Linking The East Neuk

07 May 2020

While we all remain in the strange world of social distancing due to Covid 19, those of us lucky enough to live in this stunning part of Scotland have enjoyed almost unbroken sunshine and watched spring unfurling into a green, colourful and wildlife rich canvas. The number of walkers enjoying social distancing in fields and along woodland edges has increased dramatically and I hope enabled people to see what goes on in the countryside and in particular Balcaskie, first hand. We have been putting up more LEAF around the estate to help explain how we manage and work with nature.

Bowhouse Link is now up and running for its fifth week. The online market opens on a Monday morning until Wednesday lunchtime, enabling producers who would normally trade at Bowhouse Food Weekends to continue trading and bringing their amazing produce to the customers in the East Neuk. With 240 shopping baskets already fulfilled and 140 of those delivered by our van, we have been hugely encouraged to see the support for quality local fresh produce on a regular market. We will be expanding the reach of Bowhouse Link in the months to come as social distancing measures are relaxed. Many of our regular Bowhouse customers are from Edinburgh, the Central Belt and Glasgow – We are hopeful that we will soon be able to provide a regular delivery to these areas.

Back on the farm, we have benefited during calving and outdoor lambing from the amazing sunshine. Lambs and calves are growing rapidly, with the only slight issue being a lack of grass. With the dry spring following a wet autumn and winter, plant roots are not sufficiently deep to access moisture. However it is unlikely that the dry spell will continue indefinitely and when the rain does come, the grass growth will compensate. One of the upsides of fewer cars on the road during lock-down is that our smallest and most adventurous lambs have a habit of finding tiny gaps to escape and play on the verges. We are learning that our Shetland lambs are the most likely to escape and particularly at about supper time!

Many of the spring planted crops remain un-germinated below the soil surface and will need moisture to reach them before we see more green shoots. The winter planted crops have started to grow rapidly and when plants cut in half, the growing seed heads are now forming. Again this year we are using an ancient method to reduce the crop height of our organic wheat, by grazing it with sheep. The careful balance being to leave the sheep on for as long as possible, without then finding the tasty growing seed heads as they travel up the stem.

The first bulls have been introduced to our heifers, meaning that we are now on countdown to begin next year’s calving in February – slightly earlier than normal, but this will help us to concentrate our labour ward on the first time calving heifers. Fingers crossed…..

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