Category Archives: Animals

Saving water in a sizzling summer

Farming always has its ups and downs but this year has been particularly challenging. The winter snows were severe with the Beast from the East which meant a late spring, followed on by the current heatwave which is causing havoc with the harvests.

cows and sheepSunshine and heat is wonderful for our holiday guests staying in our log cabins and glamping pods, but not so great for the farm animals. June 2018 has been the driest on record. I can’t recall when I last saw the farm fields so brown and the grass is so dry it scrunches underneath your feet.

Making hay while the sun shines

hay making We usually make silage for winter forage for the cows and sheep and around 900 small bales of hay.  Hay making was interesting as the cut grass was so light and dry that half of it blew away! Whilst the sizzling sunshine has produced excellent quality hay, the excessive dry weather has meant the quantity is about half the usual yield at just 430 bales.

We are not alone and there will be a shortage of winter feed, compounded by the fact that farmers are having to feed their cattle and sheep now in midsummer as there is so little grass growing. It also means reduced income as the price of lamb has fallen due to an increase in supply as many farmers are having to sell their lambs early due to the lack of feed.

1967 Massey Ferguson 135 tractor
1967 Massey Ferguson 135 tractor

Whilst the scorching heat continues here in the Peak District with temperatures over 30 degrees we carry on farming with animal well fare a top priority.

Mike wrestles with a sheep

The sheep have been shorn and shed their winter woolly jumpers and we are keeping a special eye on the troughs to make sure the cattle have sufficient water to drink.

We also have a new member of the team. This week also saw the arrival of Havenfield Lotus, a new pedigree Hereford bull, who seemed right at home with his new ladies!

Use water wisely

water glas by RawpixelDid you know that only 3% of the world’s water is fresh and less than 1% of this fresh water is available for human use? The rest being frozen or located too deep within the earth for us to reach it.

Our Derbyshire ancestors have always celebrated the importance of fresh water by dressing the village wells and giving thanks.

Saving water is always important, but especially so whilst the sizzling summer continues.

Top ten tips for saving water
  1. When you wash your dishes by hand, remember to turn the tap off in-between rinsing. And don’t rinse dishes before you put them in a dishwasher – that’s what the machine is designed to do – just scrape all the excess food off the dishes and let the machine do the rest.
  2. Stop! Before pulling the plug out the kitchen sink, use the washing up water to rinse out bottles, food cartons and cans before putting them in the recycle bin.
  3. Switch off the tap whilst brushing your teeth – you can waste at least half a pint of water per minute if you leave the tap on!
  4. Keeping a large bottle of tap water in the fridge ensures you can have chilled water all the time. Waiting for the tap to run cold can waste more than 10 litres of water a day.
  5. A shower uses 2/3 the amount of water as a bath – keep it short and turn off the shower head while soaping! Every minute you spend in a power shower uses up to 17 litres of water .
  6. Switch to an efficient shower head which will allow you to lather up in less water
  7. Washing a full machine load of clothes uses less water and energy than 2 half-loads
  8. Modern dual-flush systems save huge amounts of water. They use just 6 litres – or 4 with a reduced flush – much less than the 13 litres for each old-style single flush.
  9. Or fit your toilet with a ‘hippo’, a bag (available free from your water company, usually) that could help you save up to 3.5 litres of water per flush.
  10. Drive round in a dirty car – you don’t need to wash it every week! A hose with the tap turned on full can use up to 320 litres of water in half an hour!

We hope you found our top ten water saving tips useful and would love to hear if you have some more ideas to share.

Felicity 

TB, or not TB, that is the question!

A few days ago our herd of suckler cows underwent its annual routine TB (Bovine Tuberculosis) test. This is an anxious time for any livestock farmer, as it can have devastating consequenses.

The TB test involved shaving two small sites on the cows neck, then measuring and recording the skin thickness at both sites.The vet then injects tiny amounts of deactivated TB virus of 2 types, 1 is bovine TB and the other is Avian TB.

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The cows are then left for 72 hours and the skin in the 2 sites is measured again. If there is a thickening of the skin greater on the bottom site (bovine TB) by a specified amount, then this is a positive reaction, which is not good news!Skin measuring

 

Finding Tuberculosis present, even in just one cow has massive implications on the next year or more of our farming practices, let alone our income!

