LYNBRECK CROFT BLOG
Updates from Lynbreck Croft on the outskirts of Grantown on Spey
Our 3year Lynbreck Croft-iversary
We wanted to share with you that it’s three years ago to the day that we moved to Lynbreck and started our new farm business. And just 3 years on we are planning our first ever series of Lynbreck Croft Tours and Experience weekends. It’s quite a big and bold move for us to open our doors to the public but we wanted to explain why for us, this is a key part in delivering our vision.
We started at Lynbreck with no goal other than to feed ourselves and live closer to the land. Within a few months, this had grown into a vision to build a small ecological farming unit that would help to feed our community by working with our land, our animals and other small businesses and provide people with a space to reconnect with nature.
We are starting to get into our stride with the food we produce. It takes a while to build up a regular supply but we are beginning to find our groove with that (and more to come there in a future blog post). And what we really want to do now is work more and more with our local and wider community to spread the word about nature friendly farming or otherwise put – we farm to be wild.
Running our tours and experience weekends helps us to share what we do directly with you. We show you our animals and how and where they live. We have nothing to hide here. We want to help our guests connect with our land and understand the quality of the food that we produce. We don’t deny that our produce, in a monetary sense, costs more, but it can cost a lot less for your health. In fact we see it as an investment – eating good food can put time in your life bank and time in our whole climate and environment bank. And we only ever charge what we think it is worth.
And, we want to share our learning with others. We know there are lots of other people out there who have a dream to run a small farm. We want to share as much of our knowledge as we can with YOU to help make the journey a little less scary.
By charging a small fee, it adds another diversification string to our bow which helps us continue to do what we do and build resilience into our farm business. We don’t want it to be a place where only people with money can learn – we want Lynbreck to be accessible to all.
So come see us, we’d love to meet you
For more information on our tours and experience weekends see our website www.lynbreckcroft.co.uk
Lynbreck Croft is 150 acres of pure ‘Scottishness’ located in the Cairngorms National Park on the outskirts of Grantown on Spey.
It is a mixture of grassland, woodland, heathery hill and bog and has one of the finest views of the Cairngorms in Scotland. Since 2016 the croft has been transformed by owners Lynn and Sandra who are using nature friendly farming and diversification enterprises to build an exciting, dynamic, resilient rural business.
About Lynn and Sandra
With backgrounds in conservation, Lynn and Sandra have used their experience to develop a business model that delivers positively, first and foremost, for nature; improving the health of the land and enhancing the health, happiness and well-being of their animals is what drives every decision they make. The result is high quality food packed full of nutritional goodness.
They are passionate about sharing the stories of what they do and becoming a rural asset for their local community
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To graze or not to graze
As we are starting to see the end of the Winter (hopefully) we’ve decided to get stuck into our grazing planning for the growing season ahead. We have a lot of different animals all over the croft with some leaving and even more coming on. It’s really important for us to try and plan who will be where and when so that we can be sure they are having the most positive impact on our land. We are always trying to make sure our animals utilise their natural behaviours to do the big important stuff like build soil organic matter which is central to our land and animal health. We use a framework called holistic management to help us plan our grazing year.
This coming May we’ll start to moo-ve them around in smaller paddocks, with carefully planned rest periods in between. It’s quite a tricky planning process as we will also have lambing, more steers arriving and our heifers going to the bull to factor in. We work out how many animal days per acre we think we will have and this will be an important benchmark year on year to see if we are improving our grassland productivity using only our animals to do so.
And then there’s our eggspanding hen army. With more coming on in Spring time, we need to work out where the Eggmobile needs to be and when. The hens are great moss scratchers as well as bug eaters and cow pat excavators. We don’t have much flat ground that we can take them on so we have to work out where the flerd will be at different points so we can maximise their mutually beneficial impacts.
Mind melt! But if we can get a good plan in place, it acts as a starting point. We can always change things as the season progresses but it helps so much to have a framework and then replan, replan and replan. And it means we don’t exhaust ourselves running all over the place. The days are long in the summer!
This Farming Life
Our This Farming Life journey began in September 2017 when a friend tagged us in a Facebook post that said ‘BBC are looking for new farmers and crofters for the next series’. We don’t have a TV so we’ve never actually seen the programme but it sounded like an interesting opportunity so we fired off an email and left it at that.
After a short screen test and a 3 month wait we got a call from the producer Jane in early January 2018 saying ‘we really want you to be a part of the next series and can we come and film you next week’. Yikes was our initial response swiftly followed by YES!
And that was the beginning of our 9 month filming adventure. You’ll see us say goodbye to our first pigs, welcome our first cattle, sheep and bees and build our Eggmobile. It will offer an insight into the highs and lows of starting up in farming where we work with our animals, our land and our environment to produce the best food.
And why the programme? Well, we just want to share what we do because it’s quite a special world we live in and the more we can reconnect with it (and the more we can help others to reconnect with it), then all the better.
It’s fair to say that we’ve now well and truly leapt into winter with snowbells on. December was strangely mild, likewise the beginning of January, but when your car temperature reads -8celsius, it’s a fairly good indication that winter has arrived.
