few days old when the shepherd knows they are fit to do so. By late March/April, outside lambing is more common and in many ways more natural as the ewe finds her own place to lamb and there is not the risk of infection you get inside. One downside is the taking of lambs by the fox at birthing or soon after. A real problem at times.

Talking of the fox, it is always noticeable how much healthier the rural fox looks to the urban one. The former lives off grubs, rabbits (and there are plenty of those on our disused railway lines), pigeons, and your hens if they can. Natural food. The urban fox lives off scraps mostly from bins etc. 

The very smart fencing is now completed up Barrow hill, with new footpath gates, which will be much appreciated by all those that walk that path regularly. Now wait for the sheep to arrive to graze the new conservation pasture.

A true story of a very brave and determined man:

My parents moved to Stuchbury Manor Farm in the Autumn of 1947 and employed a youngster who was just short of his fifteenth birthday. Dennis had been evacuated from Balham in south London to a farm in Lancashire with his mother during the war, and he decided to make farming his career. He took a three month Y.M.C.A farming course at Stratford-upon-Avon and then placed with us.

He was in digs with a Mrs Wade, whose cottage was where the entrance to Mayfield is now. Between the Old Chapel and Apple Acre in Manor Road.

He walked to and from work every day, until he was called up to go in the army in 1951, where he opted to do a third year as he had passed his tests to join the parachute regiment. On demob he returned to the farm staying with us till 1973.

So when I take that footpath off the Helmdon road to Stuchbury, I often think of that fifteen year old boy walking up there in the dark in all weathers that first winter. What determination and resilience! You can see why he became a parachutist. 

To finish. Ernie Baylis, a local farming character, wore his cap backwards for work, and then turned it peak forward for best..

Richard Fonge.



One Response to “March on the farm (2023)”

  1. Chris Henn says:

    I see Carol Baylis regularly at Mole Valley Farmers in Buckingham where she works and she was very amused that you had mentioned her Uncle Ern in your article. She remembered he always turned his cap round when taking aim, apparently he was no mean shot! Lovely memories.

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