As I see it on the land – February 2023

As I See it on the Land


I received a phone call after 10pm on the evening of the day the thaw set in after the cold spell. Some mindless 4×4 drivers were seen driving their vehicles round a grass field doing wheelies. Unfortunately, it was a wheat field, not a grass one. The soil was like superglue sticking to everything. Their wheels threw mud in all directions. When they got back onto the canal track the mud on the wheels pulled the road surface up leaving an uneven surface. They did more monetary damage to the road than the wheat. I think the wheat is so early in its development that most of it will recover. They also damaged one of the gates at the pumping station causing it to swing over the water.

Having agreed to pay for pipes to go in a ditch, to enable us to clean out badger spoil and allow the drains to work again, I received a shock when the invoice arrived. They cost over £300 pounds. There will be more work covering the pipes in the summer and I can see the whole job costing well over £500. Is this what farming for ‘the public good‘ means?

The freeze in December damaged a lot of the growth in the green cover crops that were due to be grazed by sheep. Grazing is taking place but on a reduced scale. I am told that once the lambs have got a taste for it, they are fattening well and the selling price is reasonable. Old cull ewes, that have finished their breeding life, are in demand and making around £100.

Due to reduced cultivations and careful soil management the ground is putting up with the excessive rain well and not poaching (getting muddy) as much as one would expect. Water is getting down into the land drains. I used to grow kale and dreaded a wet time with the crop getting spoilt by sheep stodging it into the ground. Happy days!!

The Bilsington to Newchurch road was closed to all traffic at the end of Nov. early December by the water company, at the same time as Tarpot Lane was closed by the Environment Agency. Marsh road, the alternative route, was abused and with the bus detouring to get to Newchurch the verges were badly damaged. Tarpot lane could not be repaired because tarmac was not available during the cold spell. Although I have not seen the work carried out on the canal bank, I understand an improved outlet has been installed to allow water from the marsh ditch to flow naturally under the road when the canal level is low enough. When the canal level rises under excessively wet times a flap closes and the water remains in the ditch. It is a good addition to our local drainage system.

I had noticed that the water was flowing easterly in the sewer past the farm on some days and westerly on other days. Now I know why. I thought the pump had stopped working. All has been explained.

A walk/drive along the west end of Tarpot Lane and one can see a new fence that has been erected and a substantial hedge planted parallel to the road east of Hans Farm. It looks like professional bit of planting and will surely make a good hedge within a couple of years. The saplings appear to vary between 4 or 5 feet in height and provided they are prevented from drying out in the summer will soon screen the farm.

When the cold spell arrived, I turned off the water supplies to most parts of the farm to avoid getting burst pipes. The sewage tanker was due to empty two septic tanks. I had to cancel and rearrange for a later visit when I could provide clean water for washing. It duly arrived on the 23rd Dec. We opened up the top of the tank to find hundreds of little black balls floating in all parts of the tank. The driver was unable to empty it, and said I needed a specialist firm to come and sort it out. The driver kindly gave our house tank a spring clean rather than an expensive wasted journey.

Well, if you know me, you know who the specialist was!! The first thing to do was to find out what had happened and why. Advice was difficult to get as the builder seemed to have vanished (I think he had gone to Greenland for Xmas). Other builders said there are so many Klargester models all working in a similar manner but the principal is the same. The little plastic balls should have been in the centre section where they were responsible for generating aerobic bacteria to clean the sewage system.

We had had a burst mains water pipe nearby in August and did not know where the water went. We now believe it got into the sewage system of the holiday let, raised the water level too much in the tank, and the little balls were forced out of their cage into the main tank.

Fishing began on the 29th. Two feed bags were filled using a garden rake to separate the balls from the liquid. It was going to be a long tedious job and visitors were due in the cottage. Job abandoned until the following week when we had a three-day break from visitors. The ground was so wet it had to be covered with sheets of plyboard to prevent the area becoming a mud bath. Two days of intermittent fishing, with a torch to illuminate the inside of the tank, with a sieve and a rake as rods, hundreds were extracted ready to be put back where they belonged. I fed them down a 4” inch pipe into a tiny hole I had enlarged in the central wire cage. All was completed with the Klargester working properly and the mess cleared up with just a few minutes to spare before the visitors arrived! What a glorious Xmas job.!!

The sale of mistletoe in Cock Lane was a little disappointing compared to last year. I think with the financial strain many are under; it was not considered a necessity. The field fares and redwings arrived early in November and quickly stripped the hawthorn and holly trees of their berries. I was unable to put a bit of colour in with the mistletoe. I thank Margaret and John for putting up with the hassle. I have sent £55 to Cancer Research which is £39 from roadside sales, and private sales. RABI have received £100 and the Cancer shop in Ashford was busy selling it too. I hope over £200 will go to charity.

I was challenged to give my wife flowers at the Remembrance Day service. I did almost! I picked a primrose on Christmas day for a button hole. On warm evenings we have watched bats flying. The forecast is for snow tonight. All change again.

Peter Sillibourne