Farming diary - Season of change upon us

Kevin fills the muck spreader with manure, above; a European hornet about to enter a hole, inset

Kevin fills the muck spreader with manure, above; a European hornet about to enter a hole, inset

First published in News by

A very stormy week ended with an autumnal feel to the air after the clouds managed to deposit 47.5mm (almost 2ins) of rain, which halted harvesting of any crops here and on Stowell Farm.

But now the line on the barograph is starting to climb again and I have been able to dry two loads of washing, so things may be looking up.

The Pony Club Mini Camp finished on Saturday, leaving us all dry. There had been times when the clouds overhead were very dark, but only a few spots of rain fell.

Camp was held on Linda and Tom Hatharell’s farm in Tresham, Gloucestershire. The farm sits in a beautiful location, with stunning views in all directions.

On the Saturday morning, my group of children joined up with another group to go on a hack around part of the farm. We passed strips of fields planted with wild flower and bird seed mixes, wheat waiting to be harvested and stubble left after some of the crops had been gathered.

On the route, we stopped to have a drink and a snack, but Clare – the other instructor – and I decided that, for the children, the highlight of the ride was finding a dead wood pigeon, which we buried.

The children – most only six or seven years old – had a most enjoyable time, helped by all the parents who accompanied us, opening and shutting gates and holding ponies when needed.

We are soon to lose our student, David, who will be going on to study agriculture at Harper Adams University and we wish him well.

Matt is also leaving us at the end of the month, going on to a job with a lot more arable work, and we wish him all the best in his new job.

We have employed another young man – Ryan – who is working one day each weekend until September, to help him get used to our farming system.

Last Sunday, he volunteered to help Ruth do afternoon milking, as he has not milked cows before and wished to learn.

While milking was being done, Richard and I took the mixer wagon, loaded with food for the milking cows, to the field they would be grazing the next day.

It was after this that we stopped to pick blackberries and noticed a deer with its head showing above the nearby wheat. It crossed the track in front of us, heading into the wood.

It was then that I became aware of a buzzing sound coming from low down.

There were quite a few bees around, so I did not take much notice until I eventually looked down and saw some hornets going in and out of two holes in the draw-bar of an old set of discs, partly buried by brambles.

After doing some research, I discovered they were the very large European hornet, Vespra Crabro. At this time of year, the queen would be putting down eggs.

Contrary to popular belief, it is a docile creature. It builds its nest of wood pulp, feeding its larvae on grubs and flies; the adults feeding on nectar and juice from rotting fruit.

The week has been taken up with routine cattle work, more muck spreading, rotavating, making sure the machinery is in good order and taking several loads of feed wheat to the mill in Calne.

On Stowell Farm, there has been more checking and sorting of sheep and some of the rams have been put in with a group of ewes, which will then lamb in January 2015.

Kevin has also been spreading manure, followed by ploughing, in preparation for the planting of winter wheat.

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