Monday, 26 March 2012

around the farm - Barn Field

I often write about the fields on the farm and I wonder if you have a true image of them. When I read in Australian blogs about paddocks I have to remember they aren't like a small English paddock. So, I thought I’d take you around our fields every now and then. 

We’ll start this week with the farm entrance, which turns off Blackley Lane. In 2000 the Great Notley by-pass was built across our old farm chase and so a new entrance was made with oak trees planted both sides to form a Millennium Avenue.

Barn Field
Little Barn Field by the Yard

The new chase divided Barn Field into three smaller fields, which Bill with great inventiveness renamed Barn Field, Barn 1 and Barn 2. Unfortunately I can never remember which is 1 and which is 2 so they get called Little Barn Field by the Yard and Little Barn Field by Rothwell. When the children were young we flew their kites in Barn Field and so they always called it Kite Field.

All three fields are down to grass as 1 and 2 are far too small to grow wheat (they’re only a third of a hectare each) and are grazed by horses kept at livery here.

earth bund next to Barn Field
blossom on hedge

When the latest barns were built, the excavated dirt was used to form an earth bund around the yard – useful for security and now that we’ve planted a hedge along the top it should screen the buildings a little from the road. Well, it will when the hedge has grown.

To be continued ...

Thursday, 22 March 2012

keeping pigeons off the oilseed rape

Last year we had a real battle against the pigeons, which were eating our oilseed rape. This year the crop looks better, partly because there was a plentiful supply of acorns until February, but it’s still a daily job to check for damage and keep the pigeons away from the crop. The gas guns that bang at random times are moved to the patches where the pigeons are feeding and the hawk eye scarers, scarecrows and flapping plastic strips are strategically placed around the fields. Walking the fields also disturbs the pigeons, sending them up in a soaring cloud to wheel around in the sky as they decide where to land next and we also have a team of pigeon shooters who help keep pigeon numbers down. The crops that were sown this spring are now coming up and the fresh green shoots should be far more tempting to pigeons than big tough oilseed rape leaves.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Essex huffers

Someone told me that the name huffer originated from the half a loaf that farmworkers took out to eat when they were working in the fields. I don't know if he was pulling my leg, but it sounds a plausible explanation. With the start of tractor work in the fields this spring, it seems appropriate to send Bill off with one of these Essex huffers for his lunch. I have my own recipe for them on the Life in Mud Spattered Boots blog. I make absolutely no claims for authenticity - it's just how I make them.

My favourite so far this week is home cured bacon with duck egg though I think by the time it's bounced around the tractor cab all morning it probably looks a bit more squashed than this.

Friday, 9 March 2012

the ducks have an adventurous day out

I think our ducks have a pretty good life. Just before dusk they walk to the duck pen, sometimes storming the henhouse en route to devour any feed the hens might not have finished (usually breaking the food hopper in the process) and after they've been fed they settle down for the night, securely shut away from predatory foxes. During the day they wander around the farm  - congregating in the long grass, picking up the wheat that spills onto the ground by the speed bump during harvest time and splashing around in the pond. Sometimes they wander off to the horse paddocks or into the garden but they usually stay fairly close to the pond.

So what on earth got into their heads yesterday? Why did they decide it would be a good idea to waddle out of the yard, through some undergrowth, under a hedge, across one half of a dual carriageway and settle down in the central reservation of the by-pass? When I found them they looked quite happy there. One of them was sitting down contentedly and the others appeared to be watching the traffic pass by. Luckily there was a break in the traffic and I managed to shush them across the road and back to the pond. I thought that was the end of it but then Bill found them later in the day making another break for it. He's put up some duck barricades to stop them getting out through the bushes but a large drainage pipe leads from the end of a nearby ditch under the road. Let's hope they don't decide that their next big adventure will be to swim down the pipe.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

around the farm today

What a beautiful day today. I wish you could see the skylarks that were singing overhead when I took this photo; it was a truly glorious sound that made me glad to be alive. If you walk along the footpaths and  bridleway there are so many things to see with buds coming out, crops growing and the first primroses hiding in the ditch.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

sweeping the yard

We had a little rain this week, not as much as we'd like, but enough to make it easier to sweep the yard. The brush attachment fits to the front of the teleporter and sweeps and collects in one pass. So much easier than a broom and shovel.

Last week the contractors spread fertiliser on the oilseed rape and some of the wheat. The soil is regularly analysed so that the correct fertiliser can be applied and some fields this year needed Muriate of Potash, which we haven't needed to apply for more than fifteen years. Potash is important because it helps the plant to grow and produce seeds and also to protect itself against drought. During the short spell of warm, dry weather last week we also sprayed the oilseed rape with a fungicide for tight leaf spot.