What a glorious start to July we have had. Hot, sunny, breezy days, with the odd spectacular thunder storm thrown in to lay the dust, and cool over-heating crops down. Showers for another week would just allow the crops to ripen without dying off too suddenly and will assist the winter and spring barleys in achieving malting quality. The forecast from late July to the first half of August looks promising at the moment but perhaps it would not be a good idea to make that prediction.
All crops are ripening well. The rape should be sprayed off any day now which will allow us to start combining it from 28th July, just after finishing the winter barley. All of the latter is at Mickfield and Mill Green this year so apologies in advance if you get caught behind trailer loads of bales coming home! We have a busy week next week going through the final checks on the machinery before starting harvest, also a final chance to clear some of the tasks waiting on the desk, for a wet day, to be done.
We have had quite a rewarding month with the farm’s wildlife since the last notes. Firstly we have seen and heard Turtle doves, as usual, on the meadow near Broughton Hall. These delicate little doves have had a particularly hard time over the last few decades and have declined so severely that High Suffolk is one of their only strongholds. Although, one can hardly call a couple of pairs on several hundred acres, a ‘stronghold’. Our own Suffolk Farming and Wildlife group have done some interesting research on the reasons for their decline. Apparently they have reduced from rearing two broods of two chicks to only one each summer. The main reason for this is that their favourite early food source of knot grass and chickweed seeds have become less available in early May when they arrive as farming has become cleaner, and crops grown, less varied. Later in the season there is plenty of rape seed and spilt grain for them but by then they have abandoned the hope of a second brood and are stocking up for the journey back to Africa. Also they need three metre high hawthorn and plenty of water near-by in order to nest and rear their brood. Funnily enough these requirements are found in high clay-land Suffolk, which has a greater density of farm ponds than almost anywhere else in the country, right in the middle of some of the most intensely farmed land around! So we may be sowing weeds next year for Turtle Doves!! Summer would not be the same without their soft call on a warm evening.
Other red list species which seem to like our ‘arable deserts’ are water voles in the moat, which are so numerous that one daughter was sure we were infested by rats. Spotted fly catchers are nesting in the garden again, swifts in the house roof, hare with leverets on the meadow, barn owls and little owls both in the straw shed and, real treat for my birthday, the first red kite I have seen over head in Stonham as I knocked back a celebratory drink of Albert Ale! Like I said – a glorious start to July.