It is still pretty wet up here – but the mud is getting drier, so perhaps spring is on its way.

Subsequently, there has been a lot of office work done lately. I’m not very keen on office jobs, but when the alternative is moving break fences on the turnips for sheep in the mud – they can get more appealing. If I have a favourite office job – it is filling in grant claim forms, and there have been a few of these to do.

There was the claim for soil sampling, which covered the cost of the testing done last spring and left a little extra which should encourage Neil to get out and dig some more over the coming weeks. Then there was the animal health package where I claimed for bull fertility testing, and a sheep scab test (which we did just before sale season as we were aware of a bit of scab in the area – a clear test gave us peace of mind).

There were plenty other options that we could have claimed on and we just needed to get the vet to sign that we’d done the test and had taken appropriate subsequent actions. As those subsequent actions were – put the bulls with the cows and stop worrying about dipping, neither were too painful!

I’ve also had to renew electricity contracts which came as a pleasant surprise. Two years ago it rose from 18p/unit to 37p, but it has come back to 21p for an annual agreement. We have a small 11kw wind turbine on the farm which produces a similar amount of electric as we use on the farm – but tends to be in the wrong place and at the wrong time. It pains me to be selling the surplus at 5p/unit, but the feed in tariff is still good for a number of years yet and makes all the difference.

Despite all the office time, the desk still isn’t clear and the draw of the longer evenings is beginning to make outside jobs look more appealing. Tally’s pony is missing the stock-checking rounds, with her getting stuck into studies in Edinburgh, but I’m getting a few done with him again.

There was a batch of 40 point of lay poults delivered last week and they have started to produce a few eggs already, just in time for the local café re-opening in March.

The Scots Dumpy Club are hopeful we will get to the Highland Show with birds, after a four-year absence due to covid and then bird flu. I’ve got a handful of Dumpies that make me smile every day with their backyard antics and are my secret weapon for the Kilry Fete cake competition with their yoke-rich eggs. They don’t lay as well as the ordinary brown chooks, but they earn their keep in other ways!

Cows are about four weeks off calving and preparations are starting to be made for that. Texel ewes scanned well, and they should get a clostridial vaccine before you are reading this. Heptavac seems to be in tight supply again but we have enough for the ewes secured and just have to wait and hope for hogg and lamb doses.

Lleyn ewes will be scanned next week and are munching through the turnip crop they have been living on. Direct drilling the crop has definitely made for a cleaner, drier break initially – but it is not long in poaching in the weather we’ve had.

Neil’s Dad – Finlay – is just back from a long overdue trip to Western Australia to see his brother. He has come home sporting a good tan and full of enthusiasm. Diminishing rainfall trend lines and live export issues seem to be the main concerns he picked up on.

He was impressed by the use of data and precision farming – never driving off the tramlines, crop and soil mapping to identify areas of clay soils, then incorporating them into the sand areas to improve moisture retention. One hundred grass fed Angus bulls at an on-property ‘helmsman’ sale (similar to our own sale system), sold to 100% clearance with calving ease, docility and marbling data in demand. The most popular type were robust, thick and not overly-big to handle the environment.

There have been a few agri-tourism meetings that I have enjoyed this month and we are hosting a meeting with the local Working for Waders group tomorrow as we all look forward to hopefully welcoming pee-wits, curlews and oyster-catchers back to the farm shortly. It is great to get together with people who are trying to overcome the same challenges. A lot of these meetings are pretty interesting, but the real learning is often from the other participants.

These trips have recently helped me sort out everything from a new accounts programme provider to dealing with an over-supply of Lorne sausage. If your butcher mis-reads the order sheet and supplies more Lorne sausage than your demand can cope with – rolling them up and calling them meatballs is a good way of clearing the fridge!

A visit to my ‘calf-country’ to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Stewartry Young Farmers Club was a trip down memory lane. Young Farmers introduced me to a lot of weird and wonderful things (including my husband) and took me a lot of places. Exchanges to Keith, Northern Ireland and Yorkshire, where I found YFC culture to be remarkably similar in all airts! A study tour of Ostrich farming in South Africa (that was the start of the chook enterprise); speechmaking; stockjudging; agriskills (I could still change a tractor tyre if pushed); and handicrafts (still rubbish at sewing).

It was great to see so much enthusiasm from the young members in the club. I wonder what Neil’s grandfather and his cronies who started the club up, would make of all? There was an old black and white photograph of them all looking a bit stiff and proper, projected up on a screen – and by the end of the night, they were silently looking down on a bouncing dance-floor of vibrant colours and hilarity.

I think they’d be really proud of the fun, enthusiasm and energy that the club was harnessing into our industry. It was a great party and it took me back to my teenage years for a few hours – perhaps that is the greatest journey SAYFC can take anyone on! Thanks for having us along.