For the first time this year, I have had the pleasure of working at the farm again, being one of several farm volunteers who help out over the summer, along with those who also cover the weekends and other holidays throughout the year.  It is evident that a lot of work has been carried out by students and staff over that last academic year and the farm is looking great.  As it is a while since either myself or Pete has had the chance to write for the blog, here is a brief update.

Crackle Summer 2019


Crackle is now retired and enjoying a quiet life in her paddock.  She still loves to be made a fuss of and welcomes a rub on the head.





The hens continue to lay their delicious eggs regularly.  There are two groups of chickens.  One consisting of 7 hens and one of 4 hens with a cockerel (Simon)



Penny, one of Crackle’s piglets became our breeding sow a couple of years ago and is currently expecting her third litter of piglets. Penny is very vocal and like her mum enjoys plenty of attention.



The ducks are as vocal as ever and enjoy a clean pond in the morning when they are released from their overnight accommodation.  Some of our Khaki Cambell ducks are getting on a bit now and sadly we have lost a couple recently.  They continue to amuse us though.



The ewes produced many lambs this year. Seven of the ewe lambs have been kept and will hopefully produce our lambs of the future.



The polytunnels and planted beds are full of produce including tomatoes, sweet corn, and runner beans, and the current rain has been very welcome. Hopefully, though, the sunshine and warmth will return shortly.

Tree bumblebees


Recent I read an article about a new species of bumblebee to the UK – called the ‘tree bumblebee’. It first appeared in the UK (from continental Europe) in 2001 and has spread fast across our islands so that it is now widely distributed. In an interesting example of how knowledge opens your eyes I’ve now noticed a colony of such bees at the school farm.

They are living in one of our nest boxes (apparently one characteristic of these bees is that they like nest boxes) and are both numerous and active bumblebees (again, what they are said to be like). I think it’s quite likely that without first knowing about these bees I would have overlooked them.


11 Healthy Piglets for Penny


Crackle’s daughter Penny gave birth to 11 delightful piglets on Wednesday 30th May in the middle of the night.  Peter had been keeping an eye on her throughout the night for  a few days before, getting up at all hours to check on her.   She gave birth in the middle of the night with Peter watching over her.

This is Penny’s first farrowing and all went well.  She is being a great mum and the piglets are thriving.

Photographs will follow

One of our new Ewe’s Lambs


I never tire of doing the farm.  No matter what the weather it is always enjoyable.  Today was no exception.  I arrived about 7.30 to the sound of hungry pigs and sheep.  I fed the pigs first as they make the most noise and then the two new ewes.  Both Babs and Stamper were at the fence waiting as usual. As  I stepped over the fence to grab the container for their food, this little face appeared out from behind mum, followed by a second face.  Babs had had her lambs in the early hours of the morning and as a new mum was doing everything she needed to do.  Andrea always goes in at all times of the day and night to check on our sheep and because Babs & Stamper are first time mums has been keeping an extra eye on them but she had decided she wanted to go it alone.

The lambs are incredibly cute as always and I will post some photos tomorrow.

Breaking News – The Lambing Season at Abbrook is here!


I cannot believe it is twelve months since I last wrote about lambing at the farm.

Tuesday 27th February 2018:  This morning one of our Ewes “Prancer” has given birth to twin lambs.

  • Further update 10:20 a third lamb has arrived!
  • Two ram lambs and a ewe lamb


Thursday 1st March:  On a snowy Thursday morning. Mary gave birth to twin lambs, mum and lambs doing well in a lovely warm barn.

Friday 2nd March:  A very large ram lamb born to our Ewe Strimmer.

All Ewes and lambs doing well.


Saturday 10th March:  Sadly one of our Ewe’s Liz gave birth to twin lambs but they were dead on arrival.  She was given a dose of antibiotics in case of an infection and regularly monitored.  On Sunday morning the vet had to be called as she didn’t seem to be getting any better.  A third lamb was removed by the vet.  Liz remains poorly but we are hopeful that she will pull through, she has always been a very good mum.  In the meantime the Vet is going to get tests done on the dead lamb as a precaution.

Student Blog 2018


The Student Blog is back for 2017/18

Year 10 & 11 ELBS Students go to the farm first thing in the morning before they come into school and then give us an account of what they did and what they enjoyed at the farm:

Week Beginning 5 March:  Jake S:  I like doing all the jobs in the farm.  There is nothing I don’t like doing and the best thing I like to do at the farm is to collect the eggs from the chickens and the ducks.