A positive reactor cow is taken away and slaughtered and a full examination of the lungs is made post mortem to confirm the infection is present. The farm is immediately placed under movement restriction, which  means that no cattle may leave the farm unless going direct to slaughter. These restrictions are the same if you have one reactor or 100! Some local farms have lost 50 or more cows in one test, which is soul destroying when your whole life is dedicated to raising and caring for your herd.

If a farm has a positive test then all animals have to be retested every 60 days until 2 clear tests have been achieved, only then are cattle movement restrictions lifted. These extra tests place great strain on both man and beast; there is always a high risk of another failure, and the cows get to know what is coming and don’t like to cooperate!

A great deal is said in the press by all sides about the cause of the spread of TB from wildlife and the possible control of such. Each person must make up their own mind as to the facts and I will not get into that debate here.

Fortunately our test last week was clear, with no cows reacting so our business can carry on as usual. When we sell stock to another farm it must have been tested for TB in the 60 days prior to moving house. Sometimes this means an extra test for any cattle we need to sell, but we usually take advantage of a regular clear test result to  sell our stock.IMG_1459

In June 2015 we bought our pedigree bull, Gawsworth Phil 28th, to be the new husband to our ladies (if you know what I mean, nudge nudge, wink wink!) He has done his job wonderfully well since then, but as time passes his daughters are now old enough to enter the herd as breeding animals.

This means Phil has to go (while we have a clear test window). We will miss him as he has been a well mannered chap who has produced some lovely calves. Fear not, he hasn’t gone to the great pie factory in the sky, but has moved on to a whole new herd of ladies!

beef cow Over the 3 years here he has fathered around 75 calves, many of which can be seen in the fields around the farm, and there are another 20 or so are still to be born this spring.

Shortly I will start looking for a new husband for my ladies, but not until July as a cow is pregnant for just over 9 months and we don’t want any calves born until April when the grass is growing again.

Watch this post for news of the new bull later in the year, as well as the calves when they start arriving in April.

David

Trit trot, meet the new kids on the block!

Trit trot, trit trot… look who’s arrived at Hoe Grange Holidays now!
Back in January we introduced you to our friendly Pygmy goats, Dora and Luna.

Pygmy goatsRecently our little goat herd has expanded somewhat as these two lovely ladies have both had kids. Meet Luna’s adorable twins, Nutmeg and Saffron, and Dora’s cute kid Looby Lou.Baby Pygmy goats

Here at Hoe Grange we are used to the arrival of lambs, but the kid goats were so much smaller when they were born that we were truly amazed and smitten – these cuddly kids have definitely stolen the “cute factor” from our Jack Russel dog Fudge!

Lambs are up on their feet fairly swiftly after being born, but these baby goats were instantly trying their hardest to stand and within minutes were staggering onto their feet.

drawing of baby goatOne of our holiday guests was so captivated by the new arrival that she sketched this fantastic pencil drawing of Looby Lou when she was just 24 hours old! Emma had never drawn a goat before, but as you can see she is very talented. Emma Warlow creates pet portraits, so if you want to see more of her amazing dog and horse pictures and paintings check out her Instagram @ebmw_artist.

Now that the kids are 2 and 3 weeks old they are very entertaining as they don’t just gambol about like lambs, but positively spring and leap from all four feet like Tigger in Winnie The Pooh!

Indeed “Their tops are made out of rubber
Their bottoms are made out of springs!
They’re bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy
Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!”

These adorable baby kid goats have already proved popular with guests and love nothing better than a cuddle!

cuddling baby goats10 amazing facts about Pygmy goats
  1. In the wild Pygmy goats prefer leaves to grass which is why we have no begonias left!
  2. Although Pygmy goats are small they produce quite a lot of milk, which is why our babies are growing so fast and have oodles of energy!Kid goat springingWeb
  3. Goats milk is naturally homogenized and is therefore more easily digested than cows milk.
  4. If threatened they stand up on their hind legs to make themselves appear bigger before bowing down and head butting the approaching enemy – which in our case is Fudge the Jack Russel.
  5. They have a lifespan of 10-15 years, so will be with us for quite sometime!
  6. Their horns start growing as soon as they are born – amazingly our little cuties already have tiny stumps at just 2 weeks old.
  7. A baby female is called a Doeling until it is a year old.
  8. Did you know goats can climb trees? At just 2 weeks old our kids are already jumping up the stone steps in the garden.
  9. Research shows that goats can change their accents when they move group or grow up. The only other mammals that do this are Dolphins, Elephants and of course Humans.
  10. No kidding our doelings are the cutest things you could ever see – why not stay at Hoe Grange and meet them?

