Posted on 29 September, 2017Comments (0)

Farm Diary

Farm Diary

The cereal harvest ended on 27th August (Bank Holiday Sunday) and the peas next day. We then helped some neighbours finish their cereal harvest so probably a record early finish. The quality of the grains we harvested were as bad as I predicted last month with the vast majority of crops south west of a line from Brighton to Oxford and then across to Wales being of feed quality rather than for milling, biscuit, malting or human consumption in general. The yields were mostly OK to good so the result from 2017 harvest can best be summed up as “it might have been wonderful but ended up being acceptable”. Drying charges were about average for us but the local cooperative store at Micheldever had grain intakes 1.5% higher than average – that equates to about another £4 per tonne of drying – so if harvesting 2000 t of grain that is an extra £8000 of cost.

The weather has since deteriorated with rain or showers most days so we are now in a position 2 weeks later with the beans still to cut. This is now becoming urgent because the pods are beginning to split due to the repeated wetting and drying and there is a danger of the beans falling to the floor and being lost. We are going to try cutting them today hoping that the strong overnight winds have dried some of the rain / moisture from the beans.

This harvest was almost enjoyable in that when we started the grain harvest the weather stayed dry for several weeks with few interruptions, the machinery ran well and there were few excitements – time to stop for lunch and a cup of tea or ice cream at 5 pm ish – thanks Jenny.

When fields are harvested the many deer, hares and other creatures migrate to other cereal crops that are uncut and then into the beans and finally the game crops and woodland. By this time the next crops are emerging such as oilseed rape and turnips followed by cereals so there is always fresh feed and cover for them. What is important is that they are not disturbed by human (and dog) activity too often – tractors don’t bother them much – twice this year I have come across a doe with twin fawns whilst on a tractor and they kept a wary eye on the machine but stayed put. If the young are separated from their mother they can quickly die without regular milk – dogs chasing them may not kill them directly but the end result is the same – terrified wildlife and possible death.

Earlier this year we placed 2 owl boxes on the farm. One for a Barn owl and one for a Little owl. The chosen spots have wide grass margins which should provide small mammals as feed and are away from roads (and footpaths). Hopefully next year I will be able to report some inhabitants in the boxes although of course there are quite a few owls in the area already – often heard especially at this time of year in the evenings.

2018 crops are being planted so the whole cycle starts again with the added excitement that some of the produce will be sold post Brexit – getting the marketing right in that scenario is going to be a challenge!

Julian Lewis

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