The View from the Hill April 2003
What a fantastic March, please don’t say that farmers are always moaning about the weather. This year we have finished over 500 acres of spring sowing before the end of March, for the first time in many years. The last field of spring rape was finished on Saturday afternoon, whilst most of you were watching sport or sunning yourselves in the garden. Most of the crops have been sown into superb seedbeds, dry, firm and friable. Much of the spring barley has already emerged.
Many people regard the plough as an essential tool on a farm, the traditional view has always been that ground must be ploughed before sowing any crop. Ploughing is a slow and expensive operation, involving the turning over of more than 800 tonnes of soil per acre.
Farming is amazingly fashion conscious, and in the last few years much attention has been turned to looking at techniques which allow us to successfully farm without ploughing every acre every year. Many sexy machines (often very expensive) have been developed on the back of this latest fashion. We have eventually succumbed too, and are fairly pleased with the results so far. The important facts are that we are now only moving 300-400 tons of soil per acre, the whole job is quicker and cheaper and more weather proof. The vital part of the new system is to get a good flush of weeds, which can be sprayed off with roundup before sowing, this can lead to less weedkiller being needed in the new crop. Other advantages are that the non-ploughing system leaves the soil less vulnerable to erosion, and earthworms prefer it too.
Most of the winter crops have now had a dose of fertiliser to perk them up after the cold winter. There have been more frosts since Christmas than for at least ten years, and there a few patches of winter kill in some of the oats and barley.
Now that the weather is warming up the grass is starting to grow, it will soon be time to unleash the yearling steers on the world, hopefully they will appear in the meadows in the next couple of weeks, if we don’t lose them in the excitement of letting them out after being yarded at Websley for the last couple of months.
The sheep have spent most of the winter on turnips up on the hill, while the grass is rested. The second half of April should see the start of lambing in the valleys behind the village. The ewes will soon be put into smallish groups in different fields, so that they have time to sort their territory out and will be less likely to muddle up their lambs when they arrive.