A sunny day means lots of moving around

The miserable weather seems to have gone away (for the moment) so I could start on some of the pending jobs that have been put off due to the wet ground.

First up was a move for the cattle into an adjacent field which, although not perfect by any means, is definitely better for them than their previous watery, muddy home.

There was a slight detour at first when the back garden seemed a lot more interesting to them. This was mostly due to Daisy taking advantage of an opportunity but I managed to herd them back to the right place without too much collateral damage.

Frank is usually the curious one

Once they were into the correct field they soon settled in with a bale of hay and some fresh water. A short time after the photo above they were spotted having a quick snooze in the welcome early spring sunshine.

As I had hoped, a similar kind of move for Esther and her litter went completely to plan with no detours or other shenanigans. So long as the piglets can see their mother they will happily wander along behind her. However if they lose sight of her then all bets are off!

Esther and litter stop for a snack

The hardest part with these moves is keeping everyone moving along together because they can be easily distracted by tasty tufts of grass, an old tree branch or a quick root around in the mud.

There was even a chance for the new (and nosy) neighbours to check on things as we made our way through the woods to the new pen.

Keeping an eye on the proceedings

In no time at all the pigs were happily into the designated pen and exploring their new space. Of course, Esther had to adjust the straw in the pig ark because she’s never happy with my initial efforts but she’s a great mother so I can put up with that.

It may not look much yet but it’s home!

For the piglets the first hour or so also involves testing the electric fence with associated brief squeals but it doesn’t cause any permanent damage for them and they soon learn the limits of the pen.

Now I can see that the weather forecast shows -2° C here overnight but I know the pigs will be fine, huddled in a pile with their fresh straw.

As for the Dexters, I’m not sure they’ll notice as they’ve still got their thicker winter coats for the moment.

Whatever happened to gravity?

Living up a hill in the North Pennines at 1000ft above sea level, I had assumed that water wouldn’t be too much of a problem for us. Why should we worry about that when we are all taught in school that gravity means water will naturally flow downhill.

We are another 200ft above the main village so it would seem logical to expect that any excess water up with us should flow down to the village and on into the River East Allen down below us. From there the water can merrily flow on to join the River South Tyne and then head towards Newcastle before in due course meeting the North Sea at Tynemouth.

However it turns out there is more to this than I first knew.

For one thing, the geology of our general area means that there are many points where water simply emerges from underground as a result of the rock formations. This is not a bad thing in some ways because our house is on a natural spring water supply!

Add to that the fact that drainage in some areas of our small patch could definitely be improved. Not so much to turn all this water into someone else’s problem but just to get the excess to run in the right places where it can be better managed.

Standing water at 8am with rain due all day!
Standing water at 8am with rain due all day!

Another key point is that the upland areas of the UK like the North Pennines, particularly the moors higher up from us, are actually great places for holding up water. I’ve seen many articles since we moved to this area about restoring the peat bogs or renewing the sphagnum moss and such like

I don’t claim to understand the subject in any depth but I can appreciate that if water flows more slowly from the moors at the start of the process then it will help. Reducing the amount of water and the speed at which it flows down will reduce the risk of flooding for built-up areas further away.

Faced with a day of heavy rain today and a small herd of Dexter cattle that live outdoors all year round it was clear that a smallholder with a soft streak like me had some quick decisions to make.

Top of the list, I decided that it would be good to let the cattle have a small section of woodland which would keep them out of the worst of the wind and rain for today.

They may be a hardy breed and quite happy living outside in the UK climate but that doesn’t mean I’d be happy sitting inside my house knowing they are just sheltering behind a stone wall.

Happy to be out of the weather for today
Happy to be out of the weather for today