July 2014

View from the Hill                                                           20th June 2014

click on pictures to enlarge

The lambs and calf continue to provide entertainment, and noisily demand food every time someone walks past, they have proved their value with various school visits we have had recently.  Chaos generally ensues when 21 children try to share the feeding bottles of five lambs, especially if the calf pokes his nose in too.  Of the five lambs, four have lost their tails now, 3 weeks or so after the rubber rings were put in place.  We do this to prevent risk of flystrike, tails can get mucky and consequently attract flies, who lay their eggs, soon to hatch into maggots which will happily tuck into a living animal for breakfast lunch and tea, a sure fire cure for anyone of an organic disposition. Flies will lay their eggs in clean wool too, so a close eye must be kept on the animals, and a fly control treatment is essential every year.

Anyone who has driven past Travellers Rest this week cannot have failed to notice the poppies, which have come into full flower in the last days, in the sunshine they look glorious, and have put on so much growth in the last 2 weeks.  They will be quite happy in continuous sunshine for some time to come, they vastly prefer sunshine to wet weather.  We have nearly 200 acres in one continuous block of fields across the top of the hill.

This aerial shot and a few other very interesting ones arrived on my desktop this week from a kind local friend who has access to a very useful machine with camera attached.

Tiring of the glare of dazzling paint and shiny suits I found respite on the Natural England stand, and those of one or two of the more interesting seed producers, where a variety of wildlife friendly seed mixtures were on display.  For the last few years we have been growing an assortment of bird food, and pollen and nectar mixes, and we are always on the look out for interesting mixes which are popular with the birds and the bees, as well as being easy to establish and look after.

These two beautiful annual farmland flowers are sadly an uncommon sight these days, being annuals, they need freshly disturbed and cultivated soil each year, and without the risk of swamping by crop plants and many other weeds.  The corn cockle above, and corn flower below, along with others such as corn marigold, sainfoin and even the red poppy, are generally very well controlled by widely available herbicides these days, so the cropped fields will never find them getting out of control.  Perhaps we must try to grow some on purpose in a corner somewhere.  The best would be to have just a light scattering of them amongst our crops, but that would be very hard to engineer.  Some of the seed mixtures avilable include the dreaded red poppy, do you remember what happened when we tried to grow morphine poppies on the Knoll in 2012?  It was a disaster, who would want to plant red poppies on purpose??

We had a visit from the reception class of one of the local Primary schools last week, on a gorgeous sunny day, and a picnic was taken in the corner of a poppy field.

Over the last couple of weekends I have attended two open farm sundays, one where I had been asked to help out, near Gillingham, which was very popular, with lots for people to do and to look at, and the second as a visitor near South Petherton, where they grow vegetables, and a main attraction was a Freedom Foods accredited broiler chicken enterprise.  40,000 6 day old chicks looked very happy and comfortable in a light and airy house, with food, drink and entertainment all to hand.I also learnt about the technology involved in growing crops such as carrot and parsnip, which are popular on the lovely soils in that area of Somerset.  This hoe on the front of a tractor steers itself between the rows of parsnips in this picture, using a camera to steer the hoe, and GPS is used to steer the tractor down between the beds.

 

Back home, our recently sown bird food crops have been suffering from terrible attack by a host of pests, and are struggling to survive.  In spite of our best efforts, flea beetle, slugs, and rabbits, followed by the dreaded pigeon, are trying to ensure that the small birds we are trying to help get no food to keep them going next winter.

 

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