The trouble with harvest and September weather like this is that we are disappointed when it doesn’t happen in subsequent years. Come on everyone, I am a farmer, I have to look on the gloomy side of things, it is expected of me!! To say that we have had virtually perfect weather for the last two months is really not much of an exaggeration. Lovely harvesting sunshine with just enough showers to keep the soil moist has set us up very well for the rest of the autumn. The forecast from Accu weather is showing a lot of sunshine with occasional showers for the next month so I hope it is correct as we need both.
We finished combining cereals on August 20th, the earliest since 1976, which was a year of serious drought. The last two fields of wheat broke our record of last month with a yield of 5.3 tons per acre. This is seriously heady stuff and we must not expect it every year! Trying to sell this bumper crop soon brought me down to earth. The price is now about £100 per ton and most grain merchants expect it to fall further as farms start clearing sheds which are being used for temporary storage. I sincerely hope that consumers benefit from these low prices in reduced food costs. If our prices are nearly half what they were last year, you should all reap the benefit.
The rape has all been sown into good seedbeds and has mostly germinated. Our new Top Down machine has worked very well apart from a glitch in the electronic seeding mechanism. It is controlled by a radar device which has sown the seed a bit too heavily, but this year, with the potential of extra flea beetle and slug damage, this may be no bad thing. To have sown 260acres of rape in 5 days is an absolute revelation to us and has even led to the junior partner going for evening walks at the seaside while waiting for the next bit of ploughing to dry out! The land to be sown with wheat after rape is all ready to go, muck spreading is all done and the plough has a fortnight’s work to do to prepare for the cereals.
A couple of years ago I reported in this column my anxiety in watching a buzzard hunting for and catching a young leveret in front of my eyes. I was concerned that our efforts to encourage and protect our hare population might be put at risk. While working the land at this time of year we get a good opportunity to see what is living on the cereal fields and to take stock of numbers. I must report that our hare population is very robust and may even be larger than at any time in recent years. Also there seem to be more buzzards about. So my fears about buzzards enjoying too many leveret burgers must be unfounded.
As the evenings draw in and the mornings get misty our few remaining swallows will soon leave us. Several pairs have reared three broods this year encouraged, I suppose, by the excellent August and September weather. I always feel an odd sense of loss when our migrant friends leave for their long journey. But I do look forward to the fieldfares and redwings arriving for their annual raid on apples and berries in the hedge. Something to mull over with a glass of Highland Park in the Ten – oh no – 11th Bell during the autumn!