Throughout the start of the new year, work has persisted on the farm, just as it does during any other time of the year. I did have a delightful day creating Christmas wreaths with the Lake District Ladies with Livestock group, but for the most part, everything has remained business as usual. The primary focus has been a tree-planting initiative, supported by the Farming in Protected Landscapes grant program. This project entails planting 10,800 hedgerow trees to revive boundaries that have been lost over time.
On most days, I have set out with a sack containing 500 trees and a spade in the Gator, a compact farm vehicle, regardless of the weather. We manage to plant all 500 trees in one day. While it can be tiring, digging holes for the trees is easier when the ground is wet.
The recent weather has consisted of constant rain and strong winds, which is not favorable for the animals who prefer colder and drier conditions. Our cows, sheep, and ponies are kept outside during the winter and we regularly move the sheep and ponies to different areas with fresh grass. This winter, we have allowed our cattle to roam more freely in the landscape, but this also means it can be time-consuming to locate them. While searching for them at Westmorland Borrowdale, they eventually came over to investigate our presence. As they continued on their way, they were joined by a small, quick, white animal running behind them. It turned out to be an ermine stoat, darting down the hillside with remarkable speed, its white fur flashing in and out of view. It seemed to be enjoying the company of the cows as they ran together.
The agile stoats are known for hunting rabbits and their swift movements. In this area, they adapt to snowy environments by turning mostly white, blending in with their surroundings. Their thick white fur also provides extra insulation during the winter months. Recently, King Charles wore a cape made of ermine at his coronation. Although I didn’t have the chance to watch the King’s Christmas speech, I did have a close encounter with wild royalty in the hills instead.