As I See it on the land – April 2021

The northerly winds and showery weather has held back the growth of crops and delayed some tractor work. The oilseed rape crop has suffered grazing in a few areas from small flocks of pigeons which have mostly been kept on the move by the intermittent bangs from the bird scarers. Nitrogen has been applied but warmer days are needed to get the crop racing ahead.

The fields are still too damp for drilling so we must wait for mother nature to dictate when the ground is ready.

Sheep prices continue to break records almost weekly due to lack of supply and a strong demand. Let’s hope the weather gets a bit kinder for lambing. Wheat prices remain high with traders having no idea which way the market is going, up or down, or remaining steady. China seems to be playing the world market cleverly, purchasing grain from different countries without anyone realising they have done so until after the event.

Towards the end of February, before it became illegal to cut farm hedges, I had to remove some hedging at Horton Green to allow us to widen the gateways to enable the new (2nd hand) combine access from one field to another without having to take the header off.

At the beginning of the month a large black poplar tree that stood on the bank of the pond opposite The Old Granary was blown over and fell across the pond. The top fell amongst the rape crop so I had the job of topping and clearing the branches out of the way of farm machinery. The main trunk will have to be dealt with after harvest. I planted the tree in the late eighties to replace a magnificent ash tree that blew over in the infamous hurricane. Just over thirty years hardly seems a long enough lifetime for a tree, but it shows we are not infallible and life will end sometime.

I periodically get maps of my farm sent by Solar Panel Construction firms with a circle around an area of land approximately 100 acres in size, opposite the Electricity Sub Station, on which they would like to construct solar panels. The map also includes areas on Cotton Hill that they would also like to acquire. Our marsh land is designated as Grade 2 soil, not the best, but still very good. Is it right to take land out of food production to provide electricity? Every acre lost to housing, roads, trees and solar panels means more food has to be imported from around the world, often from countries being cleared of forests and wildlife, to provide palm oil, soya, or beef animals, all at a cost to global warming.

By the time the magazine comes out we should be able to give our “free range hens” freedom after having been shut indoors for over three months The avian flu restrictions are due to be rescinded. In my opinion it was a lot of fuss over very little. The last case in the country was early in February up in Cheshire.

A fortnight ago a chilling east wind was blowing across my neighbours’ field and over the ditch towards me. I was standing perfectly still, looking through the hedgerow on my side of the ditch, listening and watching the water flowing out of the drain pipes. Suddenly a dark creature swam past me like a black, deadly, torpedo silently cruising up the centre of the ditch at about two miles per hour in search of a meal. It was a mink. Bad news indeed for all the local wild life on the water and on the ditch banks, just as the breeding season is about to begin.

I have never seen a mink swimming in such a calm undisturbed manner, no doubt due to the wind and lack of scent. Normally they dive under the surface and reappear several yards away. I hope it does not settle on my patch since the moorhens and ducks were devastated last year.

The daffodils are looking good now and I think they may last quite a long time since buds are still coming through.

Peter Sillibourne