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A Week on the Estate: Reds Come Home, New Use for Old School & Buffs Go Virtual

Monday 21st December will mark the winter solstice. At our latitude, the sun will rise at 0813 and set at 1543, giving us a mere 7.5 hours of daylight. From then on, the days will start to lengthen and we can dare to dream of brighter times to come.

The Lincoln Red herd came in from the cold in some memorably grotty weather this week. Thanks so much to all the motorists who waited patiently for them to pass. As the Reds get comfortable in their winter quarters at Keal Yard, a few of our staff will be hoping Santa brings them snowboards and sledges to get them around our soggy fields.

Last weekend, the Saturday Club learned all about worms from graduate trainee Charlotte. The team discovered how worms benefit the ecosystem, that their species include earthworms and tiger worms, and that they’re hermaphrodites. As Christmas is nearly upon us, Jacqui Rhodes warmed the workers up with hot chocolate with marshmallows and cream. Because there’s never a show without Punch, Marmite also turned up to supervise.

Building work at the Old School is complete at last. The project took a lot longer than expected, partly due to construction staff being furloughed. It also proved difficult to source drainage and other equipment, which is why the playground will remain excavated for months to come. The Old School was refurbished as a children’s nursery. However, due to the economic climate and social distancing, we have delayed opening it as a nursery for a year or two.

In the meantime, we intend to open the Old School during most lunch-times as a tea and coffee shop for the growing number of walkers, cyclists and horse-riders who regularly pass its door and will welcome a takeaway drink and a comfort break. For the initial launch period, we have decided to donate all takings to a Just Giving campaign to raise £20,000 to help fund community projects in South Ormsby. These projects include a church-railing restoration, a gardening club, improved walking infrastructure and community training.

On Saturday 19th December, our Lincolnshire Buff chickens will be strutting their stuff at the Virtual Poultry Show Winter Fest. Emma Wright, one of our graduate trainees, has learned a lot about Buffs and their ways. Working with Hall Steward Kevin, Emma’s first challenge was to photograph the Buffs at their show-winning best.

She spent time with the chickens so that they’d get comfortable with her presence, but this had some unintended consequences. Some Buffs became blasé rather than curious when the camera came out, while the cockerels felt duty-bound to prove what great protectors they were.

The estate currently boasts a small flock of four cockerels and 13 hens, which includes the seven birds which hatched this year. The flock lives in the Walled Garden and has its own chicken-house for shelter.

Working closely with the Buffs has shown Emma how well innate instincts can develop in a natural setting. The cockerels will scout out new food sources and alert the hens when they find something worthwhile. They also crow to warn the flock of predators. Recently, the cockerels crowed loudly enough to summon Kevin when they discovered that a sparrowhawk had sneaked into the chicken-house. Kevin showed the cheeky raptor the door and no feathers were unduly ruffled.

The Lincolnshire Buff is a variety of heavy, large fowl which was bred in large numbers in this county from the 1850s to the 1920s. Females weigh in between 3-4kg, and males between 4-5kg. Cockerels add a full copper-bronze tail to the breed’s natural buff colour. Today’s Buff has a lot to recommend it to smallholders and organic farmers. The breed is a good layer with a calm temperament and an ability to brood its own chicks.