As I See it on the Land – June 2022

I have had a very anxious five weeks worrying about crops. This spring has been the worst planting experience of my farming life. Some of the 140 acres of linseed germinated in the dry ground conditions and started to grow. You could just see the rows in most fields, but then the flea beetles started eating the tiny plants. Spraying is restricted and one dose of chemical was applied but it has to go onto the plant and be absorbed into the leaf. The beetle then has to eat the leaf before succumbing. There was insufficient green for the chemical to work. The crop started to disappear as the beetles munched their way along the rows.

The dryness continued and then we had 2mm of rain followed by another 4mm a couple of days later. A few more seeds germinated and on Wednesday night this week there was 11mm of water. A great relief. Mark has sprayed again today and reports he thinks there will be a crop of sorts in places; time, weather and flea beetles permitting. This crop was being grown to replace some of the oil normally imported but now in short supply.

The winter wheats look good, and provided there are no weather shocks, should be alright. Mark has been spraying them with fungicide, and spot spraying any patches of blackgrass seen within the crop with glysophate to prevent it flowering and spreading its seeds. His persistence in destroying any patches, together with a change in our crop rotation, has reduced its presence mostly to the headlands.

I have kept myself, together with Sandra my casual helper, occupied trying to maintain the Canal Towpath. Most afternoons we manage to lay at least three tonnes of hardcore. So far, we have laid over 60 tonnes by hand. It is a long way from Hamstreet to Ruckinge and not many walkers offer to help!! The biggest problem to maintaining the Byway is the thoughtless motor bike riders, some of whom need to spin their wheels to get satisfaction, thereby destroying the surface.

Today, whilst outside of the church knapsack spraying, I lost my cool, when I was asked why was I always killing. The question could have been, what are you doing? I have spent my life growing food to feed the population. Sometimes it is necessary to kill weeds or pests. I was spraying the lower wall of the church to prevent weeds growing into the stonework and damaging it. I also sprayed where the mower cannot cope on the slope, as well as the brick pathway for public safety.

Following my comments last month, yes, I have seen a few swallows, but they always seem to move on. No residents here this year, yet. Heard a cuckoo near the village, but not until the 25th. We now have a resident one in the countryside around the farm buildings. A pair of swans arrived from somewhere, along with just two cygnets, and appear to have made this stretch of sewer their home. The oaks were in leaf long before the ash trees which are only just showing this last week. Will we only ‘get a splash’ or will we really ‘get ‘a soak’. Answer in due course!

Whilst tractor mowing a grass field at Ivychurch I watched three buzzards just over the hedge in the neighbour’s wheat field. One briefly hovered, just like a kestrel, before dropping into the crop. The others just flew over and dropped down and quickly flew off into trees. I believe they had found a hen pheasant sheltering with her chicks in the wheat. Rather a brief life for the chicks, but no doubt the hen will try for another brood.

Peter Sillibourne