JonnyChickens: We collect the chicken eggs from the chicken shed. We weigh the chicken eggs and put them in a box so we can take them to Teign School.  We cleaned out the chicken shed, taking out the dirty straw to re-new it.   Ducks: We collect the duck eggs from the shed and weigh the duck eggs and clean out the shed.  Pigs: We fed the pigs 1 1/2  scoops of pellets and then when they are eating we have to clean out the pig pen.  We shovel the straw and poo into a wheelbarrow and tip it in the dump.  Lambs:  We feed the sheep 1/2 scoop of ewe nuts and if the water has straw in it we have to clean it out and fill it up with water that is clean.  Geese: We just feed the Geese with chicken food.  

I don’t hate any of the jobs that I have to do, I just get on with it.  I like to feel that I am helping the farm and making the farm run nicely.

Week beginning 19 February 2018:  Emily H:  When I was at the farm I helped out with cleaning out the pigs, sheep and chickens.  I had a good time at the farm and can’t wait to go back.

Phillipa B:  At the farm I cleaned out the pigs pen indoors, also I cleaned out the chickens, I fed the sheep and did their hay and water.  I enjoyed my week at the farm and I think it was a good experience.

Week beginning 5 February 2018:  Ella:  I loved doing farm duty because it was a good experience and I loved looking after all the animals.  I would rate it 10/10.  What did I do?:

  • Fed and watered the chickens, twice
  • cleaned the chickens out, twice
  • fed the pigs/piglets
  • fed the sheep, twice
  • cleaned out the barn

I loved farm duty as it was a different experience and to connect with animals, and good for my later life experience.

Annie: On Monday we collected the eggs from the chickens, fed them, then cleaned out the first pen and the second one.  On Tuesday we did the same but cleaned out the third section. On Wednesday I fed the piglets then cleaned out the back barn stable, well we started it, so it is clean for after half term for lambing season. On Thursday I fed the piglets again then we finished off cleaning the back barn. It was a great experience, I love doing it and can’t wait to do it again.

Week beginning 29 January 2018:  Lilli S:  In the mornings I have cleaned up the ducks/chickens.  I didn’t mind doing it as it was easy to do.

Week beginning 22 January 2018:  Loui J: What I liked about helping up on the farm is the pigs and sheep. I like cleaning them out and also helped with the chickens.  It has been a good experience for me and I would love to go again.

Week beginning 15 January 2018:  Rhianna:  My week at the farm was excellent.  I experienced new and exciting things.  I got to clean out the ducks and chickens. I fed the sheep and gave them fresh water and hay.  I also fed the chickens and collected their eggs.  It was all in all an amazing week.

Week beginning 2 January 2018:  Katie:  My time on the farm was fantastic because I was looking after the pigs.  I had to feed them and get rid of all the old hay and clear out their poo!  I loved every bit of my experience it was amazing.  However, on the first day the weather was awful but you can’t help it.

Molli B: My time at the farm was very fun as it’s nicer to be out doing something with animals than being in a classroom not doing much!  There is always something to do at the farm so you are always busy helping out by either cleaning out, feeding or collecting eggs.  I have really enjoyed my experience at the farm as I love working with animals and it gives me a good start to the day.

Charlotte A: This week at the farm I started off by helping out with the sheep on the first day. I watered and fed them and checked some of the ewe’s feet and I had to help feed the pig called Crackle.  It was really wet and muddy down there!  The next day I helped out with the sheep again and I like doing it because you are beginning to understand what needs doing in the mornings.  The third day I started by cleaning out the other pig called Penny and fed her, which was good.  After that I went to do the sheep again and moved some hay and straw.  I have enjoyed the experience this week but the weather has been not so great, but whatever the weather the animals still need to be cared for.

Week beginning 8 January 2018:  Quentin: Great week at the farm, moving animals, feeding animals and odd jobs around the farm.  I reckon the best bit was moving the pigs around.  One of them was running around the place like a mad thing!  Overall it was worth doing it.  Thanks Pete & Andrea for the week, I hope to do it again.



There have been some stylish butterflies on show at the farm recently – autumn should see high numbers with both home breed and migrated numbers at a peak. Three different sort, (left to right: Red Admiral, Common Copper and Speckled Wood), have been seen, with Red Admiral’s the most abundant.

What is also interesting is what butterflies we’ve not seen. No Small Tortoiseshell or Peacock (which have been common in the past nationally) and no rarities like Large Tortoiseshell or Painted Lady.

Looking back a little and then looking forward


We are back at school again, and as ever after the summer holiday there is a lot of catching up to do – it seems even more so this year.

Last year our tomatoes were damaged by an infestation of white fly. This year we spotted white fly early and, again, sourced some parasitic wasps. The wasps seem to have done their job because there are fewer white fly (though this might be weather related) and if you look at the picture you can just see where we think the wasps have parasitised the white fly larvae and pupa. Normally the larvae and pupa are white or translucent but if they’re parasitised by the wasps they go black.

