Sunshine & blue skies

Should we worry, or should we just enjoy it? We have been blessed with another fortnight of, overall, beautiful weather. Blue skies and sunshine, but the wind is still cold, and yes, no rain, but it is too soon to fret about that.

The scrape at the far side of the farm was created over 12 years ago, shortly after we took over the farm. Previously, arable crops had been grown intensively on the land, with large, heavy machinery used to sow, spray and harvest.  The part of the field where the machinery turned had become a wet, boggy muddy mess of deep ruts. Rather than try to repair the area, we decided to turn into a little mini nature reserve – a large, shallow pond perfect for insects, birds and animals. A digger was used to shape the area, with advice taken on the design and planting. As the soil is heavy clay, it self-sealed, so the water draining into it, and the rain, would eventually start to fill it up. In dry years there is no water, and in wet years it is full.

It has been left to nature, except for strimming the little island occasionally. Wildflowers sown originally gave a beautiful display for the first few years and have been gradually replaced with plants colonising naturally, such as bulrushes and lady’s smock. It is its own little eco-system.

On the farm, we appreciated the company of a potential investor for the CBS, who came for a farm tour and to hear more about what the Community Benefit Society is all about. Brendan ably led the tour; it is always gratifying to be able to share our world with someone interested – and a wonderful opportunity for a mid-week reason to walk the farm! Teresa, in kind, left us with two anthologies of her own poetry which we have been enjoying very much.

The animals continue to be moved on to fresh grass every 7-10 days; the suckler herd are currently in Field 1 and makes a welcome sight as we come into the driveway. The sheep were all checked for worms and foot rot, and without provoking Murphy’s Law, both issues are currently under control.

The cattle have carefully chewed around the knapweed! Sown as part of the species rich grass mix, knapweed produces a lot of nectar enjoyed by hoverflies, honeybees, bumblebees and butterflies such as meadow browns and marbled whites. The seeds are also enjoyed by finches. A pretty purple flower, similar to a thistle, it flowers from June to September. However, according to one source, it is toxic to livestock. We shall see whether the sheep are prepared to eat it!

The cuckoo is calling once more, and in the uncut/ungrazed fields, the grasses are now at waist high. We are so pleased that hay making will happen this month in two fields. The long grass is also good for rodents, which in turn provide food for other animals. The farm is visited by a barn owl as well as tawny owls. A pair of buzzards continue to nest in the wood, and red kites have been spotted on numerous occasions, although we are still not sure how we feel about that.

An extraordinary moment last week was when a sparrow hawk made an impromptu visit into the house! Chasing a little bird that managed to dodge, the Sparrow Hark found itself up against the inside of a glass door, rather befuddled! After Rosie managed to raise the alert for help, and stop the ‘pooch’ from getting too close, Paul was able to pick it up and let it back out. Such a beautiful bird up close, we are feeling rather fortunate to have had such a visitor. Once released, slightly dazed, it soon recovered, did two swoops above the house, and flew off!

We are feeling really pleased with our efforts to get the grazed fields receiving their first spray this year of horn manure 500 soil spray. This will stimulate root growth and humus formation.

In the garden the pyracantha and roses are hitting their peak, and when the wind drops for a moment, the scent is just wonderful. The cooler nights and warmer afternoons seem to be helping the flowers stay around for a little longer.

We are looking after a friend’s chickens while they are away for a month. It really is lovely to have the ‘chooks’ sounds around us once more. We all seem to visit them at least once a day for a chat! Just four, two white and two brown, Boots has taken over the ‘egg selling business’ as payment for looking after them. Reminiscent of the toast delivery service in “Grimble” by Clement Freud, but, thanks to the chickens being consistent layers, this is hugely easier to achieve! The eggs are selling well, and Boots’ digger fund is benefiting!

A Night in June by William Wordsworth

The sun has long been set,
The stars are out by twos and threes,
The little birds are piping yet
Among the bushes and trees;
There’s a cuckoo, and one or two thrushes,
And a far-off wind that rushes,
And a sound of water that gushes,
And the cuckoo’s sovereign cry
Fills all the hollow of the sky.

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