Friday, 7 December 2007

What A Treat

Whilst crop walking on Thursday I was treated to a very close up view of a Barn Owl adjacent to one of the farm tracks. It seems that the numbers of birds of prey are actually increasing. Is this due to the improved habitat that farmers are putting down? Grass margins planted for nesting birds are providing food and habitat for small mammals which in turn provide a feed source for birds and mammals higher up the food chain. Could there ever be a point in time when we will need to control some species of raptor? Now that would be a debate hotter than badgers and TB!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Farmers Are Outstanding In Their Fields Again

The May Hill Producers Group met at Overbury to talk about sheep. The group meets twice a year, under the strict supervision of Lesley Stubbings, to compare physical and financial performance of our respective sheep flocks. We are very lucky to have a world re-nouned sheep expert like Lesley advising the group. Lesley travels the world looking at everything sheep orientated, from breeding selection, through to research about worm resistance and a multitude of other topics impacting our sheep industry. The group had a look around our sheep flock, starting with the lambs, then breeding sheep ending up at Park Farm looking at the buildings and the rams. After lunch , we got down to the nitty gritty on how the sheep are performing and who we can try and make them break even. Lamb price is very depressed at the moment following the health scares (and therefore fewer exports) and the supermarkets importing a lot more lamb from abroad. We all learnt something and a great time was had by everyone, as lets face, it most farmers are nosey and want to know what everyone else is doing!

Friday, 30 November 2007

Stone Walls

This is Andrew mending a dry stone wall somewhere on the farm. Does anybody recognise where it is? There are a couple of give away clues. The farm has to maintain and repair over 19.5 km of dry stone walls, excluding those that divide woodland and surround property. Last year Andrew spent 11.2 weeks repairing these walls. It is a very skilled task, a little like doing a large jigsaw, making sure all of the bits of stone marry together to stand up for any other 70 years.

Why do they fall down? There are lots of reasons, deterioration of the stone, exposed to wind, rain and frost for so long is the main reason. They also get knocked down by sheep, deer and badgers all trying to get to the, obviously greener grass on the other side of the wall. Andrew tends to repair the walls during the winter months when most of the arable work is completed and the fields are too wet to work. Tod also helps Andrew on the larger jobs and when the walls are 'topped' i.e. putting the upright stones in place and concreting them in place.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Wychall Primary School Visit

Yesterday was the 1st visit by Wychall Primary School to Overbury as part of the 'Year of Food and Farming' twinning project. The day began with an introduction from Penelope and me, then a boot dip and a trip to the toilet! After that the children moved to the Estate Yard where we split into 2 groups looking at our sheep flock, with Tod and the kitchen gardens with Steve. Storm, Tod's sheep dog stole the show and loved the attention from everybody. The children touched sheep feed and some lambs, a first for many of them. Tod also gave us a quick fencing demonstration, with the quad bike and rappa fencing system, then it was off to the village hall for some well earned lunch. Billy and Michela had cooked up some ingredients that the children harvested from the garden and we all tasted lovely warm carrot and celeriac soup, with a risotto side and maple syrup glazed beetroot (my favourite, thanks Billy!) After lunch we tested the coach drivers skills up to the Eastern end of Bredon Hill to look at the view and talk about LEAF boards. It was very cold and windy so we retreated to the coach went to look at a field of Brassica's! Then we checked out a wheat Field and then Charlie dug up a bean plant. It was then time to go so everyone clambered back onto the bus, dirty wellies included and headed back to Wychall. It was a great day, everyone enjoyed the experiences and we all learnt lots of new things. We will be contacting the classes again for our next video link. Tasks, based on what the children saw and learnt about will be set. Good Luck children and very well done!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Short back and sides

This is sight well known to locals at Overbury or anybody passing through the village at this time of year. It is Gordon, hedgcutting expert, pruning and very skillfully shaping and molding the hedges on the farm. Gordon has looked after, trimmed and shaped the hedges that every-one drives past for over 20 years. Some people notice and comment, which is great, others just get irate about the hold up as they scurry off to work, late because there was a slight frost on the windscreen that held them up. Hedge cutting is a very important job. Along the sides of roads and footpaths it removes obstructions and increases visibility for the general public. As hedges grow they need to be trimmed down to encourage growth lower down to give shelter to small mammals and birds. A nice A shaped hedge trimmed lightly every year will bear fruit that birds can eat during the winter. Leaving hedges uncut can result in a little more winter food but the hedge will soon revert to a bush, grow tall, and have a premature death. Look out for Gordon on your travels around the farm and admire the skills involved and learnt over a long period of time.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Field Surfing an Organic Alternative?

This is Derek this morning topping out the yellow flowered Charlock in the field growing stubble turnips and forage rape for the lambs to feed on over the winter. Charlock is a real pain as it belongs to the same family 'brassica' as the actual crop so we can not spray it out. We weed surfer is like a flymo that is carried along behind the tractor trimming of the flowering heads and some of the pods that have already been set. The trick is to get the surfer low enough to cut the charlock but not to low as to damage the actual crop. Some of the outer leaves will be chopped a little but they will recover after the rain we have just had and the warm soil temperatures. The lambs will be running out of grass during October and so they will need to be grazing the turnips in November and hopefully they should last the lambs until March. Anybody know how many grazing days an acre of turnips should last?

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Not a LEAF Supporter!

