When we dreamt up this idea of setting up a farm and living sustainably, we expected difficulties along the way, after all, it’s the path less traveled. We hadn’t imagined though, that all the troubles might come at us at once.
On Friday we got the great news that our purchase of the land had come through; it had not been a smooth transaction (lots of problems with the seller’s solicitor) but it was over! And now we could get to the joy of being land owners. So on Saturday morning we headed over to the land, to take stock, make a plan and to get stuck in. We aren’t normally early risers on the weekend but seeing as we’re about to be farmers, we embraced the lifestyle and headed down early, not early enough however, as we had been beaten to it by a herd of cows:
It seems some local entrepreneurial farmer had hit upon a sterling idea, why pay for land to graze his cattle on, when he could just use other peoples land for free? Well of course, it’s illegal, but that wasn’t to stop him and he was grazing them in our field!
Now, we know very little about farming; we know a thing or two about growing vegetables, and we have a good idea of how to do some DIY (mend fences, build a chicken run, that sort of thing) but most of it we were hoping to pick up as we go from reading books, online research and having a go… this was not going to be a gentle introduction though, what the hell do you do with a trespassing herd of cattle? Google was at a loss.
We had noticed some locals parked nearby on the way in and thought they might be able to point us in the right direction, in fact they had a pretty good idea of who it was, but what’s else might they bring up? Oh, they were here to hunt in our woodland! As apparently they regularly do. They were courteous enough once we asked them to stop, but does that mean others may be wondering freely through our woodland hunting without our permission, again illegal but they have the guns! So we reorganised our priorities, the new first order of business? Fences (and ‘no trespassing’ signs) up, we like to be friendly but that doesn’t extend to hunters and freeloading cows.
But from that rough start things could only get better, and they obliged by doing just that. Our good friend Craig came down to help out and lift our spirits, as we got stuck into putting up fence posts to set up an anti-hunter fence.
The next few days went a bit more smoothly, my mother and father-in-law came to help us too, we managed get a heck of a lot done and even put up a temporary fence to keep the cows out (the cow owner having removed the previous one). I had some annual leave for the first half of the week and spent most of the rest if it digging post holes in some pretty tough Oxford clay. Thankfully with some interesting podcasts to keep me going. I also put in a planning application for a small agricultural building in the main field so fingers crossed on that one.