JULY 2014

A few weeks ago I did wonder whether I would be able to report the first results of harvest 2014 when writing these notes. The weather when we were making hay in mid-June was glorious, hot sunny breezy dry days with low humidity. All the crops were growing well and ripening fast. We then had some welcome rain which, as the saying goes, “keeps everything in tune ( a dripping June)”. This has slowed the ripening process and allowed the grain to develop fully, putting on useful weight. As a result we should start the first rape fields next week with winter barley following a few days later. An early harvest, but only by two or three days.
Some of our spring barley is a bit laid. The first time this has happened in recent years. I hope that this will prove that the better crops have large ears to compensate for the patchy germination which I mentioned back in the spring. As the fields ripen we may have to call on our pigeon shooting friends to try and keep them off the more vulnerable bits. Pigeons and rooks are quite addicted to barley when it is at the milky ripe stage. It probably ferments in their stomachs and gives them that old ‘speckled hen’ feeling which is so familiar to ale drinkers. I wonder if pigeon meat shot over milky ripe barley is self-marinating?

Charles has been on a couple of training courses over the last week to sort out our combines’ satellite guidance programme. We have a farm management programme called ‘Gatekeeper’ which records all our arable information, chemical use, fertiliser, seed and other operations. It also records yields directly off the combine guidance programme and is capable of producing colourful maps showing different yields in various parts of the field. The combine system is supposed to ‘talk’ to the office computer programme but for its first two seasons much information has been lost in translation. I have every sympathy with the two programmes. I have enormous difficulty in understanding Asian call centres on the phone or even ones in this country sometimes! After many hours of study, Charles is quietly confident that the gremlins have been finally banished. Let’s hope so. There doesn’t seem to be any guarantee on software problems!

I have spent a few happy hours with Roger filling pot-holes in the cart track over the last weeks. One day I was very pleased to see a family of four young kestrels sunning themselves on the manure heap at the top of the track. The adults were very close by and presumably had been starting the process of teaching the young ones to hunt. The owl ringers have reported 5 owlets ringed in the barn owl box. This is a very large brood and is apparently not unusual this year due to the large numbers of mice and voles which survived the mild winter. There was an article in the EADT a few weeks ago reporting how successful the Suffolk Wildlife Trust Barn Owl Project had been and quite rightly praising the volunteers who had worked hard to achieve the huge rise in numbers of these lovely birds. No mention was made of the co-operation of the land owners on whose land this success was achieved. There was however criticism of the use of rat poison on the farms and the danger it posed to owls. Nice to know we are getting something wrong!