goats on a photo shoot
Leaping goat Kid goat leapingWeb

Take a walk on the wild side

If you have a family who are mad about animals then why not take a walk on the wild side at Peak Wildlife Park near Leek?

Peak Wildlife Park logoWe had an interesting and very enjoyable day out getting up close and personal with a wide range of wild animals. Peak Wildlife Park is situated just over the Staffordshire border, high on the moorlands and is only half an hours drive from Hoe Grange.

What’s fabulous about Peak Wildlife Park is that the keepers are not just passionate about the animals, but dedicated to conservation, especially of endangered species.

It’s not a typical standard zoo where you watch the animals at a distance from behind the fence, here you can wander through the various walk-through enclosures and actually meet your favourite species face to face! You can experience the animals’ unique habitats from within, and hang out with the meerkats, waddle along with the penguins or watch the leaping lemurs as they glide from tree to tree.

Feedtime for LemursYou can take a walk on the wild side and wander around for as long as you like – no set paths here! This also means you can catch feed time in the different enclosures, which is just pure animal magic!

Peak Wildlife Park penguinfeedWeb22Who can resist the pesky Humboldt Penguins or the cheeky Ring-tailed Lemurs, the wonderful Wallabies, or the noisy Pygmy Goats? Then there are two adorable, perfectly trained pigs, who were better behaved than our dogs, sitting on command and walking to heal round the grounds!

Walking the pigs!Not only will you have fun, but you will come away with a greater knowledge and understanding of all the animals you come across. The keepers are so knowledgeable and enthusiastic and more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

Play areaThe site is accessible for guests with wheelchairs or pushchairs. The walk-throughs are ideal for toddlers and there are various indoor and outdoor playareas and a bouncy castle. There is an indoor picnic area to eat your packed lunch, or like us you may be tempted by the sumptuous stone-baked pizzas and local ice cream – delicious!                                                                                                                        Meerkat sentryMeerkats For a more involved, hands on understanding of animal husbandry and a peek behind the scenes you can even book a Keeper Experience, or a Mini Keeper Experience – a great way for little monkeys to meet all their favourite animals!

This is the closest you can get to endangered animals in natural surroundings, alongside keepers who know them well, understand their needs and have a wonderful rapport with them. Here’s my favourite video of the day – leaping Lemurs in slow-mo!

Lemur lookout
Lemur on the lookout!

It’s a fabulous whole day out, with interest to all ages. I certainly enjoyed our visit and thought it was great value for money with adult tickets costing £10.95, children £8.95 with under 2’s going free. Even better value is a season pass at £29.99, or 10% discount for groups of 10 or more. The concession price for entry into the wildlife park is £9.95 for students, disabled people, carers and senior citizens.

Whilst they don’t have facilities for dogs there is a local kennels near by who are happy to take your four legged friend just for the day.

A great way to spend a family fun day out, safe in the knowledge that you are supporting important conservation work.

Felicity

Tortoise

Ashbourne Sheep Fair

Ashbourne Sheep Fair today was a real celebration of all things sheep. There was a great turn out of folk to watch the hand shearing demonstrations, wool yarn spinning and the mock auction, which all gave the public an insight into the history and tradition of sheep farming in the Derbyshire Peak District.

shearing sheep by hand      spinning yarn

It was fabulous to see 17 breeds of sheep on display so that you could get up really close and compare the differences. The length and quality of wool varies tremendously, some sheep produce better meat and watch out as some breeds have the most amazing impressive horns!

whiteface woodland sheep
Whitefaced Woodland Sheep

There were lots of fun family activities from, guess the weight of the sheep, a sheep bran tub with a difference, to live music.

sheep fair crafts The market stalls were packed with #LoveLocal sheep related goodies including, Snelston Tweed fabrics and clothing, the The Woolroom duvets, mattresses and pillows, Drynose Dog Designs with wonderful quirky glass ware and gifts and David’s favourites – chocolate sheep-shaped lollies and cider from Kniveton Cider Company pressed from local apples.

