Last year in July 2014 my husband (Phil) and I were sucessful applicants for a Tenant Farm called Kilsham in Petworth West Sussex.  I am going to start to write about being a Tenants Farmers Wife before I am 40 (only a few months away!!) I will hope to write down the ups and downs, trials and tribulations of being a tenant, all the farming activities we will undertake as a family (we have two boys Tom & Archie) and how we hope to turn this farm into our business and most importantly our home.  I hope that you can follow us through this journey.

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  1. Well this blog has taken so long to get finished. It's hard to believe that lambing is nearly over (Well our main flock finished on the 15th March and I have Three Greyface Dartmoors, one has lambed and the other two don’t seem to be thinking that they will lamb any time soon!) When lambing is happening you feel like time is going so slowly but looking back its only been a month in your life of a complete routine change.  Five weeks have passed now with these Greyface Dartmoors, even if you only have one to lamb you still have to check it at regular intervals as the time you dont, something will happen and you will probably end up loosing a lamb. Its taken me ages to get this blog written as I don’t like to disturb the sleeping farmer hubby as our office is in the bedroom and he is still getting up at 3.00am to check the two girls. Not sure if a tapping key pad and then the delete button is therapeutic?

    It all went off when they were due to be collected from Kilsham to return to Park Farm in February.   Luckily we had timed it right to coincide with school half term to get things underway.  I was getting very anxious about lambing as I had not done any for ages (well I suppose its like riding a bike you never forget!) and I really hate the dark.  I first went on to Amazon to get a head torch and then walkie talkies (so I could communicate with Farmer Hubby if things went wrong and also to say goodnight to the boys if I was in the shed of dread!) and then just to back up a big boomer of a torch.  If I could have street lamps from my back door to the barn I would!  

    So Phil and I did eventually get into a routine when I would cover the evening as he was doing the 3.00am onwards shift. Phil would go to bed at about 9.00pm (and still is!).  So this was it me going out and checking with all my illuminations and then having the music on to keep me company.  My sister in law and father in law would be out there for a bit as the suck lambs needed feeding and silage needed to be topped up.  It is surprisingly how the time would fly by.  I did have a couple of evenings where I would finally go in after midnight and then Phil did come out at one time 2.00am to relieve me which I was so grateful for.  You kind of switch off and watch the sheep, either the ones lambing or just the ewes and lambs resting peacefully together, or the lambs having a mad five minutes running around or on their mums back snoozing which always makes me chuckle. Other jobs include making sure that the single pens have enough silage/hay, their buckets have water in and if the pens are dirty that they are topped up with straw. It is a nightmare to keep coming in and out as I had so many layers on.  One evening I did make a bed on a bale of straw and put a couple of wads for a pillow so I could watch the sheep lambing and just lay there opening and shutting my eyes.

    I did have a few occasions in the barn of trying to catch ewes on my own. These ladies do weigh quite a bit and trying to hold on to them was not fun, luckily there are no cameras around as I am sure I could have earned my keep from You’ve Been Framed! being dragged around a pen swearing and cursing that I will hold on to you and then when you get them they just lie down like a sack of Sh1t and you then still have to get them into a pen.  I would only need to catch them if they had been lambing for a while and you would just have to check to see if all was coming the right way (two front feet and a nose!) There was also on a few occasions of me talking to myself with my hand up the ewe saying “I can do this” while you are just feeling a tail and no feet (breech presentation).  I would have to talk my way through the process of pushing it back in and then running my hand down to flip the back feet free and then talking my way through about getting the lamb out so that it does not get stuck! I did also have to ask for help as there was one with just a head and a leg but the lamb had been there a while (its tougne was swollen) luckily all came out well.  So there are many presentations that you can find when lambing sheep.

