NEW BLOG: It’s all about the soil!

The highlight of this week was probably our attendance at a conference on developments in soil science. The day, presented by Joel Williams, built on work he was doing on this subject when he was based at Laverstoke Park Farm.

Surprisingly perhaps, supported in part by work on best management of golf greens, it is now clear, to those in this area of research, that chemistry is but a part of soil science, alongside its biology and physics.

The way forward is to re-accept that the soil is ‘a living entity’ and not merely an inert matter to manage through chemical additives.

Research work conducted on compost teas and the 500 spray shows that these encourage the life in the soil – which determines the quality and quantity of crops; Work with silica such as 501 has demonstrated its considerable value in promoting the total picture in good soil health.

Inspired by this day, we took a spade into field 5j and dug down into the soil to look how good the rooting was – the attached photo shows us that progress has been made in the time we have been farming here.

good soil rooting

So… Perhaps biodynamics, as the science of soil continues to be investigated, will be finally seen as the necessary approach to soil management and farming. Certainly, that is our view.

And in this regard, we lifted the cpp on Thursday, filled the cow horns with fresh cow dung which were then buried for lifting in the spring, and on Saturday put preparations into the bedding straw in the barn, so that when it is cleared they will have already begun the process of doing their work. We also sprayed valerian onto the bedding straw, and as we might expect, the cattle both young and old, showed a calm interest.

ewes

Aside from that, there has also been much activity with the stock. This has included weighing the lambs and positively identifying those ready for market, moving both the lambs and the ewes onto fresh grass, and bringing the young cattle into the barn. Overall, the weather has not been ‘hostile’; The fields are still firm, though the bridle path is once again full of puddles.

More lambs have been sold this week which should help our pastures prepare for next year. I have referred before to compost spreading. With the field that held the young stock and lambs now being clear of animals it can be compost spread, while the two fields to be used for tupping will receive their last biodynamic spray of the year.

We have had two quite severe frosts and with winter rapidly approaching, winterising the farm has now to be done including the water supply to fields not going to be used, turned off.

frosty morning_2017-11

The real charm of autumn is not merely the clear cold nights when star gazing is both a possibility and a pleasure, but the marvellous range of foliage colours. Of particular note here, is the pleasure of driving through or walking through our local small beech wood – Pipers Wood – at this time of year. This small feature is in community ownership and volunteers work hard to maintain its character.

I will not ignore The Royal Festival of Remembrance on the BBC this weekend which, due to how the dates fell this year, took place on the 11th day of the 11th month. For me, as for many of my generation, we had family that fought and in some cases died in the two wars of 1914-1919 and 1939-1945. It seemed appropriate after watching this Remembrance ceremony to turn to General Wavell’s collection of poetry – ‘Other Man’s Flowers’. For those who want a reminder, or those who might like to look further into this poem, part 9 ‘Last Post’ is worth revisiting at this time of year.

I had thought that the likes of shove ha’penny, battleships, hangman, snakes and ladders, pencil cricket and so on, board games were a thing of the past. That cluedo, careers, monopoly and totopoly were no more, but no! Even if sales of board games in Germany are four times those in the U.K. And sales in France double, sales in this country went up by between 30 and 50% last year. Listening to Radio 5, it became clear that totopoly for example is still played and has its enthusiastic supporters. Are computer games losing their appeal?

frostymorning2

This positive news leads me to suggest two new Christmas activities:

  1. Listing examples of use of pretensive words used when simpler words would do a more honest job and
  2. Listing phrases which just don’t sound correct.

Examples I would offer for the first part are: ‘monitor’ rather than ‘follow’, ‘forensic’ rather than ‘careful’; for the second: ‘have a listen to’, ‘what’ rather than ‘that’ and ‘much’ when ‘many’ is the appropriate word. I am happy to know your own examples!

All of which leads me naturally into ‘a plug’ for Bill Bryson’s book “The road to Little Dribbling”. The link being that, this great American writer’s cv includes working as a sub-editor for The Times with responsibility for ensuring the quality of the English used. In the early 1970’s as a newcomer to the UK he wrote a book about his travel round the country. The road to Little Dribbling covers a similar journey many years later. His approach is affectionate but sparing no punches when appropriate and irresistibly amusing. Of particular interest to me was his revisiting of Bournemouth where he had his first job in England as a junior journalist on the daily local newspaper now sadly all but defunct – the town where I grew up and completed my secondary education.

Two gems from the book are his first experience of sea bathing and his first mouthful of whelks! All this leading him to believe the English are only happy when they are suffering.

And staying with Wessex, it’s poets and my earlier mention of Pipers Wood I am taken to a verse from Thomas Hardy’s poem Weathers:

This is the weather the shepherd shuns,
And so do I;
When beeches drip in browns and duns,
And thresh and ply;
And hill-hid tides throb, throe on throe,
And meadow rivulets overflow,
And drops on gate bars hang in a row,
And rooks in families homeward go,
And so do I.

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