The morning finally came. As I said in my previous post, after to-ing and fro-ing for some time trying to arrange a date that suited us both, I was delighted when Suzanna rolled into my driveway. She armed with cakes and I with my trusty kettle boiled, we were ready for a catch up.
It was my first time welcoming her to my home, so it was fun to be able to show her around. I introduced her to the dogs and the hens, and showed her around the garden. All the while we chattered away. We enjoyed a cuppa in the sitting outside in the sun, accompanied by treats, while the birds sang in the trees, blissfully unfazed by our presence.
But it wasn’t all news and idle conversation. Suzanna’s visit was for a very specific purpose. She was here to assess and advise us in terms of our consideration of nature on our farm and the habitats around us. I spent time explaining about the history of the farm, our practices and how we had it divided up. We spoke all things sheep and admired the signs of the changing seasons that were visible around us. We spoke about how we care for the soil and how we managed the grass. We spoke about winter fodder, spring regrowth and the routine of preparing for the tupping season. We spoke about hedgerows and of course, dung beetles.
After our ‘elevenses’, I brought Suzanna to walk the farm. She chatted to my ‘ladies’ (the sheep!) and we marvelled at the view from the top of the hill. We are so high up that, from our highest point, we have almost three hundred- and sixty-degree views. On a clear, sunny day we even have a sea view. I was thrilled it was a dry day so that we could enjoy the outdoors and not worry about howling gales or sheeting rain.
As I’ve mentioned before, Suzanna is a huge inspiration to me and I feel truly honoured and lucky to call her a friend. To be able to have her throw her keen eye over the minute details of our holding was a treat. At one point she told me she had heard a dung beetle buzzing by her ear and I know we weren’t a completely lost cause!
It became clear to me that her approach to farming is very different to ours. I knew this already obviously, but to hear her talk about my land from such a different viewpoint really caused me to pause for thought. She made suggestions as we went and checked off the various items on her checklist.
The way we farm our land is very different from her approach. Our practices have been guided by more traditional advice. To lean away from that will take a huge leap of faith.
Filled with ideas and a tonne of mental notes, we returned to the house for another quick cup of tea before Suzanna hit the road. We promised to meet again soon.
Though it means something different in other countries, we are technically a factory farm. Our stocking rates are higher and therefore we need to push the production of everything harder: more grass, faster growth, shorter time from the birth of our lambs to slaughter. “Farming for Nature” challenges this type of farming.
I have lots of research to do as I’ve been given so much information about practices that I really have no prior knowledge of. I have new accounts to follow, articles to read and I’ve been looking at some new book titles too. In short, this is the very start of a long journey – we’re only just ‘dipping our toe’ if you will!
A huge thank you to Suzanna for taking the time to come and meet with me. What a
wonderful mentor to have.
If you'd like to learn more about Suzanna and her wonderful flock of Zwartbles sheep, please check out the following links: