As I See it on the Land – November 2021

Once again, the weather has taken control of our farm work and it appears we are heading for some serious crop losses. The wheat stubbles that were planted with cover crops did not receive any quantity of rain until Saturday the 2nd of October when the heavens opened with 30 ml of water, with another 10ml on the Sunday and a further 30.5ml in just a couple of hours early on Monday morning. We have been watching to see if the seed is still viable and is going to push through the surface and surprise us. Not yet. The slugs which had a wonderful time breeding in July keep munching away on anything with a green colour.

Like wise the oilseed rape crop. All that germinated immediately after drilling appears to have succumbed to flea beetle or slugs, or both depending on the topography of the field. We were hoping that after the wet weekend more rape would appear. It is still fingers crossed but in reality, it looks as if the crop is lost. It will be the first time we will have lost the whole crop. I hope I can give better news next month.

Our winter wheat crop has all been planted, so in a couple of weeks’ time we hope to see seedlings appearing. Slug pellets have had to be applied across the whole area.

I have been asked why we have spoiled the oilseed rape crops growing on the north side of the village. The answer is that we haven’t. The green OSR growing was self sown (fell out the pod before being combined) or knocked out whilst being combined. It was left as a green cover crop and has now been sprayed with roundup to kill it, whilst next years wheat crop has been sown through it with a direct drill. This is what the government is encouraging farmers to do. Minimise soil disturbance, reduce CO emissions, keep the soil growing a green crop all year round to help with drainage etc. and keep the use of fertilisers and pesticides to a minimum, along with a long list of desirable, but almost impossible, aims to achieve.

During that windy wet weekend, yet another of our large black poplars was blown down across a ditch out into my neighbours’ field, which looked as if it was about to be cut for a third time for conservation. The grass was knee high. It was agreed we should get out into grass and clear the tree before the wetter weather set in and stopped the operation. Although only 100yds directly from my farm buildings it was a long drive to get around to the other side of the ditch. In my opinion the tree was 90 feet tall. However, my estimation is often questioned (I was quite good at the subject as a scout leader) so we measured it with a tape measure. It was over 90 feet tall! On the first day of trimming and logging the tree, with my lady helper (slave), we made good progress burning the tops on a good fire.

The second day, disaster, the chain saw wouldn’t start. How I wished I had the strength of twenty years ago. The plug was removed and cleaned several times, before the aga was used to warm the plug during lunch break. It started easily.

When we had load half of the large tonnage of wood onto the trailer, we found we had a flat tyre. Back to the farm for a jack, spanners, spade, blocks of wood and anything we thought might be of use. Eventually the tyre was removed ready for repair overnight. The trunk was too wide for my saw so I had to cut from both sides until I had to abandon and leave the lower trunk for a larger saw. The third day we struggled to get the tyre back onto the trailer. Eventually, with the trailer repaired, and all the trunk loaded, we were glad to leave the site!

Last Sunday we had a suspicious car come into our farmyard after it had been driven onto our caravan site. I went out to speak to the driver who was accompanied by a teenager. They were having a good look at what was in the yard and probably the security measures. I was given a story that they were looking for a campsite for 3 caravans which were currently parked on a car park at Dymchurch. Highly likely! Clare put the car details on farmwatch and within a very short time the police were in touch wanting more details. They were looking for the vehicle. The same day a neighbour had a landrover drive across his land and activate his security system and it appears his farm was being surveyed for a possible following visit.

At the Parish Council Meeting we had the Neighbourhood Watch volunteer (Peter New) for Ashford District attend and he briefed us on the need to be alert and the necessity to report anything suspicious to the police so they can build up a picture of what is happening and where. Do not leave it to others to report. The more reports the better the chance of getting an improved service.

Peter Sillibourne