With more spare time than usual on my hands during the Christmas break I thought I should generate some content for the new website, the one that launched 4 months ago……
The year started with a flurry of off farm meetings for me, The Oxford Real Farming Conference, the BASE AGM and Conference (Biodiversity, Agriculture, Soil, Environment) and a visit to Richard Gantlett who farms in Wiltshire using biodynamic principles. Who knew it was worth getting a year’s worth of meetings in early! Also worth getting in early was a quick family holiday, 4 days skiing in Slovenia, and on a fluke of good fortune we flew in and out of Vienna rather than the other option of northern Italy!
Lockdown 1.0 hit us on the 23rd of March 2 days before ground conditions allowed us to make a start on a relatively large spring drilling campaign. We picked spring oats for their ability to do well in poor conditions. Soils were wet, and after the poor autumn and winter conditions I didn’t trust spring to be any better behaved.
We brought in a one household per tractor, sprayer or telehandler policy. With both my boys sent home from school my tractor did have three drivers. I found myself in trouble with younger son’s form teacher one afternoon when he had deemed an online history class to be of less value to him than planting 20 hectares of spring linseed….
Lockdown brought a flurry of flour orders as everyone stayed home, baked their own bread & walked farm footpaths. A few needed directions back to the nearest footpath, but most are wise enough to avoid the embarrassment of being given directions more than once.
We entered a Countryside Stewardship Scheme this year. It started on January 1st, but confirmation of admission to the scheme did not arrive til 23rd February. This lack of ability from DEFRA to meet their own time scales is a bad sign with a new scheme called ELMS just around the corner. Luckily the news came in time to establish some of our bird food & pollen and nectar mixes, along with some turtle dove supplementary feeding with the RSPB. We had a pair of turtle doves sitting in the orchard by the yard cooing at us for about a month.
Harvest started early as the weather had switched straight to summer halfway through spring drilling. Yields were muted as was expected from the wet start last autumn and the dry spring/summer. Maidstone Driving Test Centre came back to life during July allowing older son to take and pass his tractor test. He had missed the first two crops of harvest but was just in time to cart that large area of spring oats. With him on grain cart, we could start planting catch crops. If they are planted close enough behind the combine the seed can catch some moisture from the previous crop.
Surely this autumn can’t be as cruel as last we thought. Not keen on taking that chance, we started planting the first block of winter wheat on 20th September. It was hard, dry, and tough going so we took that block slowly with rain arriving on the 24th. We then only had nine good weather days for planting winter crops before finishing on October 21st. Thanks to some long days and nights we did get all winter crops planted, but conditions have been so wet since planting, not all will survive to harvest and we will plant some spring oats in their place.
So far this winter, we have been cleaning ditches, carting compost and manure onto farm, and playing with a range of demonstration tractors to replace our second tractor, I can’t believe it is 12years old already. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year. I am off out to the workshop to look for a huge stocking to hang by the fire. Fingers crossed.