My Jethro is famous for his invention – a seed drill that revolutionised agriculture and still in the 21st Century he has not lost the desire to improve on the latest designs.

Inventing is never easy, and yesterday was a particularly frustrating day for him. While the combine harvested the oats on one part of the farm, and the local water company spread their sewage sludge on the wheat stubbles, Jethro tried his newly designed subsoiler drill. Unfortunately, the drill could not cope with the combination of the current wet conditions in the field, the trash [chopped up straw], and the thin coating of the sewage sludge on the top, even when pulled by  a massive 350 horsepower tractor it simply would not work. Today Jethro has reverted to last year’s design which simply distributes the seed behind the subsoiler and in order for this to work properly the oil seed rape seeds, which are tiny anyway must be thoroughly cleaned. He has been on the latest [new to us via ebay, but actually very old] seed cleaner since 8am this morning, and was before lunch sitting at his computer, covered in thick dust and organic particles [which covered the floor too], while trying to order more parts through his computer. Modern farming, like all aspects of our hectic lives is becoming more and more reliant upon the internet. What would we do without it?

I hope to post photographs on here to illustrate this blog soon but I am learning how to work the blogging technology just as fast as I can, while keeping up with all the work that I also have to do.

Hay crops in many parts of the country have been totally written off with many farmers simply waiting to dry it sufficiently to burn the stinking blackened remains, whilst still hoping that September will give enough dry weather to cut, dry and bale any remaining uncut fields. The lateness of the forage making season has an impact on the animals too. Traditionally, the grass that grows after a crop of hay or silage is made is known as the aftermath. This grass is normally best utilized for finishing fat lambs, or ‘flushing’ ewes to ensure the sheep is in peak condition for the breeding season. If the hay is made too late, unless we have a very warm autumn then the grass will not grow sufficiently to be of value to the livestock or the farmer. [It is a combination of day length and the night time temperature that controls the growth.]

Genuine tiredness is becoming a problem, on top of this there are many unfinished conversations and consequently many unanswered questions, as the intense daily work load does not lessen. Meals are eaten quickly and are uncharacteristically quiet as the logistics and problem solving over machines and weather related issues never ceases.

I have been asked by a blog reader about sewage sludge. There are many myths and worries about the application of this and there is a lot or prejudice against it. I can confirm it does smell, as it is being applied to all the fields around Prosperous Farm this year, but as it is soon turned over and incorporated into the ground the distinct pong soon disperses.

Careful record keeping over many years of sludge application done in strict rotation all over Prosperous Farm has shown increases in soil fertility and a significant reduction in the application of artificially manufactured fertilizers, which currently costs £390 per tonne for nitrogen. The structure of both the heavy clay soil and lighter chalk land is also improved and this in turn improves crop yields. Yield mapping technology on the combines allows for careful monitoring of every part of every field in the hope of improving the crops and also cutting costs.

In farming some things never change and yet others vastly improve with the appliance of tried and tested science.

Harvest update: The oat crop is now in one of the grain stores and we have started to gather in the Spring barley. It was a relief to everyone to be making steady progress, albeit slow, however with the weather slightly more settled it is now the turn of the machinery to cause problems. At dusk tonight the combine broke down and we need spare parts, however it is not too serious, and providing we can get the parts quickly we should be going again tomorrow.







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Filed under Country Life, food and farming, rural musings

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