Last weekend I went to visit 18 year old, Holly with her Percheron heavy horses. As well as the Percheron's, Holly's family farm rears cattle, sheep and the odd chicken wandering around the yard! I was really looking forward to this blog as I haven't done any horses yet and I especially love heavy horses. When I am at agricultural shows, however busy I may get I always make sure I go and look at the heavy horses. They are so majestic and impressive with their sheer size and presence. I was in absolute awe of Holly from the plaiting and braiding of Mable's tail and mane to the way she handled her with such ease.
Holly with her 4 year old Percheron mare, Mabel.
How long have you had Percheron horses and how did you become interested in them?
I have had Percherons for 3 years now and first became interested in the breed when my mother, Sharon, bought our first horse.
What made you choose the Percheron over other heavy horses?
Firstly the Percheron is clean legged, meaning they have not got feathered feet (hair on their legs) and although Suffolk is our home county the beautiful dappled markings of the Percheron caught my eye.
Holly with her two yearling Percherons, Bonnie and Lass.
Where do they originate and what is their history?
The Percheron is a breed of draft horse that originated in the Huisne river valley in France which is part of the Perche province and where the breed takes its name. They are usually grey or black in colour. Percherons are well muscled, and known for their intelligence and willingness to work.
How many Percherons do you have?
We have three Percherons in total, a 4 year old mare and 2 yearling fillies.
Mabel enjoying a scratch.
What do you do with your Percherons?
The Percherons are shown at both smaller fairs and county shows but more recently the oldest mare Mable we have began breaking to ride and drive, beging with leading her around in our village to get her used to different sights and sounds, then long reining her and from there pulling a tyre.
Do you hope to breed Percherons in the future?
Yes… However at the minute breaking in the eldest mare and with training the two yearling taking up a lot of time 3 is just enough!
You show your horses, why is this important to you?
Having spent many years showing the familys Pedigree Simmental cattle and my own Southdown and Beltex sheep, the show ring is a familiar sight. It just seemed natural to show the horses. Learning how to show them, plait and braid had been very challenging but with a few championship’s under my belt its all been worth it.
Over the last three years Holly has learnt how to plait and braid for the show ring.
Mabel waiting patiently while she is plaited up.
What do you look for in a ‘good quality’ Percheron?
Being a heavy horse, they are built for working, so good legs and movement are essential when carrying or pulling heavy loads. The horse must be something you enjoy looking at in the field so for me the most important part is the head, with females a fine feminine head is an essential. Along with this the horse needs a good body and to be broad throughout. But like every breed and species each person’s opinion is different.
What advice would you give someone looking to get into heavy horses?
Working with heavy horses is a dying art and without new people owning and working them the breeds will soon die out, everyone in the societies are so helpful and encouraging and will do anything to help! Heavy horses isn’t all about expensive carts like you see at the shows… you can have just as much enjoyment out of riding, showing or breeding them.
I would like to say a HUGE thank you to Holly for taking the time to introduce me to her stunning Percheron horses and for showing me round her family farm. As well as meeting the horses I got to meet the sheep, chickens and cows, including Molly the Jersey calf, who was Holly's 18th birthday present! I had such a great afternoon watching Holly work with Mabel and seeing the bond between them, it was so impressive to see Holly work alongside these gentle giants. I am looking forward to getting back to the studio to draw Mabel, I am a little nervous though!
Working on a farm does mean you get through ALOT of footwear, I am always looking for something to last a decent amount of time. I was so excited when I recently discovered Gumleaf, a wellington boot company based in Norfolk! Can you believe it! It got even better when I realised Gumleaf are a farm diversification business situated on a family farm in North Walsham.
I met up with the founder of Gumleaf, Norfolk farmer Alistair to find out a little bit more about the business. Alistair has developed the Gumleaf brand over the last 16 years creating a smart wellington boot with an emphasis on comfort for the day in and day out routine of farm life. They are created using neoprene, supple natural rubber and air pockets in the sole unit to provide the greatest level of comfort.
Just testing the wellies out in the beck with a little assistance from Nell.
Gum leaf's range of wellington boots cater for all areas of country pursuits and work. The Saxon, which is the boot Alistair has kindly given me to wear on the farm, is a standard neoprene boot for warmth. I have been using the Saxon wellington boot on the farm for the last week and they are so comfortable with the Vibram soles which is really important for me especially with the amount of walking I do here on the farm. They are really warm and fit well on my feet and legs which is really important when you are climbing in and out of ditches searching for Highland cattle. After last years harsh Winter, warmth is also at the top of my priority list so I am looking forward to using them this Winter. Its difficult working outside when your toes are frozen!
