Monday, 22 August 2011

QR codes for footpaths

I am intrigued by Quick Response or QR codes that appear everywhere – on food packaging, in magazines, on TV shows – and amazed that simply scanning one of these little squares with a smartphone can link me to a webpage, business card or tell me what I am looking at.

We try to let people know what’s happening on the farm using this blog and Open Farm Sunday. We’ve also tried putting up a board with a map of the farm and a little information about the crops but the last one was ripped down and so we’ve rather given up on that. I’m sure the board made a very good roof for their den, but that wasn’t really the use we had in mind. But maybe a small QR code on a post or discreetly attached below a footpath waymarker could be a good idea.

Our footpaths are well used by a regular band of dog walkers who often ask what’s happening in the field so our first QR code links to a farm diary for the field, which will explain what crop is growing and what operations are being carried out. We’ve put it on a pole where the hard surface of the bridleway runs out, which is the point where many people who wander out of Great Notley Country Park stop and turn back. So maybe instead of a diary page we should work out a short circular walk to encourage people to step off the hard surface and explore the footpaths further. Or should I tell you where the best blackberries grow? Or why the grass strips around the fields aren't footpaths unless they're marked? 

What do you think? If you zapped a QR code as you were walking through the farm, what would you like it to show you?

Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

cleaning ditches

In the gap between harvesting one crop and preparing the ground for the next, there’s time to do more tidying and clearing around the farm. I managed to pick a few blackberries from the hedge before the digger in the photo above started clearing out the ditch between our neighbour’s field and The Ley, which is the field where the bridleway links Great Slamseys Farm to the Great Notley Country Park. This ditch is particularly important as there are so many land drains running into it, taking the water out of the field and into the system of ditches and rivers. Part of this field used to be called Springfield so it would probably be very waterlogged in places if the drainage didn’t work properly. Old farm maps show that in 1849 there were three fields named Springfield, Little Leigh and Old Leigh that were amalgamated by 1895 and renamed The Ley. We always pronounce it “lay” but maybe we are wrong and it should be “lee”.

Monday, 15 August 2011

spreading slug pellets

slug pellet applicator
The oilseed rape has been sown and the fields rolled and sprayed. Today the slug pellets are being broadcast as germinating oilseed rape plants are particularly delicious to slugs.

rolling, rolling, rolling ...

rolling in Great Forest

Big Blackley, Far Blackley, Gardners and Great Forest have been sown with oilseed rape and then the fields were rolled. This conserves the moisture in the seedbed, increases the soil to seed contact and slows down the progress of the slugs.

sowing oilseed rape

 Now that this year's wheat crop has been cleared from the fields, cultivations start for next year's crop of oilseed rape. In Far Blackley the ground is broken up and seed broadcast onto the field in the same operation.

Friday, 12 August 2011

seed cleaning

Nearly all our wheat has left the farm now but we always keep some back to use as seed to plant for next year's crop and this week the mobile seed cleaner came into the yard this week to process the wheat.

The wheat is tipped from the trailer into a hopper and taken up into the machine.

Using screens and seperators the best seeds are selected and given an accurate application of seed treatment and then discharged into 1000kg bags to be stored in the barn until it's time for drilling.

The undersized, light or damaged seed together with chaff and other trash is rejected and transferred to this trailer.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


Now that the wheat has been combined and there are no crops in the ground, it's a good chance to tidy up around the farm. Grass around the edge of the field can be cut, footpaths mown and hedges cut back. This year the hedgecutting programme is changing to encourage the fruit and nut production in the hedgerows around farm and so the best blackthorn, elder, bramble and hazel have been mapped out so they can be managed accordingly. Of course we still have to cut back the hedges by the public footpaths otherwise they'd grow out too far and block the path.  

Hedgecutting a video by anne.wheaton on Flickr.
Hedgecutting around Lakes Field where the branches were beginning to hang over the footpath.

Monday, 8 August 2011

wheat harvest has finished

A dodgy video clip that may make you feel slightly seasick as the camerawork is very shaky. In my defence, I took this when I realised I’d just lost my specs somewhere in the stubble and was trying to film the combine, look for my glasses and keep out of the way of the tractor and trailer. No, I didn’t find them. No doubt they’ll either get smashed to pieces under a tractor wheel never to be seen again or they’ll get buried in the dirt and someone with a metal detector will uncover them in a few years time.

The last of the wheat was combined on Saturday evening and carted back in the trailers to the grain store in the yard. We were lucky to get the wheat harvested quickly as we didn’t get held up by rain many days though the combine zipped along through the crop as the dry weather earlier this year reduced the yields by about 25%. 

Some of the wheat has been kept back as next year’s seed, but the rest has been loaded onto lorries and been taken away and the barn swept clean, using this high tech equipment, ready for the beans.