April 2007

View from the Hill                                                 31st  March 2007

We have had a cracking time of it out in the fields during March, we started sowing barley about 3 weeks ago on our lightest land, which had dried out the quickest, just as we were wondering if we would ever get started on this year’s pretty ambitious spring sowing campaign.  We have been able to keep going steadily, pulling up the ground a day or two before sowing to let it dry out just enough, then sowing and rolling the seed back down into a lovely seedbed.  A lot of the barley is now showing itself already, the soil coloured fields will very quickly turn a soft green as the plants climb upwards.  The hope is that all the barley we have sown will make malting quality, as we always hope for our barley, but of course that is in the lap of the weather gods as  usual. We have also sown three fields to spring beans, most of which are well established after an early February start.

The remaining crops to sow will wait until warmer weather, both borage and sunflowers need to be sure frosts have finished, so we hope for a mid April sowing, after a liberal dose of chicken muck has been put on the seedbed, rocket fuel for crops.

We have been talked into growing borage for the first time this year, it is a difficult crop with various drawbacks, the temptation lies not surprisingly, in the potential financial reward!  It has a short growing season, and has to swathed by a special machine before it can be put through the combine.  Because the plant is indeterminate, meaning it doesn’t die or ripen off naturally, we have to pick the right moment to cut it while still green, and before the seeds fall on the ground, then it lies on the ground to dry out for two weeks before we come along and pick it up with the combine.  Sounds simple enough?  Not if it rains solidly just after swathing!  Borage seed is crushed to make a health product sold in many shops as Starflower oil.  Its pretty mauve flowers produce a lot of nectar and bees love it.  Our beekeeper friend was overjoyed when we told him we were growing borage this year, and he wants to bring lots of extra hives here while it is in flower.

The winter sown wheat and barley crops are waking up from the winter now, with day length increasing, well the wheat hardly stopped growing during much of the mild winter, but the maris otter barley always takes ages to wake up in the spring and doesn’t look very special even now.  Much of it is growing just above the village this year, in Wynchard, Great Ground and Potters Ground (behind Sutcombe Knap, Southern Rustics, and The Old Rectory respectivley).

Last month I mentioned the euro-absurdity about electric fencers, I have more to report on this: CENELEC the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation, which is responsible for the ridiculous state of affairs making all UK fencers non-EU compliant, has in its wisdom postponed the introduction of this regulation for one year, and has set up a sub-committee to look into the situation!!!  What planet do these idiots live on.  They are wasting our hard earned tax in a criminal fashion on matters like this,  that should just be left alone.

Did anyone hear about the censure of Margaret Becket by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee this week?  The chairman of the committee The Right Hon Michael Jack MP, said that if Mrs Beckett was still in her post as Secretary of State for Defra today, they would be calling for her resignation, after the shambles of the RPA’s failure to operate the new single farm payments system since it began in 2005.  It is sad that it has taken so long for the EFRA committee to find out what we all suspected all along.  This may sound boring, but it has had an enormous effect on the farming industry across England.  A whole series of broken promises and incompetence has left farmers unable to believe anything that the government tells us.  I am pretty sure that many people in the education and medical sectors feel much the same way too.


Are there any Councillors reading this?

Did you notice the little nugget in between all the good news in Mr Brown’s budget last week?  The one about landfill tax increasing by £8 per tonne per year for the next four years.  From April this year every tonne of waste going to landfill will cost the council £32 per tonne.  Wait till that is added to the Council-tax bill.

It is of course designed to encourage us all to recycle more, a very laudable aim, the trouble is it may well encourage more people to fly tip in the countryside, which is very hard to stop people doing.  Why on earth can’t we have a more co-ordinated recycling system?

I am sure a machine must exist, somewhere in the world, which can sort the entire contents of a dustbin into all its recyclable components.  This would seem more sensible, and better for the environment than lots of different lorries charging about the country collecting black bags one day, green bins another day, school bins another day etc.  Then there are the car journeys involved taking rubbish to the recycling centres, lorries emptying the recycling skips around the county, and so on.  All of these journeys sadly will still not persuade the luddites who continue to put all their rubbish into dustbin bags because the council will always take it, especially when they can buy extra black bags very cheaply if they need to.

The only sensible way forward is to recycle everyone’s rubbish centrally, along with legislation to reduce packaging and wastefulness generally.  Let’s have some intelligent and joined-up thinking on this please.

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