Braveheart giving the Gumleaf wellies a quick inspection!
If you would like to find out more about Gumleaf and their story or purchase a pair of their fantastic wellingtons then head over to their website >>> www.gumleaf.com or follow them on instagram @gumleafboots.
A BIG thank you to my sister Cecily for taking the photos for this blog.
After visiting Phoebe at her family farm in Eye and meeting her flock of Norfolk horn sheep I came back to the studio to have a look through all the photographs which I had taken. There were a lot of photos! I had enjoyed spending my afternoon with the Norfolk Horn sheep so much, I had really been looking forward to it. They are a breed with such distinctive characteristics which I was really looking forward to drawing,
A bit of a stare off between a Norfolk Horn ewe and Nellie the sheepdog.
Phoebe's sheepdog Nellie.
This is a pencil sketch that I did from one of the photographs I took of Phoebe's Norfolk Horn ewes, I was really pleased with how distinctive it looks. The dark face contrasting with the staturesque horns.
This is the final print which I have created from my pencil sketch, I have taken all the basic shapes out of my drawing and then worked back into the print to get the detail and features of the ewe.
I would like to say another BIG thank you to Phoebe and her family for taking the time to show me around their farm. I had a brilliant time and if you would like to see more about Phoebe's family business 'Woolly Comforts' creating beautiful lambskins from their flock of sheep then please take a look at their website >>> www.woollycomforts.co.uk.
If you would like to find out more about Norfolk Horn sheep the Rare Breeds Survival Trust have lots of information on their website >>> www.rbst.org.uk.
Last weekend I went to visit 16 year old shepherdess, Phoebe with her flock of Norfolk Horns. I was very excited to travel to Eye in Suffolk to meet Phoebe's sheep as I have wanted to draw Norfolk Horns for a while now. They are so majestic and striking with there dark faces and handsome horns. It is also really important to raise awareness of the Norfolk Horn as they are also a rare breed on the Rare Breed Survival Trusts minority list.
How long have you been interested in sheep and how did you become so involved with them?
I have been interested and involved with sheep from an early age, having grown up on a farm and working alongside Mum and Dad.
What made you choose the Norfolk Horn?
They are practical but a different and characterisitc breed, with their horns making them look nice.
How many Norfolk Horns do you have now in your flock?
I now have 17 ewes, all to lamb this coming season.
Phoebe's 17 ewes enjoying the summer grass.
What is the temperament of Norfolk Horns? Are they easy to handle with their horns?
They can be quite naturally unsettled if they are not looked over regularly enough, but once they know you they are calmer and easier to work with.
Phoebe regularly handles her Norfolk Horns, checking teeth, feet and ear tags. This also means the ewes are used to being handled.
How many lambs have you had this year?
This year, I had 12 lambs for the 7 ewes that lambed.
What do you plan to do with this years lambs?
As this years lambs were Norfolk Horn x Charollais hopefully they will all be sold as freezer lambs in about two months time.
2018 lambs - Norfolk Horn x Charollais.
What are you looking for in a 'good' Norfolk Horn?
I always look for nicely shaped horns personally, but they should have a good conformation all round too.
Do you have Norfolk Horn Sheepskins made?
Yes, we have them back from the lambs.
Phoebe's family run a business called 'Woolly Comforts' creating beautiful lambskins from their own flock of sheep reared in the Suffolk Countryside.
One of 'Woolly Comforts' lambskins on my sofa at home!
Do the Norfolk Horns make a good sheepskin?
Their sheepskins are very similar to the Suffolks and the Charollais sheepskins, being thick and varying colours from cream to more speckled and some darker brown, but they are slightly smoother usually.
Phoebe with one of her favourite Norfolk Horn ewes.
What is your favourite thing about owning sheep?
The satisfaction and pride at lambing time, especially seeing new borns.
What advice would you give someone looking to get sheep?
Choose a practice and relatively calm breed, to make handling them easier.
I would like to say a big thank you to Phoebe for taking the time to show me around her farm and introduce me to her flock of sheep. It is always so inspiring to meet someone so young with so much passion and knowledge for farming. Take a look at 'Woolly Comforts' website to see what a great farm diversification business they have created as a family >>> www.woollycomforts.co.uk.
If you would like to find out more about Norfolk Horn sheep the Rare Breeds Survival Trust have lots of information on their website >>> www.rbst.org.uk.
