AFTER a flurry of preparations we are all set for the winter, the barns are full of hay, the haymaking equipment is all stored away, the fences have been fixed, the water troughs are all flowing and the cows are all in their winter quarters.

We brought the cows back on to the farm in the autumn to avoid the acorns and to give them a boost before the winter, which is particularly important for the cows in calf.

Like many commoners we don’t farm one big farm but have small pockets of land, some owned and some rented that we use in several locations.

After six weeks or so in the fields we have now brought them back to the fields next to the house in preparation for calving. Many people are surprised that we calve in the late autumn.

Like many commoners up and down the country this is the time when the cattle are at home and when we can keep a close eye on them.

In the summer months they are away from the holding and can travel long distances, making them difficult to find in a hurry.

The bull had clearly done his job well as exactly nine months to the day of his arrival we had the first calves born, twins. The cow was a little confused at having two to deal with, I can certainly sympathise with her there, so we brought them in to the stable for a few days to bond and ensure that both calves were getting fed. They are now bouncing around the field and investigating every new arrival.

Over the years we have had bulls of different breeds but we always come back to the Aberdeen Angus.

The calves are so characterful, they are always quick to get to their feet and in search of their first vital feed of colostrum.

Not all commoners calve in the autumn and this is one of the special features of a commoning system. Everyone does things slightly differently creating an ever changing grazing pattern.

This year has been a quiet one with the ponies, despite having ponies running in several different parts of the Forest we have personally had no foals this year.

This is one of the consequences of reducing the stallion numbers. Mares don’t get in foal young and by the time they meet a stallion are simply not interested, although each year a few old mares surprise their owners.

We were out riding as a family last weekend and came across a mare and foal, despite running in their usual area these ponies had gone unseen all summer and we had the privilege of calling the owner to tell him the good news. Luckily he was just in time to register the foal before the November deadline. Recent rule changes in pony passport legislation has brought some complications to the Forest. Mares which run the Forest do not currently need to be microchipped until they either leave the Forest or are treated by a vet. Ponies sold at Beaulieu Road could be chipped at the sales with passport sent on a week later.

Now however ponies must be both chipped and passported before they leave the sale yard. Thankfully everyone has rallied round and the New Forest Livestock Society organised a hasty microchipping session the week before the sales so that all ponies could be sold, they will be repeating this for the December sale too. Sometimes you just have to make the best of a bad job.

The Commoning Voices exhibition continues at the New Forest Heritage Centre in Lyndhurst. Thank you to everyone who has been along to visit, if you haven’t there is still time as it runs until January 3.

Commoning Family - Lyndsey Stride

Twitter: @Cuffnells