If you had a question there were plenty of expert farmers on hand to explain the different attributes of the various breeds and geographically where they are best suited to graze.

ask a farmer      sheep farmer  It was wonderful to see some more local rare breeds including the Whiteface Woodland and the Derbyshire Gritstone, one of the oldest breeds, which as the name suggests, is native to the North of the Peak District, where it can thrive on the moorlands.

Derbyshire Grtistone sheep
Derbyshire Gritstone Sheep

Valais Blacknose Sheep For wool quality and sheer cute “ahh” factor the Valais Blacknose stole the show with their fluffy curly fleeces. As you can tell by their little bells round their necks they are not native to Derbyshire, but come from Switzerland. This means that they are adapted to hill pastures, and are thus becoming more popular in the UK.

You can find out more about the various sheep breeds on the Ashbourne Sheep Fair website.

The Sheep Fair took place on the main market square where weekly markets have been held since the first charter in 1257! It was a great success and is sure to take place again next year so why not join in the fun?

In the meantime the good news is that the Ashbourne Artisan Market is being launched on 10th September and will take place on the second Sunday of every month. I can’t wait to see what #LoveLocal delights will be on sale!

Felicity

Meet Quella our Canine Partners puppy

Exciting news! Over the last 12 months thanks to help of family, friends, and holiday guests we have raised enough funds to sponsor a Canine Partners puppy in training.

Our Canine Partners Puppy
Canine partner puppy Quella
What a cutie!

We are delighted to introduce you to Quella, who was born on 25th September 2016, so is now nearly 4 months old. She is a purebred black Labrador, full of life and a real cutie!

Quella is always very excited to get to her puppy class each week and is eager to learn new things. She is getting very good at her sit and down waits, and is always very focused on her puppy parent and what she is being asked to do. She’s currently learning recalls from distance with the added complication of other puppies around to distract her. Her training is progressing well with lots of encouragement from her puppy parent.

How Canine Partners dogs help

Canine Partners assistance dogs help transform the lives of people with various disabilities – we have seen this firsthand with guests who have brought their assistance dogs on holiday. It is a real partnership and the dogs are individually trained to help people with everyday tasks, which can be difficult, painful or indeed impossible without the aid of a dog.

Cainine partner puppy trainingTasks such as, opening and closing doors, unloading the washing machine, picking up dropped items, pressing buttons and switches, getting undressed and also fetching help in an emergency.  The dogs are also good at housework, helping to strip the bed, hang the washing on the line, putting their own dog bowls in the sink, and tidying up their toys.

They can even help their owners when out shopping by fetching items off the supermarket shelf or retrieving money and card from a cash machine! However these amazing dogs are not just a physical help they are also give a huge psychological boost and help people to reconnect and socially interact too.

After completing initial training the dogs are carefully partnered with their new owners and trained further according to the specific needs of the individual – you can see why it costs such a lot to train the dogs to such incredible lengths.

Quella’s progress

Quella has been out and about, experiencing new sights and sounds and getting used to the hustle and bustle of life in town and the fun of the park. One of her favourite things is play time with her puppy parents grand children! you can see form the photo how attentive she is.

Canine Partner puppy dog in trainingHere’s what her puppy parents think of her: “Quella is a really loving pup who is a joy to have around the house. Quella loves a cuddle and helps by bringing the keys when we are going out. Quella has just learnt how to go up the stairs but hasn’t quite mastered the art of coming back down them! Quella enjoys going to the shops and says hello to everyone she meets. Quella is a clever girl who loves her food and will do lots of fun tricks for a bit of sausage! Quella is a comical, cheeky little pup who always has her puppy parents laughing”.

We will keep you updated as Quella progresses with her basic and advanced training and then gets partnered with her new owner. Click here to find out more about Canine Partners, how to support their fantastic work, or to make a quick donation. If you’re creative why not take part in the Canine Partners Textile Art Challenge

Felicity

Trit trot, here come the goats

Trit trot, trit trot… look who’s arrived at Hoe Grange Holidays! Joining chief guest entertainment officer Fudge the Jack Russel, we would like to introduce you to Luna and Dora the Pygmy goats. These two lovely ladies are definitely not “gruff” goats, but extremely friendly.