I had a great time meeting Zoe's herd of dairy goats, I was really looking forward to getting back to the studio and looking through the photographs I had taken. The British Alpine and British Toggenburg's are really striking with their facial markings and I know will look great in a print. I have drawn Zoe's British Alpine's before and I know that their monochrome colouring works really well in a print, The logo that I created for Zoe is of one of British Alpine's and it is really eye catching!
The logo I have recently designed for Zoe, featuring one of her British Alpine's.
Pencil sketch of a British Alpine doe.
Pencil sketches of British Toggenburg doe and kid.
The final print of the British Alpine doe created with hand stamps.
The final print of the British Toggenburg doe.
I am really pleased with how the final prints turned out, I think they are really bold and eye catching. It won't be long until I will be ready to complete a second 'Over The Farm Gate' card collection and I think these will look great on greetings cards.
I would like to say another BIG thank you to Zoe for taking the time to introduce me to her goats.
This week I popped over to see local goat breeder, Zoe. I have known Zoe for quite a few years now and we actually first met doing local craft and gift fairs together. Zoe keeps a small herd of dairy goats which as well as showing at local agricultural shows, also runs 'Moorend Moisturisers'. Using her own herd's goats milk, Zoe, produces luxurious hand creams, body moisturisers and soaps. It is wonderful to meet a small holder who is so passionate about her stock and turning her passion into a kitchen table business, producing a quality product which is in high demand. I spent the afternoon with Zoe learning more about her goats and the benefits of goats milk for our skin.
How long have you had goats and how did you become interested in them?
I have kept goats here in Stibbard since 2003 but we had nanny goats at home on the farm,( they lived with the chickens and pigs) when I was growing up.
What breeds do you have?
British Alpine, British Toggenburg and Saanen
Zoe with a British Alpine doe. Zoe with a British Toggenburg doe.
A couple of this year's Saanen kids.
You have dairy goats, how often do they need to be milked?
My dairy goats are milked twice a day, every 12 hours.
How many goats do you have?
At the moment I have 7 nannies.
How many kids have you had this year?
This year I had 10 kids.
A couple of the British Toggenburg kids enjoying their day with the Sheep and Chickens.
How many kids does a doe have in their lifetime?
I usually breed my does bi annually and normally they will have 1-2 kids. 3-4 kiddings is enough for any doe.
How long do you keep the kids with their mother’s?
No longer than 1 month as the mother needs to get back into condition before the start of the showing season. The kids are bottle fed for up to 4 months.
What do you plan to do with this years kids, do you plan to sell them on to other breeders or retain them for your own breeding stock?
I have already sold some of the females, I’m keeping 1 british toggenburg kid as her mother is related to several breed champions. The males may be sold as wethers (castrated) for pets or butchered at 6 months.
A very inquisitive kid.
You run ‘Moorend Moisturisers’ making hand creams, lip balms and soap from your goats milk, how did you first start this?
It all began in 2014 when I was given a voucher to go on a potions course as a birthday present. Luckily the tutor was a qualified chemist and I asked her about how one could make cosmetics from goats milk. She gave me lots of advise to help me devise my own recipes.
What are the positives about using your goats milk products on our skin?
The naturally occurring lactic acid in goat’s milk acts as a gentle exfoliant, resorting and rejuvenating tired skin by removing the dead and dry skin cells. This is ideal for sensitive, dry or chapped hands.
Moorend Moisturisers NEW logo which I designed recently for Zoe.
Moorend Moisturisers, Zoe makes hand creams, moisturisers and soaps from her goats milk.
Zoe selling her products at a local craft fair.
What is your favourite thing about owning goats?
Goats are very intelligent and inquisitive, so great fun to have around although you never know quite what they will do next.
What advice would you give someone looking to get goats?
Contact a local goat club for advise to buy from a reputable breeder.
I would like to say a big thank you to Zoe for taking the time to introduce me to her herd of goats and for telling me more about her business and where it all begin. Keep a look out for Zoe and 'Moorend Moisturisers' at local craft fairs in Norfolk.
Tom with one of his Light Sussex Hens.
Last week I was really excited to welcome local photographer, Tom on to the farm. Tom takes the most amazing photographs, documenting country life, wildlife, his chickens and his garden. Tom publishes his work on his beautifully curated Instagram 'Gnowangerup Cottage'. I am so in awe of Tom's photographs that I got in touch with him to see if he would like to take pictures of Highland Cattle! Amazingly he said yes and I can't believe how perfectly he captured the cattle and the chickens here on my family farm! I also took the opportunity to have a quick chat with Tom and find out more about the inspiration behind his work.
Where did your idea for starting your blog and instagram‘Gnowangerup Cottage’ first come from?