In June, when it was dry and hot, there was very little grass for the sheep and lambs, and they were not doing well; now there is an abundance of grass and the condition of both the sheep and lambs is much improved – the ewes are a little too much improved as they are getting rather ’rounded’! Some of this year’s lambs were sold recently at a market and made a very good price – we were lucky and had picked a market day where there were lots of buyers trying to buy limited numbers of lambs, which tends to push prices higher. In the next few weeks we will be getting two new mule ewe lambs and then a few weeks later on a ram.

Crackle is now in retirement (lucky her) and we have kept a daughter ‘gilt‘ of hers (yet to be named) to become our new breeding sow. She looks to be another quiet, calm, intelligent animal – we hope she will have piglets in the first half of next year. We also have three other pigs, bought from another farm, in the barn – but they have to be kept away from these two so that we are sure they don’t pass on any infection, or indeed vice versa.

Finally, we’ve also got five new chickens (called pullets at this stage) that we hatched from eggs, and rather fine they look. They should lay lots of eggs over the next year, especially when the days start to get longer next year as this encourages chicken to lay eggs.

Student Blog 2017


The Student Blog is back for 2017/18

Year 10 & 11 ELBS Students go to the farm first thing in the morning before they come into school and then give us an account of what they did and what they enjoyed at the farm:

Week beginning 3 July 2017:  Shanny F:  On the farm this week I have been cleaning the barn and feeding the chicks and the guinea pigs. I have been helping Dan wash the eggs and weighed the eggs.  I also helped Dan to feed the ducks and chickens.  I had to lead the sheep into the pig area and we lost them.   This was hard for me.  I enjoyed my time at the farm and I would like to do it again.

Dan S:  This week doing farm duty was really good.  I fed the chickens and the ducks and collected their eggs ready to go to the school.  I fed the pigs and Crackle and I helped Pete to move the sheep.  I’ve been with Shanny through my farm duty and really enjoyed it.  I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Week Beginning 17 June 2017:  Robbie: This morning I went to the farm.  I am always excited to go to the farm to feed the animals and do any extra jobs.  The farm is always fun and exciting because you may do any extras while there.

Week beginning 5 June 2017:  Chelsea:  I really enjoyed this week at the farm, I helped Pete to move the sheep to another area and fed all the pigs.  I also watered all the plants in the poly tunnel and cleaned/fed the chicks and guinea pigs.  Pete and Andrea were really nice like always and helped us out if we got stuck with something. 🙂

Jeff: During my farm duty this week, I have each day, filled a bucket up with chicken/duck/goose feed, filled the correct feeders and collected eggs from the chickens and ducks.  I have also refilled the water for the chickens when needed.   Once I have got the eggs, I put the dirty eggs inside a water bucket.  Any eggs that were clean only needed the shavings rubbed off before moving on to weighing.  Then, the weight data must be recorded in the correct book, under the date of the day and stating if they were duck or chicken.  Then the dates must be written on the eggs with a pencil. Any cracked eggs must be removed before the egg box(s) could be sent away.

Jack H:  I really enjoyed doing the farm.  On the first day I cleaned out the pigs and fed them.  Then I fed Crackle, then we moved the sheep to under the pylon.  On Tuesday I cleaned out the chicks, one tried to escape and they pecked me and I did the pigs again.  I had a really good day.

Week beginning 21 May 2017:  Shanny:   This week I fed the chicks and I fed the guinea pigs and I did the flower beds with Dan.  I held one of the chicks which we incubated in the classroom for a few weeks and they are now at the farm and in a happy place.  One of the chicks has hairy legs!!  I have enjoyed this week because I got to feed the chicks and the weather was nicer than last duty I did.

Dan: This week I have been doing farm duty with Shanny.  I mucked out the pigs, fed the chickens and ducks, collected chicken and duck eggs to be ready for the school, fed the Guinea pigs and the chicks and if we had time we watered/weeded our veg beds.  I have really enjoyed farm duty and would like to do it again.

Week beginning 14 May 2017:  Eve D:  I really enjoyed my week at the farm.  Seeing the cute baby piglets and lambs.  One of my favourite jobs to do while I was at the farm was feeding the chickens and the ducks, then collecting their eggs.  I did enjoy all the jobs I did, like cleaning out the pigs area and feeding the sheep but collecting the duck and chicken eggs was better.  After you got the eggs you would clean them and weigh them.  I loved the week and can’t wait until I can do it again.

Week beginning 24 April 2017:  Charlie T:  I really enjoyed farm duty this week, we cleaned out and fed the piglets, we collected the eggs and fed and watered the chickens and ducks.

Corey M:  This week at the farm, I have collected chicken and duck eggs and refilled their food bowl and water.  On that day I was wearing shorts by accident.  On Thursday I had to clean out the piglet’s area which was okay, it just stank a bit!  To improve the week I wished that the whole group was doing it because we were missing Will.

