April 18, 2010

“A hedge between keeps friendship green.”
French Proverb

I love farming and I love being outside. Rain or shine, sleet or snow, I love it. Of course it’s a whole lot better when the sun is bright, the sky is blue and everything is growing… That’s exactly what is happening now as I look out of the office window. There is not quite enough grass about to turn our cows and calves out all the time, but they run in and out on alternate days, to make the most of what grass is starting to move.
Good Friday and Easter seemed to bring the warmer weather, making for nicer weather to be fencing and working outside in. Thankfully we finished hedging and planting up the gaps with whips, before the most of this warmer weather. The ground is still moist, but it is plenty late enough to be planting young hedgerow plants. I may even have to give them one generous watering to get them going before the summer really kicks in to gear.
I have only done about 50 yards of hedge laying this year and I didn’t put any dead wood back in the hedge. If you are competition hedging you use branches you have cut off to fill in the small gaps and make it look better. That was what I did 6 years ago on a hedge by the house. However the dead wood eventually breaks up and rots away, often leaving a gap. Unfortunately my rams found this hole and were found cruising round next door’s garden! The dead wood can prevent light getting to the bottom of the hedge allowing young growth to get going! So I’ve learned that lesson and while I probably won’t win any prizes hopefully my hedge will grow back well. I’ll let you know in another 6 years!
We are having a late spring but there is still plenty of colour around and about. The stoned fruit trees are blossoming and the may is out in places. Funnily enough it seems to be out on south facing slopes, but not on north facing ones. I guess this happens every year, but it is the first time I’ve really noticed it!
Shearing and silaging don’t seem so far away now. It’ll soon be summer and then we’ll be busy!
If you happen to be in Hay on Friday the 28th of May there is a film about young farmers in Herefordshire being shown at the Festival. It should be fun and I hope to see you there.
Rich Thomas, Risbury Court. 15/04/2010.



March 17, 2010

One hour’s sleep before midnight is worth two after’mid 17th Century Proverb

My radio kicks into life at 5am. It can’t be morning already? Surely? … It’s lambing time and I have to prise myself from my bed to get to the lambing shed and check the ewes. I don’t have a film crew, Adam Henson or Kate Humble to share the experience with, but it has to be done! Dad and I share the workload, he does nights and I do the mornings. Generally speaking if you are in the shed at or shortly after sunrise you can catch any problems in their early stages. The ewes were due on the 25th of February and we’ve had 220+ so far today, with about 50 to go. It’s not the most manic of seasons, but with about 15 ewes lambing a day, it’s kept me busy!

It has been an ‘old fashioned’ winter and early spring, according to Dad. We have had a cold and fairly dry winter, despite the snow and the ground is still cold now in mid March. The soil temperature is too low for grass growth at the moment, which is making life a bit tricky. You can normally assume by mid march that we will have had enough warm weather to allow the grass to green up and start to grow, or even not have stopped growing at all in our recent warm winters. The lack of grass, which is so important to all livestock farmers, is causing feed issues for ewes and lambs outside. We would be feeding them outside now anyway, but they need and eat more hay and corn than in recent years. Still, it is bright and sunny, so it will warm up soon I’m sure. And when it does, everything will probably kick into gear quite quickly.

Feeding the ewes and lambs out everyday, I see quite a lot of wildlife, especially birds. There are a lot of Fieldfares about at the moment; they seem to like being on pasture land eating insects, larvae and worms. Our wild bird seed mix has worked well too this winter, providing much needed food for many small farmland birds. We have been asked to put a second area in for next winter by our Stewardship advisor, as we are planning the next 3 years of the agreement. It will be much needed if next winter is anything like this one. With that in mind I’m hoping we can get our wood store filled up in early summer as we have used quite a bit of wood this year. It’s cheaper than oil and carbon neutral! Everyone’s a winner!

Here’s hoping for a warmer month and some spring like weather.

Rich Thomas. 15/03/2010.


March 15, 2010

‘Energy is Eternal Delight’
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-3) ‘The Voice of the Devil’
William Blake

Whatever your feelings on wind turbines and wind energy, there can be few better examples to young children than the new one at our local primary school. They also have a board at the school explaining how much energy has been generated so that the children can see what is happening when it is windy! I hope that the new turbine will encourage the children to think about how much electric they use and how it is generated. It has to be good for the future generation!
We have had quite a lot of wet weather recently, but I have still managed to spread some chicken and cattle manure on our grassland. On the plus side, the most recent snowy showers have helped to wash some of the goodness into the ground. Ideally I would have spread the manure in January so that it was degrading into the soil by early March. The only potential problem for us could come if we don’t get enough rain to ‘clean’ the grass off for the sheep when they go out with lambs. But you can’t spread muck onto snow and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs research suggests that the nutrients are better used when the grass is starting to go in early spring. This is therefore beneficial for the environment and us and hopefully we will save on expensive inorganic Nitrogen.
Last month I wrote that I had seen 9 lapwings, well 2 weeks ago while manure spreading I saw about 100! They feed on worms and insects and were obviously interested in anything that had been living in the natural fertiliser. I haven’t seen them since so perhaps they have headed further south in search of warmer weather, which is something I considered yesterday whilst finishing my hedge laying! Still it’s finished now, with a couple of short bits that need replanting with nut and thorn whips.

Rich Thomas, Risbury. 15/02/2010.

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March 15, 2010

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