Day 1 on the farm…
It’s the end of the first full day for us farmers at Nethercott Farm. We are all very much enjoying ample servings of delicious home-cooked food, the beautiful surroundings, working on the farm and some of us have already learnt the lesson of getting enough sleep before a long day at work!
Our journey felt very long but we were excited about what we were going to do this week. Thankfully, it wasn’t until about 20 minutes from reaching the farm the cries of ‘Are we there yet?!’ filled the air. The journey had been relatively straight forward apart from driving through a few pockets of rain, that is until we ended up down a one-track country lane… The wrong one-track country lane! Our extremely skilful driver Dave had to reverse us all the way out again. As we unloaded the coach and made our way into the beautiful farmhouse, we were greeted by a cup of tea and fresh scones with cream and jam – we already knew that we were going to be well looked after!
Last night we were very excited – it was like a huge sleepover with all of our friends! The first challenge was making our own beds (some people had trouble telling the difference between a pillow case and duvet cover – mentioning no names Mr Shield!) and unpacking our suitcases so that our rooms were up to Mrs Rye’s standards.
An early alarm call signalled the beginning of our first busy day on the farm – a lot to learn but a lot of fun to be had.
Group 1 were working with donkeys and ponies in the first session – some of us were a little bit nervous of this because we thought that Ned, the donkey, might nibble us or pull us over. We had to groom them – resulting in Eric the pony’s mane and tail being plaited and Apple-Jack and Ned sporting trendy Mohicans – and walk them to their stables. We then had to make an electric fence so the horses couldn’t leave the field. Surprisingly, no one volunteered to check it was working!
Our next job was to move the chickens from the chicken shed into the yard so we could clean out the shed and collect eggs. We collected over 50! The whiter the egg, the better the chicken is at laying. We sent the eggs to the kitchen to be cooked for tomorrow’s breakfast – yum! The eggs were shockingly dirty (we don’t think we need to mention what they were covered in…) We also got to hold chicks; they were very cute!
In the first session, group 2 herded cattle from the trailer into a new pen. It was tricky because they were trying to barge out all at once (now we know how teachers feel when we are sent out at playtime!) We then went to see a calf that was only 2 hours old. It tried, unsuccessfully, to stand up. It was important for us to keep our distance or else the mother cow would have been anxious. Following this we went for a long nature walk through the cow-fields, through a wooded area to look for otters (or octopuses as some of us first thought). We had a paddle in the river and learnt about some of the poisonous plants that are found along the banks.
This morning, group 3 were lucky enough to be the first group to see the piglets which had been born only 3 days ago. Liquorice, the sow, was feeding her eight piglets while grunting and snorting to protect her young. Unfortunately, one of the tiny piglet’s feet had been accidentally trodden on by Liquorice (she is a first time mum and this is quite common) and had a big pink bandage on. We felt very sorry for the piglet as Liquorice weighs a colossal quarter of a tonne – ouch! Liquorice’s litter had 8 piglets but Mike, our farmer, had once worked with a sow who had given birth to a litter of 21 – the world record is a litter of 27!
After this we went to the pig fields to feed the weaners and breeding sows (named Beetroot and Cocoa). We didn’t know that pigs are actually very clean and tidy creatures, which means we will now be very flattered when our parents tell us our bedroom looks like a pigsty!
After lunch (a delicious beef and potato pie followed by lemon drizzle cake), group 2 and 3 had to work together as a huge team to shovel gravel from an 80-tonne pile and take it in wheelbarrows to fill a giant hole that had appeared in the ground next to the pig house. It was back-breaking work and after the first few loads, Ben C announced that he had “the body of an eleven year old boy but the back of a sixty year old man!”… we still had 45 minutes worth of work to do! Our farmer, Stewart, was very impressed with what we had managed to achieve, with Dylan winning the prize of transporting the heaviest wheelbarrow. It was hard and exhausting work – especially pushing the wheelbarrows up the hill – and we all worked up an appetite – which was lucky as we then got to enjoy our second delicious meal of the day, jacket potatoes with cheese, beans and salad.
Group 3’s final job of the day was tending to the dairy calves. We gave them milk, protein pellets and barley. They very much enjoyed sucking on our fingers, much to Miss Boniface’s disgust! Mike told us loads of interesting facts about cattle, including the difference between dairy cows and beef cows. Did you know that a cow is only called a ‘cow’ once it has given birth to two calves?
We have just enjoyed a hot chocolate and freshly made cookie before bed, and are excited about our second full day on the farm tomorrow. Hopefully after a bit more sleep than last night…