OVERALL the weather over the last week has been rather dull and damp, although it began with some sunshine followed by a beautiful sunny day mid-week. The breezes have made it feel rather chilly, with temperatures remaining in single figures.

Richard and I have had quite a busy week, as we were house-sitting for daughter Melissa and her family for two days, whilst they visited friends. Although I called it house-sitting, most of the focus was looking after all the pets, as well as checking sheep. There were ponies, dogs, guinea pigs, a cat, pet sheep and some chicken to tend to.

During the rest of the week Richard was in charge of Manor Farm and I was in charge of Jenny's 10 hens, as Ian and Jenny took a well-earned holiday. Fortunately, everything on the farm ran fairly smoothly, with just the hindrance of a flat tyre on the little scraper tractor, which is used to scrape slurry from the yards and passages in the barns housing the cattle.

At the end of the week one of the cows in the pre-natal barn gave birth to an Aberdeen Angus x heifer calf. The cow's name is Lupin. She was born in September 2010, so this was her sixth calf.

Lupin is one of our best cows with a good milk yield and her milk containing on average 3.5 per cent protein and 4.5 per cent fat. To date she has produced four dairy heifer calves from the six births, two are in the milking herd, one soon due to have her first calf and the fourth due to have her first calf in the autumn. As Ian was not here to milk on Ruth's day off, Natalie was booked in to do the milking, before returning to Reading University, where she is studying agriculture.

Mid-week I gave a talk to Great Cheverell Gardening Club on My Farming Life. I was also asked to say a few words on animal welfare in intensive units and regulations concerning the keeping of poultry.

For anyone who wants to know all there is to know about keeping poultry, it can all be found if you search for 'DEFRA poultry' on your computer. I would like to thank the club for making me so welcome and for their kind donation to the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution.

Towards the end of the week David, our nutritionist, called to take end-of-month figures to enable him to work out costs of inputs and outputs for December 2017. Whilst on the farm, with the help of Nathan and Richard, David weighed a random selection of our weaned calves to see how well they were growing. This was done using a belly band, as we do not have a cattle weigh crate.

Weighing with a band is not quite so accurate, but it will give a reasonable reading. The calves were found to be gaining about a kilogramme per day, which is good and shows that their ration is providing the nutrients they need.

There was, however, a rather funny incident which occurred during the weighing session. David was just about to write down the weight of the last calf, when he turned to see a piece of paper with all the previous weights disappearing down the throat of one of the larger animals that had managed to reach the list with its very long tongue. This meant all the calves had to be re-weighed!

The other day Kevin, Annabel and the collies gathered the wethers (castrated ram lambs) now on Manor Farm for grading. Annabel, under her father's watchful eye, decided which lambs were ready for sale, marking them with a colour. The agent was then contacted and the sheep booked in for collection. When the list of gradings came back from the abattoir they were found to be good.

Since then Kevin has brought the last 50 lambs from Stowell Farm to join the ones still here. On the sunny afternoon mid-week, while checking all the sheep here on Manor Farm, the sun was shining towards me and I noticed the whole field was covered in a mesh of cobwebs. It looked beautiful.

By Denise Plummer