Thursday, 26 May 2011
Down on the farm.
While all this has been going on - the holidays, the visits to churches, to art exhibitions and the like - life on the farm has gone on just as it has for generations. Nothing much changes; everything at this time of the year depends to a large extent upon the weather. And this year so far the weather has not been kind here to farmers, in spite of that wonderful early hot spell of sunshine.
The cattle are now all out in the fields. The winter loose housing still has the bedding, where it rots away and warms up delightfully so that it can be spread on the fields later in the year. In the meantime it is the favourite resting place of the farm cats - warm and within watching distance of the nesting swallows above in the rafters.
Swallows have returned and taken up their old nesting sites in barns and buildings, cleaning them out, busying themselves and finding some damp mud in the midden to help with the new-build. House martins have returned to the eaves of the farmhouse; sitting up in bed drinking my morning tea I watch them darting back and forth after insects.
My new Buff Orpington cockerel has settled in well and seems to be looking after his flock of assorted hens. But they are all quite small and he is a very big lad, so they seem to be doing their best to keep out of his way! Not a single one has gone broody yet but I shall watch out for a broody one as I would like to raise some chicks if I can (in spite of the farmer's opposition to the plan).
The Summer eatage cattle have come. Fifteen Belgian Blue cross heifers - thirteen of them very young and two in calf for the first time - are in the big pasture. They have settled in well but are very curious and follow us up the field getting as near as they dare without actually touching. Turn around and face them and they back off immediately. Tess is just a little scared and stays close until we are through the gate, where the heifers congregate to watch and dare each other to move an inch forward to my outstretched hand.
In the other big pasture thirteen heifers loll about in the grass, some of them stretched out flat to keep out of the wind. Both lots will stay in the pastures all Summer long.
The meadows are desperate for rain. It is silaging time but there is not enough grass on yet to make it worth while. Several farmers in the area have already begun. The weather has not been kind to farmers here in the North East. During the whole of May we have only had a little over an inch of rain and the grass is not growing as it should.
In the vegetable garden things are also at a standstill. There is a spurt of growth if the farmer waters with the hose pipe. We bought some runner bean plants at the weekend and because all danger of frost is not yet past we put them in our greenhouse (it has only limited glass in it as it is in such a bad place and we do not use it but it offers a little bit of shelter) Here on Monday the winds were reaching seventy miles an hour and they blew every single leaf off the runner bean plants and absolutely shredded the raspberry leaves.
The sheep and lambs came at the weekend. Each mother has two lambs and they have settled into the remaining pasture at the bottom of the yard. It is nice to see the fields full of stock again - even if it does all belong to somebody else.
Now the farmer waits to silage and haytime. He does haytiming for several people round about - mainly horsey people who have just one field and need the hay for winter feed. So now all depends on the weather.
In the meantime the grass under the Scots Pines usually has young birds of one kind or another. Demanding young blackbirds making a noise as the parents frantically gather food for them, young wood peckers learning to balance on the peanut feeders, young collared doves, hard to distinguish from their parents except that their plumage is somehow paler and neater.
Yes everything is as it should be here on the farm. All we need now is several days of still, warm, pouring rain.