Tuesday 26 April 2022

Spring Ducklings, Farming Worries

To our great delight one of our female mallards arrived outside the house with her new brood of 12 ducklings. They had been spotted out on the pond the night before and we were anxious about their survival 'in the wild' but with mama duck being proud to show them off (sorry to be so anthropomorphic!) and clearly remembering from the past two years that a safe haven is to be found with people, she brought them up to our front yard and we were able to escort them all into a large pen on lovely lush grass in the orchard near the house. They are so pretty and a joy to watch as they grow over the next few weeks. Once they are big enough to fend for themselves we will put them back out on the pond,meanwhile they are safe in their netted enclosure from marauding corvids and any passing fox seeing a chance for a quick snack.
The orchards on the farm are starting their glorious display of blossom with the cherries out first closely followed by the apple treescoming in stages. Tt is a wonderful sight and uplifts everyone's spirits especially combined with the cacophany of birdsong that surrounds us at this time of year.The birds are very busy building nests in corners and crevices and calling each other from the tree tops or having squabbles over territory, the robins are particularly prone to that, while the collared doves coo seductively from the ash trees that are outside my kitchen. Many of the trees that surround the house are thick with ivy which is providing cover for the nests of finches, tree-creepers, blue-tits and thrushes.
On the farm we are coming to the end of lambing and most of the cattle are now out, yesterday having been spent loading trailers with young stock to take to the land we have across valley where they will graze for the summer on lovely fresh new grass. The dairy cows have been out for a number weeks by now and are doing well. However the milk industry is facing huge pressures at the moment and there is real risk of UK milk production dropping in the 2022/23 season due to input costs and farmers having to make major decisions on the purchasing of fertiliser and feed (although we are now coming to the time of year when cows are out grazing). Fertiliser is now £1,000 a tonne having gone up 2,000% in a year. This is due to global factors, not least the war in Ukraine. It is worrying as a number of dairy farmers are seriously considering giving up. The price paid to the farmer needs to be increased and the cost of a litre of milk in the shops will have to go up. We are living in a time of agricultural revolution and many people are talking of reducing their stock numbers and certainly cutting back on inessential expenditures. However there is much positive thinking going on and a feeling that there are going to be many opportunities for farmers to become even more innovative and adaptable than ever. After a superb display of daffodils this year they have now finished and I am enjoying my pots of tulips, not in the profusion that we had of narcissi but very pleasing nonetheless.

Thursday 14 April 2022

Springtime, Farming, Dogs

This year spring is struggling to get going somewhat in terms of the weather. We are getting a mixture of chilly days with frosts overnight and then a spell of warmer grey days with a hint of damp in the air and overcast skies but hrough it all the flowers are in their annual loop and we are enjoying the cowslips which I am endeavouring to establish in my new garden and along the hedgebanks violets are turning their faces to the sky along with the tiny wild strawberry flowers. The blackthorn is beginning to drape its veils of lacy white blossom over the hedges and we are seeing hints of green coming with the hawthorn. The birds are singing madly and loudly and seem undettered by the vagaries of the weather, the mating season is on and nothing stands in its way. We are still lambing though the end is in sight and the ewes and lambs out in the fields add their calls to the general spring cacophony. Field work is being done with a large field having been ploughed and harrowed last week and then spread with lime and sown with peas and oats for silage later in the year. As the Farmer pointed out recently, farmers have been tilling the land for millenia and he feels it is privilege to be part of that continuum no matter how difficult it is at times. The survival of the traditional family farm is the backbone of British agriculture and we will carry on despite the politicians, foody-extremists with their somewhat wacky and unrealistic agendas. For too long now politicians have taken the view that food security is not important and now with the war in Ukraine and the rising prices of fuel we cannot rely on importing the bulk of our food supplies. The consumer may have to change their eating and shopping habits and as I have said before 'Eat local, eat British' will have to become the norm rather than just a promotional slogan.
My little Jack Russell terrier, Dottie is feeling very sorry for herself after having a contretemps with our sheepdog, Judy yesterday. She is suffering for a few gashes and bruises after a squabble over a scrap of food. An unpleasant but minor incident resulting in a nasty wound that the Farmer stitched up very neatly and without Dottie making too much complaint. It is amazing how our dogs have such absolute trust in the Farmer who very calmly carefully tends to them that they will tolerate being stitched up. Dottie is ten years old and this fight has left her rather subdued but being a feisty character she will bounce back in a day or so, meanwhile she is curled up in her bed here in the kitchen