High on a Peak District hill stood a lonely goatherd…Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo!

pygmy goats on a hillThese miniature goats previously lived in Ashbourne with our niece and nephew, who are now grown up and out to work all day. As goats are such social creatures Suzie and Sam decided it was unfair to leave the goats home alone, so we are delighted to have inherited them.

They will certainly have lots of company here on the farm – the goat pen with their little shelter is next to the horse paddock, where the chickens also scrat about and the dogs Twix, Crunchie and Fudge often pop round to say hello.

Pygmy goats are the diminutive cousin of the standard domestic goat. They are “fun, friendly and easy to keep”, so Suzie and Sam tell us – we will see!

Unlike domestic goats, which are usually kept as utility animals for their milk or their meat, you will be pleased to hear that the Pygmy goat is mainly kept for amusement – we have already had considerable fun – Dora is definitely an explorer and very nimble. She has already escaped by jumping straight over the stable door in one giant leap! We now have a strategically placed hay rack as an obstacle to prevent further break outs. They may be small but they can certainly jump!

pygmy goat at Hoe Grange As these two adorable, adventurous goats were kept in town rather than on a farm they are trained to walk on the lead and love nothing more than a trek up fields.

They are natural climbers and love roaming and leaping about on the rocky outcrops, surveying the Derbyshire hills. Hoe Grange is going to be an ideal home for them.

Dora the explorer checking out her new surroundings

These two nanny goats have taken our eco ethos to heart and already joined the Hoe Grange Holidays Green Team – they are very keen on recycling and have completely stripped the Christmas tree bare – not a pine needle in sight. One down four more to go!  pygmy goats

It’s true they eat anything, but Christmas trees are a real goat’s treat!

As you can see from our goat video our Labrador Twix isn’t yet entirely sure what to make of them!

Here’s an interesting goat fact – The Italian word for goat is capra; as proved by our little video goats are prone to change direction and have a short attention span, so you can see where the word capriccio, which means whimsy, developed. It is from this word that the English language borrowed capricious, meaning apt to change direction on a whim. Dora and Luna have certainly got everyone running round in circles!

You can meet this entertaining pair in person when you stay in one of cosy log cabins or gorgeous glamping pods.

Felicity

A day out at Bakewell Market

To market, to market to buy a fat pig, home again from Bakewell market, jiggety-jig!

cows with calfOur holiday guests love to see the calves running around the farm fields with their mothers in the Spring, but let’s not forget the farm animals are here for a reason. Ours is a beef herd and the calves grow up to be 500kg of glorious Derbyshire prime beef.

As the “suckler” cows graze freely in open fields we sell our young animals at about 16 -20 months old before they are fully grown. They then go onto specialist finishing units who feed them up and put the meat on them ready for slaughter. This is the most cost effective way for us to farm in the Derbyshire hills as it is too rocky and high up to grow corn or other fodder crops.

Selling cows at Market

Our animals are sold at auction in Bakewell Market just 9 miles down the road. The livestock market was redeveloped in the late 1990’s and is now one of England’s largest. Incredibly the market dates back earlier than 1330, at which time the people of Bakewell claimed to have had a market from time immemorial!

Bakewell town’s name comes from Badecanwylla, mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle, which can be translated as Badeca’s Well after the town’s springs and an Anglo-Saxon chieftain.

To slim down our herd so we have fewer cattle to keep over the winter we recently sold 10 youngsters in one sale and 10 more a couple of weeks later. The cows get sorted into small groups of matching sizes so they stay with their friends, which is less stressful. The price the purchaser bids is per head, and as an inducement to attract the best price it is traditional to offer a little luck money with the cattle – which is why you can see me waving money about!

Watching the auction is fascinating and Bakewell Market is open to the public so you can also go in and watch the action. But be careful to keep your hands still and don’t catch the auctioneers eye, or you may be going home with a pet cow or two!

A day out in Bakewell

Bakewell also has a thriving outdoor market with stalls selling everything from locally grown fruit and veg to socks, sweets and exotic Indian foods. A trip to Bakewell makes an excellent day out for the whole family, as there are also lots of independent shops and cafes. Don’t forget to try the famous Bakewell pudding, the recipe for which dates back to at least 1837.