I was encouraged to start an Instagram account by a friend who thought I should document the 'good life' that I was living with the vegetable garden, foraging and living in a cottage with only wood burners for heat! It has slowly turned into more of a wildlife account, but still has links to gardening and country life every now and again.
How long have you been interested in photography?
Not that long really! It kind of developed alongside my Instagram account. Once my account focused more on wildlife I was inspired by other great accounts to get better equipment. I still have a wish list as long as my arm of equipment so hopefully my photography will keep on improving.
What is your main source of inspiration?
This is a difficult question, I guess I am inspired by the great nature accounts on Instagram who have raised the bar high in tea of nature photography. Also I really feel inspired by the great BBC nature documentaries like Planet Earth and Blue Planet whose filming is absolutely stunning.
You have to be one of the most patient people EVER to have captured some of your wildlife photographs! How do you do it?
Some of my photographs have been luck, and I’ve come across them when walking along or almost straight away so no patience has been needed! When I have had to wait, I often use my phone to pass the time or I visualise where a bird might land so I am ready to take the picture quickly. I also find it a good time to zone out and reflect or to work out my problems.
You are used to being surrounded by chickens as you have your own… but how was working with and photographing Highland cattle?
What can I say?! Highlands and their calves are particularly photogenic, so in that sense they are a breeze to photograph! I have had exposure to Highlands before through the farm attached to my work and always found them good natured, but even still there was a moment when they started running I felt very small, and another where I found myself face to face with a bull!
Do you have a favourite image that you have taken since starting Gnowangerup Cottage?
Following advice from big Instagram accounts, I have been trying to post only my best pictures and not clutter up my grid with ‘fillers’. This means that I really like all the pictures I post, but saying this my current favourite is of the three fox cubs I stumbled across on the old railway line, more of which is on my blog.
One of Tom's favourite photographs he has captured.
Is there somewhere in the world you would most like to visit to capture a specific image?
I have a wish list of places to visit with my camera, for both scenery and wildlife. In terms of scenery I really want to visit Iceland for the Northern Lights and the Faroe Islands to photograph the Drangarnir sea stacks. I would also love to visit the Norwegian Lofoten Islands.
In terms of wildlife I really want to visit the Farne Islands to get an image of a Puffin with sand eels in its beak, and to head to Finland to get a Great Grey Owl in the snow.
I would like to say a BIG thank you to Tom for visiting my farm and capturing and depicting rural life and the inspirations behind my designs. If you would like to see more of Tom's work follow him on Instagram and take a look at his blog!
Instagram - @gnowangerup_cottage
Blog - https://gnowangerupcottage.wordpress.com
After my visit to Spilsby to meet Edward and his Holegate Lincoln Reds, I came back to the studio with all the photographs that I had taken. The Lincoln Reds looked so striking with the green of the fields and the blue skies. They have very soft, kind temperaments which I think you can see by just looking at them, so I was really hoping I could portray these characteristics through my prints.
Edward with his Lincoln Red and Limousin show heifers.
Pencil sketches of a Lincoln Red heifer and bull.
Yearling heifers grazing in the meadows.
Hand stamped prints created from my pencil sketches.
It was quite difficult to create prints of the Lincoln Reds purely because of their colour, the deep red, it is difficult to show detail in darker colours. I found it difficult to distinguish their features within the print, however I do feel they have turned out better than I expected!
Another BIG thank you to Edward for showing me around his family farm and giving me the chance to meet his herd of cattle. If you would like the chance to find out more about Edward's herd 'Holegate Lincoln Reds and Limousins' you can follow updates on Facebook.
Last Friday I took a trip to Spilsby to visit young cattle farmer, Edward Middleton. Edward, 25, runs his Lincoln Red and Limousin cattle on his family farm in the heart of Lincolnshire. It was great to be able to visit Edward's farm and see his cattle grazing in the meadows. Especially as Edward is very busy on the show circuit this year at which he has had great success, including Female Champion at Woodall Spa County Show and Lincoln Red Champion at Rutland Show. As well as success in the show ring, Edward and his cattle have had a lot of media attention this year including being featured in Hello! magazine and have featured on 'Look North'.
How long have you been interested in cattle and how did you become so involved with them?
I've been interested in farming and livestock from an early age, my passion for cattle has grown the last 10 years, we had fattening cattle on the farm previously but I started out on my own with pedigree Lincoln Reds in 2013 and more recently pedigree Limousin. I got the cattle showing bug after taking part in the young farmers heifer handling competition at Lincolnshire Show and a year later I bought my first Lincoln red heifers.
