The Farming Year

A Year on the Farm

Life on the farm changes with the seasons. Lambing, sowing and harvesting are the busiest times of the farming calendar but pigs farrow (give birth) all year round and there are many other seasonal jobs.

Crops lie dormant in the fields. Autumn sown corn has sprouted and is a green covering over muddy earth.

Winter stubble is a habitat for deer, hares, pheasants and other wildlife as they feed on spilt corn and weeds.

Conservation work may be in progress. It's a good time to put up bird boxes or do some hedge trimming.

The pigs need daily attention; feeding, cleaning, moving and weighing. Sometimes a little pig 'midwifery' is called for.

Tom leading manure over a swollen burn

The 'in-lamb' ewes need feeding each day throughout the winter with hay or straw and bought sheep food.

Tree and hedge planting is carried out during the winter months.

Hard frosts often make extra work, freezing animal drinkers, and boiling kettles have to be used to defrost pipes.

The pigs' field sometimes becomes a sea of mud and the large sows don't want to leave the comfort of their big barn.

Young tree plants are checked and re-staked after snow and winter gales.

'Charlotte' and her new litter

Hens and ducks start to lay more eggs. A broody hen may hide her eggs away and begin sitting on them.

The ewes are housed in one of the farm's sheds to await the birth of their lambs.

Now is the time to sow spring wheat or barley. Bare areas on autumn sown crops that have not grown well may be re-sown.

Meg at the bottom of the Lonnen

Lambing begins. The newly born lambs are penned with the mothers for two or three days before they are strong enough to be turned out into the fields together.

Fluffy yellow goslings hatch and are fiercely protected by the rest of the geese, whilst a hen may appear from a hidden nest with 8 or 9 chicks.

Hedge planting may continue using container-grown stock.

Lambs in the back stack yard

Coveys of young partridge make their homes on the wide grassy margins we sow around the fields.

Vivid yellow rape stands out across the countryside.

Areas of ground are cultivated and sown with seed mixes that will be especially beneficial to wildlife; pollen and nectar rich plants for insects and large seed heads for birds.

Geese in the Pond Field

The farm is particularly pretty with blossom still on the hedges and fields bordered with wild flowers.

The sheep are clipped (sheared) and their thick woolly fleeces are packed into huge sacks for the wool marketing board, leaving the sheep much cooler for the summer months.

Thistles and nettles should be cut down before they have a chance to seed and spread.

The six-metre grassy margins sown around our arable fields are topped (cut) to make short, open areas of grass for young game birds.

James clipping

Pigs protect themselves from sunburn by wallowing in muddy hollows.

Tall wild oats can be hand-pulled out of the crop. Several people with bags may be seen carrying out this task, walking up and down through the fields.

The permissive footpaths across the farm will need trimming to allow easy walking.

The corn is starting to ripen. Combines are taken out of sheds all over Northumberland and overhauled.

Winter barley is usually harvested at the end of this month. The combine harvester cuts the corn, shakes the seeds from the head and throws out behind the leftover chaff.

A wallow in the pig's croft

The straw left in the harvested winter barley fields is baled and led back to the farm to be stored for winter bedding and feed.

Combining the wheat begins. Tractors and trailers populate the countryside, leading the corn from the fields.

The local garage is kept very busy mending broken machinery!

The ground is ploughed and cultivated as soon as the barley straw is removed so that oil seed rape can be sown.

The areas previously sown with plants to attract wild birds and insects are in full flower; a magnificent stand of bold yellow sunflowers above a blue haze of phacelia and borage.


Combining continues every dry day.

Fields are cleared of straw, ploughed, cultivated and sown.

The first lambs that were born in the spring are now quite big and can be sent to Wooler Market.

The tups (rams, or male sheep) are taken out of the field of ewes before mating time to prevent a very early lambing.

Field hedges are full of blackberries; the farmhouse jam pan is well used!

Jimmy Burn ploughing

Ploughing and sowing continues. The tractors work in the dark evenings, their bright ploughing lights dotted across the countryside.

Now is a good time to check the drains in boggy areas of fields.

Fields of peas and beans are harvested. They are usually swathed first to kill the plant and dry out the pods so they can be harvested in the usual way with a combine harvester.

The hedges we planted several years ago produce crops of rosy crab apples and small yellow and red plums. These are enjoyed by birds and humans.

Tom rolling

The tups are put back in the field to mate with the ewes.

Tree and hedge planting will be resumed once the growing season is over.

The main crop of lambs will be well grown. These are looked over and the best ones are sent to market.

The Pond Field Wood

There is no longer enough grass for the sheep in the fields. It is time to start feeding the ewes on organic forage and sheep food, to build them up for lambing.

Hedges may be cut with a tractor and mechanical flail.

The hens aren't laying many eggs as the hours of daylight are so short.

There is a Christmas rush for special rare breed pork joints.

Sheep in the Dene