Exhaustion is a funny feeling sometimes it creeps up on you and other times it hits you hard so that every fibre of your body is aching and your brain seems incapable of processing simple tasks, this definitely captures how I have been feeling the last few months.
Stress also often goes hand in hand with farming, there is never a day off, there is always something to do and this can create a situation of feeling utterly overwhelmed. This feeling has been a key feature over the winter months for us even when we take a moment to sit down we then have a bouncing two year old to control or emails to reply to, so we currently are living in a house that is overdue a deep clean and an organised chaos that allows us to work through each day as best we can.
For me it all kicked off back in December when I was 36 weeks pregnant, just before Christmas; I sat through a Tenants farmers meeting and came away feeling completely demotivated after hearing that other farms could be offered lower rents for increased conservation measures on their farms. When you are trying to achieve a farm that offers this already, yet you feel you are paying a fair rent and working every day as hard as you physically can to pull it off, this couldn’t be more demotivating. Then to top it off as stumbled out of the meeting I managed to promptly walk straight into a 5ft ditch in the pitch black, landing in stagnant water and leaf littered mud. With my whole body shaking, dripping paper work in hand, I crawled out of the ditch and promptly escaped down the road to my car with my now broken shoe sole flapping on the tarmac as I walked. Mark and my brother in law certainly looked confused as I tumbled into the room dripping wet with tears rolling down my cheeks babbling incoherent words saying I had hurt the baby falling in a ditch. Lucky both me and the baby were fine just a jolted back and bad shoulder for me.
Our new pup Pip adding to the chaos
We also received at the end of December an email from the RPA saying we were not going to be paid our BPS (our agricultural subsidy) on time due to extra checks being completed, this caused me a huge amount of worry due to the fact currently it is almost half our annual income for the farm, although we are aiming to build the business to not rely on the BPS this takes time. When I spoke to the RPA I was told they could give me no indication of what the issue was or when we would be paid but it could not be until June 2019. After sleepless nights and a phone call to my friend Harriet for her professional advice we spoke to the National Trust land agent asking if we could defer our rent until the BPS came in, this was to take the pressure off as we came up to lambing. And for which we are extremely grateful for he agreed and we felt like we were able to breath again.
Unfortunately this was short lived gap of stress free life, as having all year been battling a business rates bill of £7000 for running a riding stables, which we definitely are not. We were then sent letters saying we would be facing court action unless we paid this bill, despite the fact we had followed the correct procedure and clearly given evidence that we were not running a riding stables. Finally they agreed to send out a valuation officer to the farm, who did turn up but unbelievably on the day I went into labour! So there I am attempting to show him our Bed and Breakfast rooms and explain that we have no Horses, as contractions are coursing through my body every 4 minutes, as I try to act normal and hold a conversation. The result of the visit did mean some elements of the valuation were reduced however the horse loose boxes were deemed to still be there, so I phoned up to ask where these loose boxes were that they were referring to? There answer was for me was priceless ‘’the ones with the goats in’’ So in reply I said ‘’so you mean the specially built goats pens I made with goats inside them have been counted as horse loose boxes?’’ at this point Mark resorted to banging his head quite literally on the table.
We also scanned our ewes this year and were very disappointed in our results, we aim for 150% in the flock due to the fact they are hill breed ewes and we had quite a large groups of young ewes entering the flock, yet as the ewes ran through the race up into the crate and the green mark for singles grew I knew our percentages were down, in the end we came out at 132%, we have put this down to two things, the ewes weren’t in as good as condition as we would have hoped at tupping time most likely due to the drought in the summer and the high proportion of young ewes. But the good news was that after significant number of empties last year totally nearly 15% of the flock, we have brought this down to 3% which felt like a small win.
But amongst all of this exhaustion and stress the most amazing event of the birth of our second Son happened, which overrides all the hard days, to be replaced with utter amazement again at having brought this tiny baby into the world. We had planned another home birth, that morning as Mark headed out to work, Ferg and I headed out to check the stock. I was untangling a sheep from a fence as I felt my first contraction and all I could think was that I need to finish checking the stock. So off Ferg and I went traipsing across fields, when I would periodically stop to take a breath, as Ferg would look up at me and say ‘’another ouchy mummy’’. I soon realised help was needed so called my mum to help me finish the stock and then a call was made to bring Mark home from work. Unfortunately a home birth was not for us, after concerns about the babies size and lack of midwives on shift, so off we were sent into Taunton, and a few hours later Moss arrived into the world a little larger than we expected at 11lb 9oz. This time I tried to take some time off work on the farm although still couldn’t help but attempt to oversee the vaccinations and ewe lambs being sorted.
Despite our utterly exhausted state we are creating plans for the future which I will attempt to share on our next blog.