As I see it on the land – June 2023

As I See it on the Land

As predicted the spring oats were just visible in their rows by the start of May.

The crop is not uniformly even in growth. I am told it is where the combine left too much straw directly behind it and the residue nitrogen in the soil has been utilised to break it down. This is coupled with areas where the ground was just too wet for ideal planting conditions leaving a thin crop. Just part of trying to cope with a late wet spring! No doubt everyone will have noticed in their gardens how difficult a year it is.

Planting the linseed, when the soil had warmed a bit more, was just as much a challenge in May. Showers of rain made the job difficult and Mark spent two long days over yet another Bank Holiday getting the majority sown. With moist soil this year, the complete opposite to last year when the dry period had started, germination was rapid and the seedlings were visible within 10 days. Then the flea beetles started, peppering the leaves with shot holes and chopping seedlings off. Regular spraying has been necessary and is still continuing as I write. Hopefully we will win the battle and much of our farm will become a vibrant colourful sight in June.

The winter wheat has had another dose of nitrogen and routine fungicide spraying continues. As Mark sprays across a field, he stops whenever he sees a patch of blackgrass, gets off the sprayer and gives it a dose of glysophate by hand. Although this kills the wheat as well it is the way he has reduced the wretched weed across the farm. Headlands and ditch banks are now the dirty seed bank source for blackgrass.

I failed to mention lambing last month. What a wet time the shepherds had. One neighbour tells me that following torrential rain one night he went out at day break into the fields to find six ewes had lambed on little islands. The tide receded (drained away) during the day and thankfully all was well.

The weather is ideal for maggots to develop in the wool. The cool temperature makes shearing difficult.

Silage trailers have been busy carrying fresh cut grass though the villages. They are so large and fast, that they can be quite intimidating to meet on a minor road.

‘Grasslands’ keep mowing their turf around Carters Farm and we should all hope that when the time comes for cutting and lifting the turf that the weather is kind to avoid mud on the road.

I have been writing about the price of cereals for months. This week, the Prime Minister held a meeting, which included all sections of the food industry, to find out why food prices continue to rise when the price of cereals has dropped. There should have been some red faces!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        In the garden, the blossom on the plumtrees and the cherries was beautiful and full of promise. However, close inspection now shows that the plums survived the frost but the cherries, blooming just a few days behind the plums, caught the early morning frost and most of the fruit has not formed. I think it is time to give up on trying to grow them!! The spotted winged drosophila is the next challenge. Get the control wrong and the fruit becomes full of maggots!!

We have never taken part in the national bird counts, partly because nobody would believe the figures and secondly, we would not be too sure of our identification. We can often have dozens of birds in the trees around our substantial feeders. However, death has struck in a dramatic manner this month with many greenfinches and chaffinches dying, seemingly very quickly. One can easily see when a bird is unhappy and they sit on the ground, sometimes drawling. Death soon follows. Some days I have picked up three carcases close to the house. Carcasses can be found farther afield. I have been sent the following information.” A new study reveals a rapid decline in Britain’s greenfinch and chaffinch numbers. Experts say it is due to a severe outbreak of a nasty disease called trichomonosis. It makes birds’ throats swell, forcing them to regurgitate food and then starve” It really is quite distressing to watch.

I have not seen a baby duckling yet this year. Normally ducks have an early brood in April which often catches bad weather and there are insufficient insects on the ditches to keep them alive. A second hatching should occur in late April – early May and they should be enjoying life on the canal by now.

There are a lot of swans on the canal not nesting. I know not why. We only have one swan sitting on a nest with just three eggs on a minor ditch. Something strange is happening to the natural world.

A cuckoo arrived on the 24th April and appears to be covering a very large area,

only visiting occasionally during the day. We had swallows arrive about two weeks ago and they were flying in and out of our woodshed for about two hours. We got excited thinking they were going to nest there. Suddenly they were gone. Shed rejected.

We now have another pair who seem to be permanent residents but I cannot find where they have selected for nest building. Certainly not where they nested in the

last two years.

Peter Sillibourne