Friday, 14 May 2010

Hosting Farm Visits, New Agriculture Minister, Indian Runner ducks

Yesterday the Farmer & I hosted a farm walk for a small party from our local Transition Group. For many of the party it was their first opportunity to see a real working farm and to talk to a farmer and ask questions on all aspects of farming.They were shown the milking parlour and dairy, the cows of course, and full range of what we do here.
 In this picture the visitors are being shown the last of our silage crop from last year and the Farmer is explaining to them exactly what silage is and how it is made...they were fascinated. After this we took them up through the fields to the top of the farm to see established pastures and to talk about hedge laying and wood supplies. One well managed hedgerow can provide enough wood to satisfy our firewood needs for a considerable length of time.
After the walk everyone came back to the farmhouse for tea, cake and discussion in the kitchen. It is always very interesting to hear peoples comments on their tour round the place and how very appreciative they are, but more particularly on what they have learned  from seeing at first hand how milk is produced or beef is reared. Although we are not typical of many farms in Britain, we are pleased to be able to have the public visit us and for them to feel that they have had a valuable learning experience as well as a pleasant afternoon in the countryside. ( I hope that does not sound rather patronising!)

Well, we have a new government and a new minister in charge of DEFRA. At least Caroline Spelman has a background in agriculture and has stated that she has a desire to'increase food production' according to the report in the Farmers Guardian. Roger Williams, LibDem agriculture spokesman in the previous govenment, and a farmer, has said there is reason for 'great optimism' for farmers. Interesting times ahead!

A couple of days ago we were given some Indian Runner drakes that were surplus to requirements on a friends smallholding. The Farmer built them a neat little duck house that floats in the middle of the pond near the house and put them in it for their first night here. The following morning the Farmer got into his canoe and paddled out to release them. They immediately made their way to the bank and have not gone near the water since. Fortunately they are protected from Reynard by the electric fence that is keeping the chickens secure while they range-freely around the pond paddock. We think they are not accustomed to a large expanse of water and so are completely freaked out by it!
They are odd looking ducks, rather like tall bottles on legs and they sway around the edge of the pond bank in a tight nervous trio. Beacuse they are quite tall and elongated they have that same look as meerkats, of peering into the distance preparing to be alarmed. They are very comical.

Yesterday the Farmer was lamenting the lack of rain to encourage his re-seeded fields to grow. Today his prayers have been answered and it has hardly stopped raining all day. It is 'gentle rain from heaven' which is perfect for the seeds and for the gardens which have also been very dry  of course, so things will now shoot on apace in the next few days, especially if the temperatures warm up a little too.
Everything is now dressed in the most amazing shades of spring green and beginning to look lush though the oak & ash trees are slow in coming into leaf and neither one seems to be ahead of the other so we are a bit confused about the old adage this year;
If the oak comes before the ash,
Then we are in for a splash.
If the ash before oak we are in for a soak.

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