It’s clear that winter at Lynbreck is a visual delight. Frosted trees in the foreground, the might of the snow topped Cairngorms Massif in the background. It’s a wonder we can ever get any work done with all that distraction.
But there is plenty of work to do, and most of it involves defrosting pipes and water troughs, which can swallow up hours in a day. As we have started from scratch here with all our infrastructure, we still have much tweaking to do to keep everything running smoothly. At present, water does not run smoothly and so filling up containers in our bathtub for trough top ups has happened more than once over the past few weeks…
We’ve had to take a hammer and chisel to break up the ice in the pigs drinking trough. Nothing like fishing out lumps of ice with your bare hands to bring a small tear to the eye….
As ever, our animals take top priority. We give the flerd more hay when it’s really cold and snowy, although they will still dig for any old grass they can find. Our twice daily hand feeding regime means we can monitor closely how much they eat, making sure they have fully cleaned up the last lot before the next meal.
And our pigs get their allocated ration of organic pellets, plus the little grass scraps from bales of hay which they LOVE.
Our poor hens don’t venture far with their little bare feet and legs but we put some straw around the Eggmobile so they can get outside and sunbathe. And of course there’s plenty of dustbathing to be done underneath.
Winter has its challenges for sure, and some days, when things just work against you, it’s relentlessly hard. But every challenge we strive to meet. Our vision to live and farm in harmony with our land and our environment drives us on to overcome the challenges and towards a celebration of life and living.
Last week’s arrival of snowflakes, frosts and crisp winter days were a welcome change to the unusually warm and dry spell we’ve been having. I know a lot of you might not agree but it’s nice to finally feel the bite of winter and know that a night by the cosy wood-burner is very well earned.
This is our first winter carrying a full suite of livestock through. Last year we just had the pigs and some hens, but this year we’ve added our Highland Cattle, Jacob Sheep, lots more hens and our Black Bees. So in some ways, we’ve been really grateful for a kinder winter, in comparison to last year’s long cold spell and now infamous Beast from the East!
Every day we have been ‘hand feeding’ our cattle and sheep. Twice a day they get a serving of some diverse grassland mix hay that we bought from a farmer nearby. If blogs had smell-ternet, you would get the waft of a sweet scented warm summers evening in a hay meadow. Whilst hand feeding takes us a bit longer, it helps us to understand how much they need on a daily basis. If they clear it all up and then settle down for a good chew of the cud, we know we’ve got it right, or thereabouts. It also means that we can always feed them on clean ground.
Sometimes they will forage a bit during the day, filling their bellies on the old grass that wasn’t eaten last year. Every day we watch and observe them, always learning about how they interact with our ground. We monitor things closely to avoid parts of our fields from becoming poached or compacted. Both of these would be bad news for our soil health, so it’s worth our while to keep a close eye and keep our animals moving between fields.
From the time our cattle and sheep come on to the croft, they are 100% grass fed. It’s quite common for cattle to be fed grain as this helps them to fatten a bit quicker. However we are working with native breeds who are slow to mature and we’re happy to let them do that at their own natural speed, producing the finest meat that nature can provide.
Bringing Crofting to Oxford
This year we were invited to share the work we have been doing at Lynbreck at one of the biggest farming conferences in the UK, the Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC)
Our expenses were covered by the Nature Friendly Farming Network, a new charity that we are members of that seeks to represent a growing community of farmers who put nature at the core of their rural business.
The ORFC was formed 10 years ago as a fringe event to the more traditional, established Oxford Farming Conference. In that short period of time it has now grown in size to become the largest of the 2 conferences. It brings together all food growers celebrating everything from smallholdings and community farms, biodynamic and permaculture to much larger commercial farming units.
We talked at a session called ‘Farming Green puts you in the Black’. We explained how we have started up a small scale croft business where we use farming with nature to produce and sell our meat, eggs and occasional veg at a true price direct to people in our community. We talked about how we advocate healthy environment = healthy food = healthy people.
We’re only just at the start of our business journey but it was an honour to be invited to the conference and an inspiration to meet so many fantastic farmers doing amazing things throughout the UK, supplying nutritious food to their local communities.
Our take home message?
Food is all about farming
Farming is all about people
People are all about nature
A little croft with a big dream
Welcome to our new blog which we’re delighted to be hosting on the Grantown on Spey website.
When we moved here in March 2016 we didn’t know a single soul. After moving hundreds to thousands of miles away from all our friends and family, we wanted to try our best to immerse ourselves in our new community. In return, we were completely overwhelmed at the response and welcome that we got.
We have been working hard over the past couple of years to build a new croft business. One where we work in harmony with our environment to grow the finest food that nature can provide. We are passionate beyond all to engage, inspire and enthuse those around us about honest, ethical produce made on a nature friendly farm by 2 very determined crofters.
And so to the new blog! We plan to use this to share stories about what it is that we’re up to and why we do what we do. We hope it helps people to better understand the current challenges and opportunities in small scale farming, as well as helping to make informed choices about the food you buy and how it is produced.
We wish everyone who knows us (and those who don’t) a very happy and healthy 2019 and we look forward to taking you on our journey of a lifetime
Lynn and Sandra