A dry February

A routine is forming for us here. Wednesday is ‘farm team’ meeting day, and that sets the tone for the next seven days – and makes sure we have a list of the jobs and their allocation! A farm diary sits in the kitchen to help us recall the day’s events.  

On Tuesday last, a chilly but bright day after light overnight rain, we were visited by friends of the farm Caroline from Worcester Wildlife Trust, and local farmer Jonathan, to help us make sense of the new Environmental Land Management scheme from DEFRA. But at the same time, we fairly put the world to rights regarding the production of food, and the implications of trends including rewilding, and ‘meatless meat’! 

This week has so far been very different weather – cold and fine drizzle, but little rain. The animals are well. The 10 or so calves from this autumn’s calving look as charming and appealing as they always do. Now tall enough to feed through the ‘tombstone’ feed fence, copying mum, they munch on the hay, nosing through it to reach the best bits, which always seem to be buried!  Sunday morning was bright and sunny, but the wind is bitter. Although it is blowing straight at their faces, it doesn’t seem to put the cows off, who line up along the feeder for breakfast. Tombstone feed fences are designed for horned cattle to reduce the risk of trapped heads, essential then for our horned Traditional Herefords. 

The alder trees along the brook are bursting with their spring display of catkins and seeds, and the blackthorn buds won’t be long before they too burst into their white blossom. A recent trip to Worcester city allowed us to enjoy the blackthorn already blossoming – a reminder of how cold it can be here in comparison. The Apricot is looking at its very best.  

The scrape already has a Canadian goose on its nest, and a heron flies away as we approach. A number of small birds take off from the long grass along the edge. Could they be Snipe? Once home, the books come out, but we are still not sure. 

This week we attended an event at Smites Farm, the centre for the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, arranged to introduce to farmers in this area to the concept of ‘farm clusters’ – groups of farms coming together to facilitate the work of making environmental improvements i.e., making rivers wiggly again, and recreation of flood plains, reed beds ‘to catch’ phosphates and more in run-off from conventionally farmed agricultural land, and more revolutionary – trading in carbon! The other speaker expressed his concern that the true and original purpose of farming – the growing of food- not be forgotten. Both thought and discussion provoking talks. 

News that February was the driest for 30 years focusses our concerns yet again on the unseasonal and extremes our weather delivers now. The dawn chorus this morning was the best for months, and the Geese are once again flying past us. We hope that the cold air forecast for next week doesn’t disrupt nature’s desire for spring to be sprung too much. For us too of course! 

The Peace of Wild Things’ by Wendell Berry 

When despair for the world grows in me 
and I wake in the night at the least sound 
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, 
I go and lie down where the wood drake 
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. 
I come into the peace of wild things 
who do not tax their lives with forethought 
of grief. I come into the presence of still water. 
And I feel above me the day-blind stars 
waiting with their light. For a time 
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. 

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