You may have read already how farming is in our blood, passed down through the generations. Our ancestors were farm servants and labourers, tenant farmers and those who owned their own farms across many areas of Scotland mainly Ayrshire, Fife, Perthshire and Angus. My Grandfather was the farm manager on Atholl Estates at Blair Atholl and my father a tenant on Strathmore Estate at Glamis. Now Graeme and I are tenant farmers on Fothringham Estate in Angus and farm approximately 550 acres growing cereals, grass, potatoes and peas. Our livestock are becoming more diverse but originally we were typical beef and sheep farmers. Graemes parents still help regularly on the farm and we don’t have any fulltime staff but do rely on the help from friends and family especially with the livestock. This means that you can be assured of a uniquely personal service from our family for the duration of your stay but please be aware that as a family run business we are always busy and may not be able to give as much of our time as we would like, but please take any opportunity to ask us questions or see what is happening on the farm at the time or book a farm tour
The majority of our cereal crops are barley for malting to make whisky, the renowned Scottish beverage. What doesn’t go to the maltsters is used at home to feed our livestock during the colder Winter months when the cattle are kept inside between October and May, to keep them warm on a cozy bed of straw from bales made in the Autumn after the grain has been cut at harvest. We keep the cows in until they have their calves and then put them out to enjoy the fresh new grass in the Spring/Summer. We also cut, bale and wrap our grass in special plastic during June/July to make silage. Usually we only have a small window of opportunity to make the silage as it is very weather dependant but it is vital as this is the feed required by all our animals for the Winter when the grass does not grow. Our lambs with their thick fleece can stay outside over Winter until they are fat enough to go to market and usually they will leave between December and April.
To the side of the farm house we have a large area dedicated all year round to the hens and our Indian Runner ducks. There is a small stream “burn” running through so they always have fresh water and we have created a small pond area for the ducks to swim. They have their own houses to nest and sleep in at night which keeps them safe from the foxes. The hens are in the main Lohman brown laying hens from whom we receive the wonderful rich eggs to grace your breakfast plate but we do have several bantams too whom we have adopted. They are real characters and I love to see Coco our wee black Peking and surprisingly quiet cockerel, with his wee harem of hens including Choco, Mocha & Latte. He is a little bit lazy and often you will find that all the hens are up in the morning whilst he is still in his bed, not crowing until 3 in the afternoon!
Our ducks are real fun to watch running around. Runner ducks stand and run erect one after the other so it is an interesting procession to watch. Our first 2, Victor & Viola, came to us from just over Carrot Hill, with the alpacas and mated very quickly. Unfortunately, having increased to 6 we lost them to foxes, and had to replace them in 2016. With mating in the Spring and hatching in June/July we only have a few weeks when we can offer duck eggs which I personally love poached.
I’ve mentioned the alpacas above, the four original boys are a joy to have on the farm. They are extremely characterful coming to us in 2014 from neighbours who were downsizing. Casper is watchful and looks after his friends, whilst Cookie who used to be the boss has had to take a step back after injuring his back. When handling we are particularly gentle as I know how it feels to have a sore back and with those long necks it must be worse! He is fine now after calling in help to provide alpaca osteopathy! Cogsworth is the oldest and a tad grumpy at times with the others. He is the funniest to look at and has what we Scot’s would call a real “glaikit” expression with his buck teeth and shaggy fringe. Finally, our star shepherd on the farm is Bolt. He adores the sheep and loves being with them to offer protection but it makes it difficult to try and treat them when he is about as he usually chases the dogs. The alpacas are shorn in May/June with their valuable fibre being kept. This can be spun like wool and presently we are looking for ideas on what to do with ours, any suggestions?
We now have 13 alpacas and we introduced alpaca walking tours where you can get up close and personal by handling them, take them for a trek across our farmland, and get to know these beautiful gentle animals.
You might wonder why we started our menagerie? It all happened very suddenly over a few months in 2014 and I truly believe it was fate. Graeme and I had discussed how many guests during the Summer arrive requesting to see our animals. At that time normally the cattle would be out in the fields, so few animals for guests to see apart from the hens, our cat and dog. We then had a chance opportunity when Fife Animal Park closed and we were lucky enough to be offered 3 Anglo-Nubian goats. You can see them at the beginning of this link filmed when still at the animal park. The pleasure we had in rehoming these lovely ladies gave us a great feeling and guests have loved meeting them too especially when elderly Penny accompanied guests on their farm tour, an ex show champion she loved attention and grooming. We also have her daughter Phoebe, who always sticks her tongue out and her half sister Blossom who can be a bit of a bully to the rest. This led to the purchase of Leila and Leandra, two anglo-nubian kids who my family have shown and have now these goats have kids of their own. Sadly, after losing Penny and Blossom we have given "free range" Phoebe the farm to roam around freely.
Our goat interest has extended rapidly and after being introduced to another breed, the Boers, originally from South Africa, we have recently extended the menagerie to start a breeding herd of meat Boer goats. We plan to produce the first next year and hope to supply fresh goat meat from the farm. Having tasted goat for the first time we were really surprised by the quality and taste of this very healthy meat. I would suggest it is somewhere between lamb and beef but without the fatty lamb aftertaste. Goat is very low in cholesterol and very high in protein making it a superb choice for quality meat and not just for curries so watch this space for all future developments!
Lucy had spent her first 8 months in an apartment in Dundee, and has relished the opportunity to experience the fresh grass under trotter since coming here. As a house pig she loved her home comforts and the luxury of central heating and we weaned her slowly during the Spring after her first Winter with us. She loved cuddling up with Chico, our dog on his bed and jumping onto your lap to watch TV but now she lives in our garden, as our own 4 legged lawnmower. She loves company still though and is very talkative when you go to see her. She also loves to be brushed and lies down to have her tummy rubbed. Many of our guests this year have enjoyed the chance of meeting Lucy and seeing her each morning when they open the curtains is certainly a unique experience, one not to be forgotten.
We also have a few feral cats who live on the farm and we do encourage them as they help with vermin control. Our own small friendly house cat, Chrissie is a good mouser too but usually is found snuggled up inside keeping warm. Chico, our Labrador, first trained as a Guide Dog for the Blind but took a career change to live with us much to our joy as he is a lovely, gentle boy, craves attention and demands to greet all our guests before escorting them to their room.
We hope when you visit you can enjoy our extended family as much as we do. There are always unexpected surprises on the farm so please like us on Facebook or follow us on twitter for all the up to date news.