I am currently reading the July chapter of Meadowland by John Lewis-Stemple – a book I happily recommend to all interested in the environment. The author follows in the tradition of essayists and naturalists like Richard Jefferies. An author probably not widely known but at a personal level a significant influence on my younger person; in the first place through Wood Magic and Bevis which led me into his essays on nature. If you are still reading this and are confused the explanation is straightforward – excursions round the farm in recent days, primarily to check on pasture re-growth, brought with them the added pleasure of watching the swifts flying over the scrape, a deer with two fawns and many hares. I am far too hyper active to be a proper nature watcher but still get enormous pleasure seeing that wild life prospers here. In part no doubt that is because we are biodynamic but in addition we leave plenty of uncultivated areas for wild life of all kinds to prosper in.
Our concern about pasture re-growth stems not just from the fact that two of our fields are currently ‘out of bounds’ because of work being done by Earth Source Energy but also because we hope to take a late cut from two fields we are keeping the stock off. Next week one of the smaller fields will be cut for silage; at present we have the equivalent of 235 rectangular bales but need at least a further 100. Having abandoned cereal production for the moment we have had to contract to buy in 50 bales of straw from an organic farm in Gloucestershire.
The bringing in of the bales has forced to the front of our thinking that we need a more powerful tractor since poor Tim had to give a week to bringing the bales in and of course the longer the bales are left in a field the more damage the birds can do to the plastic wrapping – all tears have to be sealed with tape since if oxygen gets in the haylage will be spoilt.
We had hoped that field 4 would be re-sown by now but the super-duper machine Colin uses failed to drill which means the seed will have to be broadcast next week!
We had a planning officer from Redditch visit us on Thursday to check our ‘notification’ to extend our one and only barn. She could not have been more civil and helpful and left us after a ‘safari’ drive in which she saw three hares and a deer with its two youngsters – a bonus she clearly had not expected.
Thursday evening was also enlivened by all six calves escaping from the field and enjoying paddling in the river. Their mothers were distraught and there was much noise and excitement until Chris, with limited support from Anne and myself, restored the youngsters to their mothers. Inevitably the escape got us into rant mode. At the time we erected most of the fencing, new regulations meant that posts could not be treated to give them a life of more than 3 to 5 years. What this of course means is that we are now faced with re-fencing many lengths and at £3 a yard that is a serious cost. At least fence posts now available can be expected to have a life of 15 to 20 years.
The social interaction of the group of young stock and the newly weaned calves has been very interesting. For days they formed two discrete groups but now have clearly got over their concerns and have come together.
Our flock desperately needs shearing but as always getting the shearers to actually turn up is a nightmare. Having said that shearing must be one of the most physically damaging tasks anyone can undertake.
The green energy project continues, as I said in an earlier post, one of the very interesting pieces of information we have got is just how variable the soils conditions can be – in even in an only 12acre field. I have always been doubtful as to value of soil analysis and now feel confirmed in my doubts. We do, of course, continue with forage analysis but increasingly feel blood sampling is the best way to check whether stock our getting what they need from our pastures.
Sam is really is making the most of his time here. Paul, who plays darts two nights a week has been taking Sam with him and the other evening we learnt Sam’s TV viewing now includes watching darts! Unlike some of our previous French woofers he has taken to fish and chips and tea with milk and sugar!
Though most of Sam’s time has been spent in the gardens, after some time with Tim, he is now ready to play his part in topping. Whether or not you know the old rhyme about when to cut thistles you will certainly understand the need to time it at the point at which the plants have put all their life forces into producing flowers. We do understand the value of thistles to insects and are happy to tolerate them in the right places which does not include the pastures!
Despite the hay fever, the thought of finding the money for the barn extension and a tractor, the need to replace many yards of fencing, the drop in the value of the pound against the euro – an evening meal of home grown vegetables and meat finished off with a plateful of strawberries, raspberries and Loganberries in a kitchen full of the scent from jam making and two grandchildren who have been very active in the gardens, raises the spirits considerably.