View from the Hill 27th May 2009
Lambing has been carrying on apace over the last few weeks down in the valleys behind the village, the weather has been on our side for this mostly, although there were a few cold days just after shearing, the ewes have been pretty comfortable since, dry and sunny with plenty of grass about at the moment to make the milk flow. A few waifs and strays have been picked up along the way, who are now being bottle fed up here at the farm. Those who are coming out on Open farm Sunday may meet one or two of these cheerful and greedy characters. They have been deserted, starved, lost or orphaned by their mums, and are very grateful for the infra red lamp and 4 times a day regular feed.
This sunny weather is all very well, but we need a splash from time to time. By now my regular reader will be well acquainted with the fact that farmers are permanently pre-occupied with the weather. The oak came into leaf way before the ash this year, so we’re in for a splash rather than a soak, looks right so far. The sunshine would be all the more enjoyable if it wasn’t for the infernal wind, which has blown for a lot of the time lately, making life particularly frustrating for the farmer wanting to get spraying done responsibly. It has also dried up the spring sown crops, which really could do with a drink. So far the winter sown wheat, barley and rape are doing very well however, they are all coming into ear now, which makes us think ahead towards harvest, and all the grainstore cleaning we’ve got to do before then. The dry weather has helped keep diseases at bay, and having got roots well down over the winter, the winter crops are mostly still finding enough moisture to keep going. We are growing poppies again this year, promising ourselves it will be the last time unless they can actually turn in a sensible financial performance for once
We have been fighting a running battle with legions of rooks on our cover crops. We sowed several strips a month ago, with a mix of triticale, barley and sunflowers, unfortunately the rooks cottoned on very quickly, and despite a variety of bangers and whirly scarers, they tucked in and dug up all the seed in two different locations, the ground looked like it had been ploughed by the time they had finished, and nothing was left to germinate. Strangely they didn’t touch the strips in another two fields, although the sunflowers there have been eaten off since germinating, by hares or rabbits we think. So last week, out we went again, and sowed the whole lot again, and more this time, including the maize strips, which are always sown this late, then we rolled the soil down tight, in the hope that, as well as using treated seed (smelly), and sowing as deep as we dared, this would deter the rooks for long enough for the plants to get going. They attacked again straight away, but it remains to be seen how much damage they have done.
We have welcomed a number of school visits here on the farm over the last year, and we have carefully trained our animals to endure close up scrutiny by inquisitive schoolchildren, we even have a ewe who was happy to be felt by children who said they could feel the lambs moving inside her, this is all the easier as she had been shorn a few days earlier. We find that a good supply of toast is very good for bribing animals to endure such indignities.