    Its fine just doing the lambing but this time having a family to look after was another sum in the equation.  I could quite happily live of jacket potatoes or beans on toast for a while and not ironing clothes but this was not going to go down well with two boys and their school uniforms.  So having to think and prepare meals, get pack lunches made, doing the ironing (my mum did help out a bit) hovering as most of the barn would end up in the house and then washing.  The washing was the main one as if you have never lambed before OH my goodness the smell is not pleasant.  The lambing goo just humms after it has dried out.  I had to put up with Phil coming in stinking when he was lambing in January and eating lunch but now it was my turn. I lost count of the times I had to change and wash clothes, my poor washing machine.  You then throw the school run into this equation and it gets a bit silly.  We have an area downstairs in our house for boots and outdoor clothes and my goodness the smell in the mornings was not a welcoming one. Living in waterproof trousers to prevent the goo and the pooh did help but not on your arms. 

    So we were very lucky that we did have somewhere to lamb our sheep as Phil's Dad had finished his 270 odd and many had been let out. If not we would have been in a right pickle.  At Park Farm Phil and his family have their lambing routine and all was set up so it was a case of just going with the flow.  The process for lambing and also the after care is as follows.

    So when the ewes come into the barn you would usually split them up into Singles, Twins and Triplets as this allows you to give more food to the ewes carrying more than one.  The sheep are scanned like we are when pregnant and then they are marked with spray on the top of their heads, on the wool, blue representing a single, any twin would be left blank and then a triplet would be orange.

    When a ewe starts to lamb, the signs include scratching the floor, bleating, getting up and down, licking her lips, lying down and straining. You should then see the water bag.  If all is going well it could take minutes or it could be hours (just like women we are all different) When she is nearly there and sometimes when the lamb is just about to come out she may make some horrific pushing noises which always brings back memories of child birth and also watching One Born Every Minute! I feel their pain! You will start to see the feet and the nose of the lamb if its a normal presentation. Like I said earlier you could get all sorts. You know from here mark how many she should have so if its a single after she has lambed you would then pick the lamb up (very gooey!) and then make mad pleating noises to ensure that the ewe will follow – another thing to keep to yourself for impersonations! You would then move it to the mothering up pens, these are just made of hurdles at the side of the pens to hold one ewe and her lambs.

    Tom & Archies Ewe X Giving Birth to her second lamb (I was using my small compact camer as I didnt wish to cover my other one in lambing gooo!)

    Kilsham X Lambing1 Kilsham X Lambing2 Kilsham X Lambing 3 Kilsham X Lambing 4

    A Ewe straining while giving birth and also the two front feet showing a normal presentation.

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    The mothering up pens are so that the ewe and lamb can bond, if you have a mad young sheep you can keep her in here and wait for her to have her other lambs without her running off! Also if you have other eweslambing they will not get muddled up and try to pinch each others lambs.  You will let the ewe and her lamb(s) get settled and let her lick the lambs.  Once the lambs are getting to their feet and start the process of looking under her for the milk and she had delivered all of them you will then go in and start the process of ensuring that the lamb(s) all have a suckle and then iodine the lambs navels to ensure infection does not enter.

    Mothering Up Pens for individual Ewes and lambs.


    For every lamb you will make sure that they get under the ewe and have a suckle to ensure that they receive the colostrum.  You are trying to give the lamb the best start, it will not pay off to walk away and let them get on with it as you will end up with more problems in the long run. So you have to get in the pen on your knees and hold the lamb up and encourage it to the teat to suckle (hence why you get covered in goo) so its easy with a single (most of the time they will find it themselves) but when you have twins or triplets you have to repeat this process for all of them.  Lets add into the equation that the lamb does not wish to suckle, the ewe is going round and around or she may not have any milk to feed all these lambs.  You pull your hair out and walk away and calm down! All in all you either get the lamb to suckle, you may have to make up some powered colostrum to feed through a bottle or end up stomach tubing it or milking the ewe out if she has milk to then bottle feed or stomach tube.  It does take time and you will have to keep on going back to ensure that they can find it on their own for the next 24-48 hours.   

    Trying to get lambs to feed. Hence living in waterproof trousers as you get covered either by the lamb or from what is in the straw. 

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    So once the lamb(s) are fit and well and also the ewe is doing well you can move on to the next stage. You hope that this will be within 48 hours.  We never put out a ewe with three lambs as no matter how much milk she has she will never keep up with this demand and in the long run you will end up bringing one back in and also you will always want two good lambs rather than three not so good lambs.   So the ringing pliers come out and if you are a male cross your legs as the ram lambs have their testicles rung (always making sure you have both plumbs!) and then the rams and ewe lambs will also have their tails rung, this is to prevent over the warmer months ahead them getting mucky backsides and the flies pestering them and laying eggs and this resulting in fly strike and maggots!

