A farmer’s Christmas

mikeanddaughterThe farming seasons merge from one time to another but it feels as if a line has been drawn when harvest is finished and, at this time of year, when planting has finished. On the farm it is as if we cannot really relax and start thinking about winter activities until the seed drill is put away. It therefore feels very wrong to be writing about Christmas when we are struggling with sticky seed beds and hundreds of acres of winter cereals still to plant.

Constant rain throughout October means we need to get on A.S.A.P. As each weather forecast predicts new depressions sweeping in from the west we start to assume this stands for ‘Always Say A Prayer.’

Time waits for no man though and before we know it we shall be looking to Christmas and “Turkey Time”. We have kept turkeys on the farm for as long as I can remember. As a boy I always enjoyed plucking time. Back then we had a team of pluckers who were mainly women from the village keen for a bit of cash at Christmas time and who enjoyed the banter as they worked. Vi Miles was always the shop steward who negotiated the pay and decided who should come (she had high standards and kept an eye on their work as well as making sure tea breaks were included). There was always the extra thrill of catching an innocent sales rep who looked in, and rolling him in the feathers. He was lucky to escape without his trousers being pulled down, or at least the threat of it!

Now there are fewer volunteers from the village and we rely on Polish pluckers but the turkey business has basically changed little over the years. Despite talk of people eating less meat we believe there will always be a demand for meat produced locally and traditionally. Our turkeys are free range with access to a dry roomy barn; they are fed on home grown food with no antibiotic treatments and they meet their end on the farm without the stress of being moved to a slaughterhouse. We are also now keeping our pigs in new straw yards in a more extensive system and we will again be selling sausages, ham and bacon from the farm alongside the turkeys.

If you would like to help us continue our tradition and buy locally then order your Christmas turkey, ham, chipolatas and bacon directly from us on the farm and we will have everything ready for you to collect on the 22nd and 23rd December. Call 07765 222530 or 07773 371961, email sales@rhartley.net or alternatively we have a new Facebook page – Hartleys.

Mike Hartley

December 2019-January 2020