We have some unmistakable signs of spring:
birds pairing off,
geese on the move – flying overhead in their V formations,
grass, weeds and clover growing in the pastures,
sap rising in the hedges and some are almost budding.
What a contrast to last year, and far too early as it is only mid-Feb and winter could easily return. Here’s hoping for a long mild spring, which could lead to a good strong crop of young calves and lambs and even potentially a good harvest.
What a difference 12 hours makes. Yesterday from 4 – 5pm in the evening sunshine I was raking horse droppings in the two acre paddock with the garden rake while Swift is away for 6 weeks.
This gives the weather and the birds and insects [ hopefully] a chance to disperse the muck and improve the grazing. It is also good therapy for my ankle and other muscles which have become rather inactive over the last 10 weeks.
Then this morning we awoke to heavy snow [none was forecast] and now have 5 inches. I only managed to rake a third of the field and had planned to chip away at the rest this week. The two sheep who live in the field are totally fed up and had to be cajoled to come for their barley, in the end I had to walk right across the field to give it to them, wisely they were staying put behind the hedge for shelter. The two collie dogs complained loudly being left firmly on the other side the gate and were desperate to attract my attention and help with my task, but they did stay when told and were rewarded with a big fuss on my return.
It takes a while sometimes for us all to keep up to date with the news both national and international. Much to our chagrin no one will deliver a newspaper out here so much of our news reading is now done on-line and in busy times this gets either gets delayed or sometimes it simply does not happen. Life at Prosperous Farm can at times be like living in a bubble, and the outside world could almost be another planet and major things do happen of which we are blithely unaware until after the event.
The harvest problems that Jethro is coping with, here at Prosperous Farm, are pale in comparison to some of the stories that are emerging, for example in Friday’s Guardian newspaper.
We do still have oats and spring barley to combine, but we do now, after four fairer days, stand a chance of actually getting them in. The hours the combine can work are shorter now as the dank mornings take until at least midday to dry, and in the early evenings the heavy dew returns. The combine broke again last night but is now repaired and working once more.
The damp grain and beans already in the stores is drying but at a huge cost: currently 2,000 litres of calor gas is burnt every week and the three 40 horsepower electric fans are running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The total energy bills will be frightening to read, never mind actually pay, but there is no choice – dry the crop or lose the crop. We have also heard stories of poor quality crops approaching spoilage being sold quickly for little value.
Jethro’s current bedtime reading is called ‘Drying and Storing Combinable Crops’ by K A McLean, this book must surely be riding up the farming best sellers list by now.
The rest of the world has had a good harvest [unlike last year] and this affects the world market for grain. Crop prices have fallen dramatically and the two per cent loss of protein in the wheat variety Solstice, grown here for milling, has knocked the value down to feed wheat on account of the low protein levels, this equates to a drop in value of £50 per ton. The Hagberg level was good and Jethro is steadily getting the moisture levels down, day by day, but there is nothing to be done about the protein levels except arrange for further re-tests in due course to double check the findings. Jethro hears on the grapevine too that he is not alone with this Solstice disappointment.
The tiredness and relentless workload continues to dog everyone and both yesterday and today Jethro has left a trail of wheat grains from the grain store via his socks and his pockets all around the farmhouse up the passage and into the bathroom. It reminded me of the tale of Hansel and Gretel only before the bread was actually made. Please don’t anyone tell the birds as I hate to confess I have a long standing abject terror of birds in the house.