As I See it on the Land – November 2022

Having been restricted to the farmstead I can only report on what I have been told rather than seen. The rain showers came in time for the cover crops to germinate and good growth is taking place, so there should be grazing for some sheep early next year before the spring sowing of linseed. Livestock farmers really have had a tough time and despite the rain and fresh growth of grass it has come too late. Both sheep and cattle are receiving extra dry food to supplement the grass. Ewes are being prepared to say ‘hello mate’ to the rams, and a new livestock year will start. Prices for store lambs have not been as strong as last year because of the nervousness of the farmers who purchase them to fatten during the autumn and spring. There is the worry of not enough grazing food being available, meaning costly cereals will need to be fed. Also unknown is what the demand might be in the future for meat with food inflation and the squeeze on incomes. Anyone got a glass ball?

Mark cut all the hedge boundaries in the fields due to be sown this autumn. Our field adjacent to the Kitsbridge Pumpimg Station along the Royal Military canal has been called ‘The Willows’ since the early 70’s. Under a government drainage scheme 4 fields were amalgamated. One of them had a central pond with three gullies which radiated out from it. Three mature willows on one of the boundaries were retained in the middle of the new field, which was then named The Willows. For nearly fifty years tractor drivers have cursed the trees which prevented straight runs across the field for machinery and sprayers, causing extra work travelling around them. Now fully mature, nature and a disease, has taken over. One tree died last year with a second one 90% dead this year. The disease seems to be rife across mature willow trees on Romney Marsh. The tops of the trees die, similar to ash dieback, and eventually weaken and are often blown over or snap. In my absence Mark has felled and burnt the two dead ones. A new name will soon be required. The willows in my garden are in the same state and await the attention of a tree surgeon before they topple on the buildings.

Mark started drilling winter wheat seed in the fields we look after at Woodchurch, well before the end of September. He was confident that there were few black grass seeds germinating to be a problem. Where blackgrass is in abundance farmers are advised to delay drilling so that they can be controlled properly before planting takes place preferably in November. He said the ground was in good condition and it was a pleasure to drill without any wet spots. The flat ground alongside of the wood, near the organic farm shop, is notoriously wet, with the public footpath crossing the worst wet area. I suspect an unofficial path will be created again by the local residents where it is drier.

Mark continued drilling at Hamstreet and gradually moved across the farm finishing in the field by the farm buildings by the 9th October. The showers have helped with germination and all the fields are showing green with the rows showing up through the linseed stalks left by the combine. The slugs, which I am an expert at farming, have had to have two applications of pellets to keep them under control. A pre-emergence spray has been applied to take care of weeds and all looks set for a good start on half of the farm for the 2023 arable year.

The hedge cutter is back on the tractor and the winter trim along the roadside hedges has started.

I have never had so much interest, from so many people, in the roof of my bungalow, whether it’s the loft insulation or the solar panels. The phone rings and a request is made to speak to the owner. Quickly confirmed.

The latest scam phone call started “I am the energy officer for TN26”. Well, I could do with some energy, Goodbye, (it might not have been quite so polite). I did not know Ashford Bor. C had an energy adviser? It is a shame our shambles of a government could not make this phoning illegal. Someone must get caught out or else the practise would cease.

My solar panels seem to be in constant need of servicing. I can never get the caller to understand that they were erected by an electrical firm in my village and that they will be the first business I will call upon if I need help. They all seem to read from the same script and never listen to what you say. I wish I knew how to stop the calls. Sometimes numbers are withheld, or they come from afar.  I often say I can’t understand them, could they start again as I am hard of hearing. The neighbourhood watch advisor warns everyone to be very careful of these calls and do not get into conversation with them. They are after your personal details.

The summer has passed and I have only seen one snake all year, which was during a warm spell in early spring, when we moved a log, it was hibernating under. We normally find snake eggs that have been laid in our manure heap. There is plenty of clutter, dead tree trunks etc. for them to hide under around the farmstead. Last year I think I had sightings of 9 snakes in different locations. After such a dry, warm summer, why none? Is it another part of nature that is declining rapidly. We did see two glow worms near the Scout HQ.

This week I have been given permission by my surgeon to start work again but to pace myself. I don’t know how ‘slow’ will speed up!!! Doubtful. There is plenty of autumn work to do in the garden, caravan site and holiday let. The holiday let has been busy all summer and is only just easing off a little. We are looking for a reliable cleaner. There are probably 100 tonnes of wood in the sheds waiting to be logged. There is mistletoe in abundance waiting for Christmas. Plenty to do.

Peter Sillibourne