    You give the rams a few hours to recover and then you will spray a number on the side of the ewe and then the lambs which will allow us to make sure that the lambs are always with their mum. You will move the ewe and her lambs into a large pen which will have other ewes and lambs in it.  This is so that the ewes and lambs can get used to a larger area and also mixing with others before finally going out.  Any triplets will have the smallest lamb removed and it will go into a pen for bottle feeding.  These lambs will be fed every 4/5 hours until a month old when the feed will be reuced. The feeding times work out to be 7am. 12.00pm. 4.00pm. 9.00pm and when you are still lambing Phil was feeding them at 3.00am.  In total we have got 25 suck lambs for our 85 ewes which have lambed.  This is a bit too high and we have had to take a few of the lambs away from the fist time lambers as they have had not had enough milk to rear twins.

    Spraying the ewe and her lambs if they are twins to ensrue that we know which lambs belong to which ewe. Ewes and lambs are then walked up to the larger pens.  Ewes and lambs together in group pens.

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    Well it turned full circle as we got our fields electric fenced over at Kilsham (taking down the flexi net and having to put up posts and two strands of wire as the lambs can get their heads stuck in the flexi netting). We finally started to trailer our ewes with their lambs back to Kilsham the ones which were fit enough. The eweswere wormed before they left and the lambs were spilt off from them in the trailer. I do have enough of that road to Petworth with the school run but I really did get fed up with the amount of loads we had to do.  So after several journeys over and our twins and singles split up in different fields we have finally got all of our sheep back to Kilsham.  I am just waiting now for my remaining two Greyface Dartmoor ewes to lamb and they will be moved over.

    Phil drenching the ewes, lambs running on to the trailer, arriving at Kilsham and being unloaded, X the Ewe and one of her lambs

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    So year one of lambing (nearly) complete and no divorce! So we can manage to work together and organise ourselves.  Fingers crossed for many more years.


  2. So I thought I would do the scary thing and start 2015 with writing a blog (seeing as its supposed to be the in thing to do?!)  Is going to be mainly on our family’s new adventure ‘A Tennant Farmers Wife Before 40’.  It's not going to have poignant meaning full phrases but just our new experiences ahead, the highs and lows and about how we hope to turn the farm into a business and a home with my family.  At this point I would l just like to introduce Tom (8) and Archie (7)  My first blog is going to be a long one but it will have lots of pictures to show you the developments so far.  Hope you enjoy.

    So it was back in April 2014 that we heard about Kilsham Farm coming up for tender and Phil and I thought we would have a crack.  Phil went to the viewing day on 7th May with his father and then we went back with an agent on 16th May to have a look around the farm-house and buildings. Looking through the cobwebs, very colourful wall paper and some vibrant yellow and orange paint it was a lovely warm and very large house.  After leaving you should not do it but I kept thinking about where you would put furniture and pictures!

    We had reached a point here at Park Farm where it was going to be this or moving as we needed to do something for ourselves. It’s been nice here for the boys growing up with their Grandparents, Aunts and Cousins, having this as a wonderful starting point but we needed to have a new start. Phil put his head down and worked very hard producing many a spreadsheet and he did himself proud with many formulas. We stressed and stressed even more when the deadline tender approached and we only just got an agent, also the all clear from the bank if things would work out.

    One minute you heard that it was just going to be one of the big farms and then the next it would be for a family. Well on 10th June we put our tender in and then just sat and we waited.  Phil then had a phone call from Smiths Gore on 19th June to tell him that we had been selected for the first round of interviews.  Two agents came on 2nd July to meet us and discuss what our plans would be. At this point I would like to just say how proud I am of Phil and he just sailed through this with all plans, rotations, and stocking etc.  I studied agriculture and concentrated on pigs, but after having children and not really being involved in the farming scene anymore for many years I had become very rusty. I am completely behind my husband and we are a great team and I know we work well together and would put our hearts and souls into this. 

