What a year I have been having since December 01, 2022 when I last posted a blog. Staff have been coming and going and I have been a jack of all trades. It’s a good job my father brought me up not to expect anyone to do what I wouldn’t do myself.
Well, it’s good to report that on the farm we have finished harvest - a very mixed affair with such a wet July and August. The present heatwave almost makes us forget that.
Oil seed rape has been drilled. I have adopted a Mintill process to try and conserve soil moisture and to reduce the cost of establishment.
The wet weather has meant we have had good grass growth and a large crop of silage has been made to fee the cattle and sheep through the winter months.
Nerves are jangling again because our next TB test is only a fortnight away. At the same time, the vet will take a few random blood samples to check the overall herd health status.
Yet again agriculture is having to face change. What has been known as the basic payment scheme, which is a form of financial support for farmers, is being phased out. This is being replaced by the sustainable farming incentive, a system that appears to have many minefields and booby traps with a very limited financial benefit.
I feel that as a consequence it will make the country more dependent on imports. We are a proud nation and we would like to feed the population with as much home produced food as possible.
In the shop, we are pleased to welcome Tia, a very enthusiastic apprentice butcher.
We’ve said farewell to Jules and Helen, who are both missed, and we have welcomed Izzy, Emily and Val.
Tony our honey supplier has included some information you might be interested in and that I’m happy to pass on.
Why spring and summer honey?
Well, cheers for now
Christmas is looming and things are going on apace. A rare visit by the postman delivered a very large, heavy envelope from Rural Payments. The opening paragraph basically said 'read, learn and inwardly digest' - oh, and reply within 20 days.
The upside is that I have been offered the chance to extend our stewardship agreement for another five years.
Basically, a stewardship is for the enhancement of the countryside by maintaining hedges, verges and other areas that allow flora and fauna to flourish.
Other areas are protected by not using pesticides or fertilisers all of which help to preserve the countryside as our 'green and pleasant land'.
Avian Flu is still prevalent and unfortunately the Huxley family who have supplied us with turkeys for years have lost their crop to the disease. Fortunately, however, we have managed to find another source and we will be able to fulfil our orders.
Hopefully a vaccine will be found soon as it was with Covid and Bird Flu will be a thing of the past. A vaccine for poultry is normally administered in drinking water, so there's no need to catch and inject individual birds.
On the farm front, all our crops are looking well, helped by the rainfall and mild weather. We still need more water to ensure a supply for next year, but hopefully not in deluges.
The wet weather has brought about foot-rot in some of the sheep, so we are treating them by walking them through a footbath regularly.
Christmas is nearly here, so our thoughts are mainly turning to the festive season. Let's make the best of it.
I'm pleased to report that we have completed a successful harvest and that the sowing of our new crops is well underway.
The new crop of Oilseed Rape has been sown using a reduced cultivation which saves on fuel and CO2. We have also sown fewer seeds to create larger plants that will be healthier and require less in the way of pesticides.
The living mulch we are creating is now sown, too, and the rainfall of late has helped germination, so the plant populations are looking good.
Winter Barley has been sown on the fields where the wheat was chopped and spread. We have also applied farmyard manure to encourage the breakdown of the straw to provide nutrients.
What is known as a 'break crop' - brassicas in this case - have been sown on two fields to provide winter feed for the sheep, but this also helps prevent the leaching of nitrogen and carbon.
In the spring, these two fields will be sown with beans to provide protein for the livestock.
On the shop side, I am very pleased to welcome on board a very competent and experienced butcher.
The nights are drawing in and Christmas is looming. The continuing threat of Avian Flu may have a profound effect this year. Sadly, I have to report that our supplier of Barbary ducks has been unable to source ducklings.
So far, turkeys and geese seem safe (fingers crossed!).
And finally, the August Bank holiday saw a record crowd at the steam rally in the park. Hopefully, normality is returning.
Happy new year to you all, and best wishes for 2022.
Things have been rather manic since I last wrote. There was Storm Arwen, which left its course of damage: Four large trees in the park were brought down along with several branches. There was also some structural damage to roofs.
Christmas brought its usual amount of chaos and hard work, but thanks to a very good team here, all went smoothly.
Everything is getting back to normal, but it's never that simple. We are all feeling the effect of the increase in oil prices. In farming this has caused the more than doubling of fertiliser prices, which I'm afraid will force up the prices of many food items.
On the other hand, I'm pleased to report that we scanned the sheep yesterday and Spring should see lambs aplenty. The results were: 32 sets of triplets; 124 twins; and 45 with single lambs. Hopefully, the weather will be kind to us and the grass will grow.
Covid is still rearing its ugly head and we appear to be learning to live with it. Let's hope that we can stay safe, as it's not really possible to run a shop and a café working from home.
That's all for now.
David Clarke has been farming at Churncote for many years. He and wife Sue started selling the produce from the farm in 2003, which gives him long-standing insight into the reality of the farm to fork process. David will be sharing his experience regularly here.