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Report From Coquetdale

The snow of February 2001 was so heavy here that extensive damage was caused to trees including our conifer plantation, Gloomy Wood. We took advice from a forestry specialist who in his condescending way confirmed what we really already knew, namely that the gaps in the wood were now so large that the wind would get in and progressively wreck it. We took the decision to have it clear felled and in December two great machines came and left it all in neat stacks by the roadside. The money is now rolling in but of course the felling licence (you need a licence to cut down your own trees too) requires us to replant. We had intended to do that this winter but when we tried to burn the heaps of waste they refused to burn so we have postponed it all until next season. Meanwhile we can clean out the drains and try to re establish some tracks through the ruts and stumps. Replanting will be with native broadleaves and we tell those who complain about the destruction we have wrought that it will all look lovely in 40 years time and until then they should enjoy the new view.

Lots of boughs fell round the fields in that and other storms and we have not yet caught up with clearing them. Firewood supplies should not be lacking. Floods and storms wrecked two watergates and left lots of debris in the burn but the otter man from the Wildlife Trust was very excited by this ideal habitat and found traces of otters wherever he looked.

The bees failed totally in 2001. They wintered badly with only 2 hives out of five coming into the spring as viable colonies. It is unclear why this was so but it may be that warm weather early in winter made them too active so that they used up their stores then later it was very very cold; moderately cold weather is better as long as they stay dry. Movement restrictions mean 1 did not take them to the rape fields where strong hives win a surplus and weak hives can build up. In the end 1 won no honey but was able to rebuild to five colonies. This year they look stronger but it is too early to be sure.

We bought in no calves and were, of course, unable to sell the previous batch of yearlings as planned. Instead we had them served and they all now have eager buyers lined up, with calving due in the summer. As we could get no straw they wintered out on a diet of hay and a very little barley and have done well, too well as some are overfat. They also had home grown carrots, fodder beet and swedes thanks to George Dent’s tuition in hoeing.

The geese failed to lay last year (too old perhaps); the ducks did OK; the guinea fowl worked out that they were better off roosting in the rafters of the barn than out in the snow on the telephone wires but still lost one of their number to the fox (but no-one grieved); and the chickens laid busily round Easter time but soon lost interest.

What adventures will 2002 bring?

The Philipsons