As I See it on the land – July 2021

The break in the weather came towards the end of May, when five sunny days allowed those making silage or haylage a less worrying time. I watched two neighbours busy cutting the grass, then turning it a couple of times before the baler came in.

The two could not have been more contrasting. One using extremely modern, very expensive machinery. I have never witnessed such speed of operation or size of equipment. The tractor mowing, had a mower on the front of it and another mower extending out to the side and must have been cutting at least 8 metres width of crop at a time. This was followed by anther tractor throwing the grass up into the air and spreading the grass about to dry. This was done three times before a baler came in and compacted the grass into large square bales. These were then wrapped in black polythene by another machine. Tractors and trailers were loaded throughout the day and night and about 50 acres cleared of all bales during the night. Boy, did they know how to work!

Another observation of mine was that any wildlife in the grass had no chance of survival because of the speed and width of the machinery. We have had 5 hen pheasants go out to nest in the surrounding countryside.

Hopefully they will be in the wheat fields and will be able to fly to avoid the combine.

My more conventional neighbour with modest equipment, spent more hours with much smaller machinery to achieve a similar result. The forecast was for rain, and he got a contractor in who completed the baling just before the rain arrived. There were over 300 round bales of quality foodstuff. It took them several days to load the bales and move them back to the buildings for storage. The rooks were a nuisance as they sat on the bales pecking holes in the polythene which allowed air into the fermenting grass.

On our farm, Mark has finished the last spray to go onto the wheat crop (called an earwash) to keep it healthy through to harvest. The beans need one more spray and the linseed possibly more. He has been mowing the headlands of the crops to remove some of the rubbish growing along the ditch banks and hedges. We are permitted to cut but not to spray!

Following complaints from the PROW officer I have replaced a stile on the Saxon Shoreline footpath at Horton Green. When time allows, and access is possible, I may try to improve others. Dog owners are a bit of a problem because they tend to make holes in the adjacent fence to allow Fido to pass through. I made a dog gate once. Very time consuming and not easy to use. The PROW team want farmers to either remove stiles, or put in metal kissing gates, which now cost close to 3 hundred pounds. They are not easy to put in the ground either.

Two bits of good news on the nature front. I can confirm we do have owls feeding young in one of the owl boxes in our shed. Caravaners are having a wonderful time watching the parents carry mice across the fields. I hope the recent stormy night did not disrupt hunting too much since the weakest owlet will get evicted to give the stronger ones a chance to survive.

The second bit of news is that we have a pair of swallows nesting here for the first time in over twenty years. The nest is well hidden in a dark spot between buildings. If they get a move on, they may have time to rear a second brood. Let’s hope they return next year.

Still no sign of baby ducks or swans, although there are cygnets on a neighbour’s ditch.

Peter Sillibourne