    So they went away and we just sighed and said we would have to wait and see. It was a tense time and then Phil had a call while at work on 14th July to be informed that we had got through to the last three for an interview with Lord Egremont.  Wow to go from giving it a go, may be possibly getting a look in, to panic we have no agent, and also many saying you will be very lucky on your first attempt at going for a Farm Business Tenancy to this.  So I had to go shopping for Phil to get some new trousers and a shirt (cost me an arm and a leg from a reputable mens clothes shop in Petworth!) On the 17th July we were to have our interview with Lord Egremont, I felt sick at work and then waiting in the Leconfield office for Phil was so tense. We gave each other a hug and just reminded ourselves we just had to be ourselves. It was over in a flash, again Phil was brilliant, to watch someone who always kept saying he could not do this and had no confidence in himself to see him flourish from start to finish was just brilliant.  Afterwards we departed as I had to pick the boys up from school.  Back home we could reflect and Phil was very worried about how it went and how we came across.  We were ourselves which is all you can be. Just before I departed from home to take Tom to a club Phil had a call that evening and he was so shocked and happy, he put the phone down and informed me that we had got it! Shock, Joy, Excitement, Worry all came over us.  This was it a New Beginning! but my what a daunting one it is.  It still has not sunk in to both of us that yes now is the time to flourish and it is the real world where we will have to grow up (still trying to be and feel like 21 again!) We are going to be on a steep learning curve for business but we both wish to grasp it with both hands and succeed.

    We have many people to thank and firstly its Phil's Dad reputation for the way he has farmed and the way Phil has farmed with him producing top quality lambs and farming sheep to the top spec.  This had obviously not gone unnoticed to many who know Louie and who know how hard a worker Phil is.   We heard this over the coming months.  Also to my parents for their huge support and to friends who gave us many words of encouragement.

    So what happened after all this. Well it has been frustrating for us with regards to not being able to live at Kilsham Farm.  As a family we are so looking forward to new beginnings having a blank canvas to start with (for me to learn the ropes, and set up a B&B) The Farm house was in desperate need of some TLC and is undergoing a huge transformation/ renovation.  We were supposed to be in on 29th   September when the Tenancy was signed but not a chance this would happen. Christmas has come and gone and we will just wait and see. Each week you would go up and see this magnificent house and farm and I still cannot believe that this will be our house one day.

    Here are some pictures of the transformation which Kilsham Farm House has undergone.

    Kilsham Farm House

    Front View

    Kilsham Front1 Kilsham Front2 Kilsham Front3 Kilsham Front 4 

     Side View

    Kilsham Side 1 Kilsahm Side 2 Kilsham Side 3 Kilsham Side 3a Kilsham Side 4
    Kilsham Side 6 Kilsham Side 6 Kilsham Side 7 Kilsham Side10  

     Back View

    Kilsham Back 1 Kilsham Back 2

    Kilsham Farm House Kitchen Utility Room & Living Room

    Kitchen1 Klisham Kitchen 2 Kilsham Kitche 3 Kilsham Kitchen 6  
    Kitchen Kilsham 5 Kilsham Kitchen 7 Kilsham Kitchen 10 Kilsham Kitchen 15 Kilsham Kitchen 16
     Kitchen 8  Kilsham Kitchen 9  Kilsham Kitchen 11 Kilsham Fire Place 1  Kilsham Fireplace2


     Kilsham Other Rooms

    B&B Living Room

    Kilsham B&B Room1


    Kilsham B&B Sitting Room2

    Boys Bedroom - Dividing Wall

    Kisham Boys Bedroom1

    Archies Bedroom

    Kilsham Boys Bedroom2

    Toms Bedroom

    Kilsham Boys Bedrrom2

    Our Bedroom

    Kilsham Our Bedroom 1

    B&B Ensuite Bedroom

    Kilsham B&B Room1

     B&B Bathroom

    Kilsham B&B Bathroom2

     Family Bathroom

    Kilsham Family Bathroom1


    Kilsham Family Bathroom2

    Kilsham Family Bathroom 10


    Kilsham Office1

    Kilsham Office2    

    Kilsham is 300 acres which comprises of 230 acres of arable and 70 acres of grass.  We will intend to have Spring Barley, Maize and potatoes which will be planted this year, the maize and potatoes will be grown by contractors this will hope to ease the cash flow!.  Along with our small flock of sheep we are also doing B&B for 39 Swiss Red Dairy Heifers.  