Before you leave wander down to the river to see the famous five-arched bridge across the River Wye, which is one of the best-known landmarks in the Peak District. It dates from around 1200, is among the oldest in the country, and now designated as an Ancient Monument. Contrast this with the new bridge which links the town centre and the livestock market, and here you can see a strange phenomena going on!

Bridge at Bakewell marketA few years ago couples started to fasten engraved padlocks to the bridge, now there are hundreds of all shapes and sizes – I wonder how may of theses couples are still locked together??

If you want to add your own lock there is an enterprising stall holder in the market who will sell you a lock and even engrave it for you.

David

Pumpkin carving ideas inspired by The Peak District

Autumn is in full-swing here in the Derbyshire Peak District; our trees are full of glittering golds and beautiful browns and the nights are drawing in… which means it’s pumpkin carving time!

Pumpkins (or Jack-o’-lanterns as they are also known) are traditionally made at Halloween by slicing off the top (to form a lid), scooping out the flesh and then making marks into the orange outer skin, or cutting through the pumpkin skin (caution using sharp tools!) to reveal a flickering candle light inside… very effective and beautiful at night time.

So, we’ve had a look for some designs that may inspire you to carve your own, based on animals that are commonly found here in the Peak District… we have three beautiful owls, a traditional cat design, a sheep from our farm, a cunning fox and a horse carousel.

Three owl pumpkins

Did you know there are about 200 species of owls? These three won’t make those wonderful twit-t woos that you can here at Hoe Grange Holidays, that’s for sure. My mum loves these especially as she used to be a Brown Owl in The Girl Guides – what a hoot! Designs by womansday.com.

Owls carved pumpkinCreative cat pumpkin

Spooky! This very beautiful feline friend is sitting on a branch, up a tree, possible looking out for a wicked witch on a broomstick. It was made by craft-your-home.com

cat carved pumpkinBaaa.. sheep pumpkin

sheep carved pumpkinAs “ewe” know, we have plenty of sheep scattered in fields around the holiday cabins and glamping pods, so we just had to find a sheep design for a pumpkin. Photo added by Sarah Grantham to Pinterest.com

Fantastic Fox pumpkinfox carved pumpkin

If you don’t want to actually carve a pumpkin, why not stick items to it with a glue gun, like felt, card and googly eyes? Also use a marker pen to draw on missing elements. A much simpler way for small children to take part in the pumpkin celebrations and very effective. Image courtesy of simpleasthatblog.com

Horsing around with pumpkins

How could we leave out a horse design when we invite guests to bring horses on holiday? These are pretty tricky to carve into pumpkins, and this design took 5 hours to create! We love the beautifully intricate design and the fact that you can look right through it, by Brandi Korte on Flickr.

horse pumpkinWhen you’ve completed your design and carved your pumpkin, display on your front porch at Halloween to welcome Trick or Treaters! Any leftovers needn’t go to waste, why not make some tasty pumpkin soup, such as Delia’s roasted pumpkin soup with melted cheese?

Farm Stay pumpkinOne of our Farm Stay members has been very creative this year and cleverly carved out the Farm Stay logo, which looks very effective. If you are looking for a countryside holiday don’t forget to check out the many fabulous farmhouse B&B’s and country self-catering cottages available through Farm Stay UK.

We hope you all have some family fun whilst carving your pumpkins for Halloween.

Don’t forget we’d love you to share your pumpkin photos with us, just tag us into your Tweets (@HoeGrange) and we’ll RT them for you!

Felicity

All is safely gathered in!!

Make hay while the sun shines,

It may have been Sunday afternoon, but that means nothing if there is hay to move!

Unloading hay bales
Made in the Peak District, a lovely crop of hay.

We were luck to snatch a good crop of hay in the few fine days this week to top up the barn ready for our equine guests this winter, It smells really nice, so why not book in to bring your horse on a holiday knowing he’ll have plenty to eat.

The whole family, even Felicity, gets roped in to such jobs but is soon found sitting down having a little rest!!

IMG_3770Any one short of hay for the winter, I could be persuaded to sell a few bales!!

 

David