As I See it on the Land – September 2021

I forgot the deadline last month and have been duly admonished by several readers. Couldn’t have been anything urgent to report on!!

Spring Watch eat your heart out. The pictures of the owl were taken by Lester Selmes, a caravanner, whilst watching the owls on their frequent hunting trips. Two owlets were seen in the old sheep shed together with their parents. They appear to have been fed for quite a long time after fledging, possibly whilst the weather was so poor. We watched them learning to fly and search for food on the CCTV. They seem to have dispersed from the buildings now.

A buzzard has nested not far from the buildings and its solitary offspring makes a monotonous weeping sound almost continuously. It always seems hungry.

The swallows have had two broods and we believe they are on a third lot which will not be leaving the nest until September, which doesn’t give much time to build strength before flying to South Africa.
We have had a tree surgeon reduce two large ash trees down to the main trunk. One was suffering from ash die-back, whilst the other, which was damaged in the great storm of 1987, was becoming a potential danger. One has started to sprout again, whilst the other has allowed light into part of the garden.

The ground was rock hard in April and moles struggled for a living. July, and with the soil so moist, they think its an early Christmas. They are heaving everywhere. Ants too have had a bounteous time and there are casts everywhere, especially on the lawn!

What a lousy July we endured. Normal haymaking of meadows would gradually take place throughout the month. However due to regular rain showers farmers delayed cutting. At the first sign of dry weather everyone started mowing and then when the crop was dry there were not enough contractors available to complete such a condensed period of haymaking. Quality slipped and a lot of hay was made of poor feeding value. For those with large acres to deal with there are few jobs more frustrating than having to keep turning hay day after day in the hope of getting the fields clear, knowing the resulting bales will be of poor quality. It is the first time I have known stock farmers to be embarrassed with such a surplus of grass in a July. Some fields have remained uncut and livestock put back in to try to get the fields back into a reasonable state.

Harvest is about two weeks later than normal this year

Oilseed rape was the first crop ready. Fortunately, the crop had been sprayed with a chemical to help prevent the pods from shattering in heavy rain, which duly arrived in the third week of July just as the crop was fit for combining.

My fears of frost damage to the oilseed rape crop became apparent once the combine had harvested the crop The average weight was confirmed at 24 hundredweight an acre once the lorries had transferred it to Weald Granary at Mereworth. The result seems to be similar on other farms, but well below what I had hoped for from such a healthy-looking crop in the spring. Currently the value is much higher than last year.

The combine moved onto a neighbour’s farm to complete their wheat before starting on our block adjacent to the canal. The heavy rain and wind in July had put a lean to the crop and many stalks had bent or snapped and were below the cutter bar on the combine. The combine estimates that it has harvested about 9.5 tonnes a hectare.

I hate metrication. This equates to about a tonne an acre less than previous years. That’s an awful lot of loaves of bread less!! Although early days yet this seems to be similar across the country. Our bread making test results show that the protein and Hagberg levels are good, but the bushel weight is only just sufficient enough and some is just below the minimum level required and will incur a small penalty charge. It should still go for bread making. The world markets are volatile to say the least and prices are rising to unprecedented levels everywhere. Russia is no longer exporting and traders are nervous, especially of China. It is thought that China is back up to 400 million hungry pigs (animals not humans!!). A mixture of floods, droughts, fires, hurricanes etc. around the world are creating many questions on the availability of food and the transport to get it to where it is wanted.

We are currently waiting on the weather to improve, and for some new tyres to arrive for the combine! Wheat at Woodchurch is next on the combines list of work, followed by spring barley on the neighbours. Our winter beans have blown over and look a mess. I am sure Mark will enjoy trying to salvage them!

The Parish Council is considering whether to join the nation in celebrating the Queens 60 years on the throne. I am not sure if her Majesty would agree to thousands of bonfires and fireworks causing further pollution and global warming, if she was allowed any say in the matter. Compared to the fires raging around the world from California, Siberia, Turkey, Australia etc. a little extra smoke is nothing. If we are serious about “zero” we should stop.

Peter Sillibourne