IT has been another week of muddled weather. The cattle and sheep on Manor Farm are finding the day-to-day rise and fall in temperature rather difficult to deal with. Late one evening during the week there was evidence of frost, only to find that by morning all the ice had disappeared. We have also measured a total rainfall of 20.5 mm (almost an inch), which has not helped Kevin to prepare and plant fields following the maize harvest.

Kevin sold his maize as a standing crop to be harvested just to collect the grain. This has meant that the maize has had to remain in the field until quite late in the season, as it has to be harvested when the grain has a low moisture content. The grain is gathered using a combine harvester needing no drying and stored in an airtight clamp on a solid floor or in a large plastic tube. After harvest and prior to storage the kernels are passed through a crimper, at which point a preservative is added. Maize grain harvested and stored this way can be fed to livestock after three weeks, providing a feed with high nutrient value and digestibility.

During the past week Richard has been helping Kevin to prepare the recently harvested fields for planting. At this time of year the times one is able to do field operations is limited, especially following rain, as the ground takes longer to dry and maintaining soil condition is most important.

Fortunately the fields were dry enough for Kevin to be able to chop the stubble using a topper, then Richard followed with the plough, as all the plant material remaining on the surface of the fields needed to be buried.

Twenty-five acres of 70 acres of ploughed ground was then power-harrowed and planted before more wet weather arrived at the end of the week. The crop planted was a variety of winter wheat called skyfall, which is high yielding and disease resistant.

Planting this late in the season is not ideal, but if weather allows the crop to establish and is not too severe before next spring, a reasonable yield could be produced. It is hoped that the remaining 50 acres will dry enough to be cultivated and planted very soon.

The crops on Manor Farm continue to grow well, with the oilseed rape having made growth beyond what would normally be expected. On a walk around the farm the other day I could not help but notice how long all the grass is. It almost looks like spring growth and will certainly benefit from being grazed by sheep. At the moment the sheep are still munching their way across our new grass ley.

Now I am going to tell you a little more about the Chippenham YFC ploughing match, which took place the week before. The competition was divided up into classes for different types of ploughs, including vintage, classic and modern. There was a prize for the best young ploughman, which was won by 13-year-old George Gregory, a Chippenham YFC member using a classic three-furrow, hydraulic Ransome plough attached to a John Deere Tractor.

The competition was judged using eight criteria, including the neatness and uniformity of the opening and finish, how well the stubble or grass is buried, uniformity and straightness of furrows and general appearance of the whole plot.

During the week I visited several Wiltshire Wildlife Trust nature reserves to see first-hand how much the connection with nature improves the lives of so many children, young people and adults with specific needs. Langford Lakes and Lower Moor Farm are just two of the reserves being developed and used for this purpose, with great success.

These two reserves, one in the north of the county the other in the south, are great places for everyone to visit. The Care Farm at Lower Moor has a variety of small animals that can be handled, as well as some Belted Galloway beef cattle and there are already several poly-tunnels being used to propagate a variety of plants.