Edward, 25, established his Lincoln Red herd in 2013 and recently introduced a Limousin Herd.
What made you choose the Lincoln Red breed?
I guess it’s the local breed, I've always liked them and they look great to look at in a field with the sun shining on their dark, red coats! There great mothers, docile, and finish easy off grass without the need to use a lot of expensive concentrate feed.
Can you tell me little more about the history of the breed?
The Lincoln Red is a breed with ancient origins, it is one of the oldest of the UK's native breeds. The Lincoln Red is a polled animal, well fleshed with a deep cherry-red coat, a wide muzzle and well placed legs, ideally suited to a range of conditions. They were originally a dual-purpose breed, making them an excellent easy calving suckler cow.
How many cattle do you now have in your herd?
At present I've around 80 head of cattle in the herd which includes calves, stock bulls etc.
What numbers do you plan to get up to in your herd?
I have 20 in calf heifers to calve this year which will bring the herd to calving just under 50, but the plan is to push this to 100 calving within 2 – 3 years.
What do you plan to do with this year's calves?
90% of the heifer calves will be kept for future breeding then I'll only keep 1 or 2 bull calves to keep and sell for breeding.
You show your Lincoln Reds, what do you look for in a show animal?
Personally, I look for shape! The breed has come on so much in the past 20 years and at the end of the day it's what the butcher wants! I like a dark red colour to them especially in the bulls and I like there tail to be set properly, a nice straight back from the tail to the shoulders. But most importantly shows itself off well!
Edward winning Overall Champion Lincoln Red with his 2yr old heifer at Rutland Show 2018.
What is involved in your show preparation?
Show prep starts in January with cattle being halter trained and slowly start to increase feed. My first show is the beginning of May at Newark so throughout march and April cattle are clipped and washed to get the coat looking its best. Once at the show we use numerous things to make the cattle stand out... I'll have to leave that bit a secret!!
Why do you feel showing is important for you and your herd?
I feel showing is very important for my herd. It shows off what you've got at home and hopefully generates sales, a red rosette always stands out in a sale catalogue! It's also important to educate the public on farming and agricultural shows are a fantastic way of doing that.
Edward meeting Prince Charles at Louth Livestock Market, which was featured in Hello! magazine.
What is your favourite thing about Lincoln Reds?
I'd say their quietness, you can walk upto them in a field and they won't run off!
What are the toughest challenges you have faced so far being a young farmer?
The toughest thing I'd say is the cost of everything I.e. land, machinery, feed etc, if you weren’t brought up into farming it's very difficult to get going, I've been lucky that there's a lot of grazing land available to rent locally but with cattle it’s a long wait before you see any real income … I'm waiting for that £100,000 bull to come along!
What advice would you give someone looking to get involved with Lincoln Red cattle?
Start with something good! Even if you can only afford one, buy quality not quantity. If you buy rubbish you'll always have rubbish so start as you mean to go on. Personally, they are a very affordable breed to get involved with, you don’t have to spend thousands to buy something good. The society's members are a great bunch and will make you feel very welcome.
A BIG thank you to Edward for showing me around his family farm and giving me the chance to meet his herd of cattle. If you would like the chance to find out more about Edward's herd 'Holegate Lincoln Reds and Limousins' you can follow updates on Facebook.
Emma's flock of Beltex is called 'St Theobalds'.
After visiting Emma and meeting her flock of Beltex sheep, I returned to the studio to look through all the photographs I had taken. I had never really taken much notice or come across Beltex sheep before. The Beltex sheep arrived in the UK from Belgium in 1989, and with their double muscle traits they have brought a new dimension to British lamb production. They are extremely distinctive to look at with a very short, thick face which is square in shape.
The Beltex face is short and thick.
Pencil sketches of a Beltex ewe.
These are the hand stamped prints of the beltex sheep which I created from the pencil sketches that I did to begin with. It is always difficult doing an animal that doesn't have a bold colour, especially when it is white/cream and making it stand out. However, the Beltex is so distinctive and striking looking that I think that the portrait is really effective.
I would like to say another BIG thank you to Emma for taking the time to introduce me to her flock of sheep me and showing me around her farm yard!
I am Izzi, farmer’s daughter and textile designer at IzziRainey. If I am not designing or sewing you will find me out in the farmyard with my cattle. I am constantly seeking inspiration for my prints, not that I have to look very far. Growing up on the farm, I have always been influenced by my surroundings and this combined with my passion for farming is what inspires my designs. I love spending time on the farm but I also enjoy learning about other people’s animals, passions and stories, which are also influential to my design process. I hope you enjoy reading ‘Over the Farm Gate’