    Plans started to get into action with Phil getting a new grass pasture drilled and some forage rape and also some mustard in the ground in August.  Phil and I went and selected 40 shearling lambs in August (a yearling sheep before its first shearing. Also hogget, old-season lamb, teg) We were also given 40 texel cross ewes from Phils Dad.  Our small breeding flock has begun. These have been kept at Park Farm and Grazed over in Petersfield during the Autumn, this is where the rams went in as well.   We aim to lamb at the end of February.  The sheep went over to Kilsham on 12th January and will stay here for a few weeks before returning to Park Farm for lambing.


    Kilsham Sheep 1

    Tom & Archie's Sheep X A MO KO leading the way

    Kilsham Sheep2

    Kilsham is in need of some TLC and to be got back into order.  There are miles of fences to put up, while we have started the endless task which will keep us going for our 15 year tenancy of clearing old fences, cutting back trees (and lots of gigantic brambles!) we have completely finished one field which is in front of the house and have started on another but we have had to use electric fencing for the moment. We are not exactly sure how the cows stayed in, they must have been like the crofted sheep and know their territory.  Hedges and barbed wire will not keep sheep in and we all know that sheep love to find the gaps and get the greener grass on the other side!  

    Archie & Tom Ready to Help!

    Kilsham Clearing1


    Kilsham Clearing2 Kilsham Clearing3 Kilsham Clearing 5
    Kilsham Clearing 6 Kilsham Clearing7  Kilsham Fencing1  Kilsham Fencing2
    Kilsham Fencing 6c Kilsham Fencing 5 Kilsham Fencing 5b Kilsham Fencing 6a

    Phil pointing Chestnut posts which wereCut by himself and his Dad

    Kilsham Clearing4

    Me getting used to my new tool, the Fence Banger

    Kilsham Fencing Banging



    With a livestock building at the farm and also having to purchase all the straw and silage as in going tenants we obviously had to get some mouths to eat all this and sleep on it over the winter months. There was no way that we could justify paying out for some suckler cows.  It would have been lovely but we are going to end up in the red for quite a period so to avoid a huge dept we came to the conclusion that we could look after or contract rear someone elses cows.  Phil called the marked to see if there was anyone interested and in a day or so his number was given to someone who farms over in Winchester.  So we have 38 cows (one sadly fractured its leg and had to be destroyed) Their breed are Swiss Red but as they were unloaded off the trailer I did wonder as they were black and white! Anyway they have settled in and are eating their way through the silage. The straw and muck will help our crops grow later on in the year when it gets spead. There are a couple of friendly ones which have a stroke and a rub which is nice.  Its nice when you dive up to the yard and its filled with Moooing as they wait at the gate for their food.

    Kilsham Cattle1 Kilsham Cattle2 Kilsham Cattle 3 Kilsham Cattle 4
    Kilsham Cattle 6      


    Farm Buildings

    Kilsham used to be an old dairy farm so we have two reasonably sized livestock buildings, an old dairy, two stables which then has a four bay barn, a traditional stone barn with a loft area and a dutch barn.  We will obviously need some space for storage but we will hope to rent these buildings out to local business/storage (agin to make money, its all about the money!!) 

    Kilsham View of Yard 1 Kilsham View of Yard2 Kilsham Farm Buildings 1 Kilsham Farm Building 2
    Kilsham Farm Building 3 Kilsham Farm Building 4 Kilsham Farm Building 5 Kilsham Farm Buildings 6
    Kilsham Farm Buildings 8 Kilsham Farm Buildings 9 Kilsham Farm buildings 10 Kilsham Farm Buildings 11


    So this is where we are with Kilsham Farm but over the weeks I am sure things will come along in the house and we may be in at Easter (fingers crossed) There are many jobs to be done so keep on following this page to be informed about our life at our new farm.


    Liz XX