Week Beginning 17 April 2017:  Lois W:  I loved working at the farm this week.  On my first day I fed the chickens and ducks and collected the eggs, as well as washing them to pure perfection!  Not a mark on them!  The next day we helped Pete get the sheep into the paddock which was great fun.  The next day I proceeded to clean out the pigs as well as feeding them to keep them occupied and out-of-the-way.  It didn’t last long.  But honestly, it was great fun and we had lots of support from Pete and Andrea and I can’t thank them enough! 🙂

Week Beginning 13 March 2017:  Alex B: I have very much enjoyed farm duty, looking after all of the animals and being helped by Pete and Andrea.  They were very helpful if we were unsure of our task.  I looked after the pigs, hens and ducks for my week.

Jake H: I really enjoyed farm duty as Pete and Andrea made it fun.  We did the sheep, pigs and poultry.  It was fun!

Louis B:  I enjoyed my weeks of farm duty, I fed the sheep, pigs and poultry.  Pete taught me about spotting healthy and unhealthy pigs and how to try and make them better.  Overall it was a good experience.  Very fun!!

Week Beginning 6 March 2017:  Jeff W: I collected the eggs from the ducks and chickens each day, I fed them and replaced their water when necessary.  I then weighed the eggs, cleaned them and wrote the dates on the eggs.  I enjoyed looking around and finding the eggs, however I disliked having to find the eggs in the mud and the smell in the barn.

Chelsea D: I thought farm duty was good.  I fed Crackle and cleaned her pen, refilled the food bins and sheep water and a few more jobs.  My favourite part was when I held the lambs.

Grace M: I really enjoyed my week at Abbrook Farm.  I fed the sheep, made sure they had water and helped to clean them out.  I also go to feed the guinea pigs.

Jack H: I love working at the farm.  On Tuesday I put new hay in for the pregnant Ewes and put in fresh water and fed them.  Wednesday, I cleaned out Cracks and got to see the new piglets and fed and watered the guinea pigs, Gandalf and Shadow and dug up the compost.

Week Beginning 27 February 2017:  Dan: When I did farm duty I cleaned Crackle’s pen out each morning.  It was a bit smelly but after a few seconds I got used to it.  After I did that I would shovel it on to the dung heap to get rid of it all. On Thursday I helped Shanny clean the chicken and duck eggs ready to be sold and/or given to the school.  I enjoyed doing farm duty and would like to do it again.

Shanny: On the farm this week I did the chickens and ducks.  I picked up the eggs from the ducks and chickens and I washed the eggs in cold water and dried them and weighed them.  I fed them animal pellets and water.  The chickens are still inside and the ducks are outside.  The ducks enjoyed being outside in the hot sun and not getting pecked by the chickens.  This morning two of the chickens were laying an egg while I was in the poly tunnels and eggs were warm and not cold like the others.  The ducks had six eggs this morning and Miss picked the egg up from the back and got stuck in the duck house!!

Week beginning 20 February 2017:  Callum M:  My week at Abbrook farm was fun.  At the farm I had to fill up the lambs water and feed the lambs. I also had to clean out the ducks and the chickens.  I collected the eggs every day and fed the ducks and chickens, then I had to feed the geese.  My week at the farm was good and there was nothing I hated and I would definitely do it again.

Seth: I had a great time at Abbrook Farm.  I had to feed and clean out Crackle, the pig.  Also I had to clean out the chickens/ducks.  My favourite part of the week was collecting the chicken and duck eggs.

Week beginning 6 February 2017:  Corey M: During my time at the farm I have learnt new skills, how to work as a team and I had so much fun.  When I was there I had to feed Crackle and the sheep.  The sheep were funny to feed because it’s harder than you think!

Charlie T: It was good fun.  On our first day we cleaned out the chickens and ducks and collected their eggs and then fed them.  The next day we fed the sheep and then Crackle (The pig!) and cleaned out the paddock bit for the sheep.  Pete and Andrea were a great help.  Day 4, it was very wet though.

Kieron W:  At the farm we do lots of things like feeding the animals and you can fix things like vegetable beds.  And there are many other things to do.  What I like about the farm is there is a lot of team effort and there is always something to do.  Something that can be improved at the farm is how things are explained to us all.

Week beginning 2 January 2017: Alex B:  We started off with cleaning out the ducks and chickens and feeding them.  Then using the spare food we fed the geese.  The next day we fed the sheep and filled up the water buckets and put hay in the field.  We then repeated this for the other two days of our duty.

Louis B:I started by feeding the sheep which I did for 3 days.  It was fun even with the sheep trying to knock me over.  Day 4 I fed the chickens, ducks and geese.  Andrea and Pete helped lots, it was pretty cold though.

Jake H: It was great fun.  We fed the sheep, pig, ducks, chickens and geese.  We cleaned out the chickens and ducks.  Pete and Andrea were a great help.  The only thing that could improve was if it wasn’t so cold.