This was the sight that greeted me this afternoon above Beckford Court Farm. Paul Gillett phoned me to give me the news that someone in their idol stupidity had vandalised one of our LEAF boards! Why? Who knows. It wasn't offensive, didn't block a right of way, didn't offend any ones views nor did it discriminate against any aspect of society. It was just sitting there telling people about what we as farmers do to manage the countryside.

It's not really the expense, they cost about £4 each but it's the frustration and the time involved in replacing them. Do have a quiet word with me if you can shed any light on how this occured.

Drilling, or planting as some people like to call it, is going well and the welcome rain has at last got the Oilseed Rape plants to germinate. It is still touch and go if they will be strong enough to last through the winter.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

The Year of Food and Farming

On Wednesday night Jim Paice MP Shadow Minister of Agriculture and lots of other people were at Overbury Court for dinner to launch The Year of Food and Farming. The theory is to twin a school and a farm so that the school children can follow the year cycle of a farm and the food that is grown on that farm. Overbury is twinning with Wychall school in Northfield, Birmingham. I met the head teacher last night, Therese Allen, and we got on really well planning the forthcoming events for the children here at Overbury. We are planning lots of events for the children in the coming year. There will be some video casting from the farm office to keep the children in touch a little more regularly with what is happening on the farm.

Jim stayed over at the court and I had the privilege of showing him around the farm in glorious sunshine this morning. A very knowledgeable guy about lots of rural subjects, policing, agriculture, post offices, rural housing, rural job creation and the list goes on. A blast of fresh air and empathy for the farming community after all the ups and downs of the past year.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007


Work started this week on upgrading our sprayer filling/storage area on the farm. The new site is in the existing building, which was the site of a static pea viner, many years ago. The vines were cut in the fields at carried back on trailers before being fed into the machine where the peas were removed from the pods. These days the work is completed in the field by mobile pea viners which work 24 hrs a day to ensure that the peas are harvested and then transported to the freezing factory within 120 minutes.

We have decided to re-do our spray store and sprayer loading area to increase our safety to the environment when we are filling the sprayers. The store and filling area will be fully bunded so that if we have a leak whilst we are filling up the 'juice' can be contained in a special area. Touch wood we have not had a problem before and this should give us a state of the art area which will be fantastic to work in as well as giving the environment maximum protection. The dome to the left will also be the home to our re-cycling area where we will aim to store and then send for re-cycling as much of the waste produced on farm as possible. The works should take about 4 weeks to complete.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Movement at Last

It was a bleary eyed Farm Manager and Shepherd who loaded the first lambs into the sheep trailer at 4.15 this morning. The lambs where the first ones

to be moved after the livestock restrictions had been lifted on Sunday. We can now move lambs directly from the farm to the abattoir. These 44 lambs were destined for Randall Parker Foods in Llanidloes in Powys. They will be on Sainsbury's shelves by the weekend marketed under the 'Cotswold Lamb' label. The trip took about 3 hours and was 109 miles. The sunrise was fantastic so I thought I would share it with you all as you were all still in bed! (Not that I am jealous at all)

Monday, 17 September 2007

Working Out at Work

Here is a quick clip for you to test your farming or machinery skills. Does any one have any idea of what I have been doing in the clip? The film was taken by Penelope in the farm yard in the middle of harvest.....maybe a clue there?

A little Red Faced!

What a terrific sight heading down Kinsham Lane, a field of blood red poppies waving their glorious flags for every one to witness. What are we witnessing? It was a slight oversight be me! The field was due to be re-planted with a second crop of salad onions, then it was meant to be peas, then we had the floods, then the harvest started in earnest so the field missed being cultivated to remove the small plants.

The field has been in arable production and has been treated with herbicides, growing food for over 30 years and yet given a chance the flowers re-colonise and establish with a bold bravado. These plants will have re-seeded allowing an other generation to witness the striking scene in the shadow of Bredon Hill. John 'The Fly Catcher' Clarke looked at the plant population and counted 15 further species of plant including Dovesfoot Cranesbill, Red Goosefoot and Pineapple weed. John also spotted a clouded yellow butterfly and a flock of Linnets. The field will soon be cultivated to prepare the soil ready to plant again with winter wheat, returning the seeds to the soil and into dormancy.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Foot and Mouth Disease

Well it's happened again only this time at a very important time for many livestock producers. Over the next month thousands of breeding sheep are due to be sold at auction all over the country. These sheep are born in April and spend the summer grazing the high moor areas of the UK before being brought off the fells and mountains and sold to 'lowland' sheep breeders (like us). These sheep are the main income for many hundreds of hill farmers and go to breed lamb the following year. Cattle farmers will also be weaning spring born calves at this time and they will usually be sold on to other farms for the winter. At the moment there is a complete shutdown on all movements of 'cloven hoofed' animals.

How does this affect us? We can't sell any lamb at the moment, lambs can't be taken to the abattoir and no sheep can be moved across any roads. We can't move the ewes to the stud, where they eat the grass for Simon. This works well for both of us in a normal year. The ewes chew down all the grass that the fussy horses leave. It also gets the ewes in good health ready to be mated. Will we have fewer lambs next lambing? Who knows watch this space.

Did the Government lift the restrictions too early? I didn't realise this but symptoms show in animals after 14 days but the virus can live in the soil, water and forage for up to 50 days!

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Let Battle Commence

The annual battle of farmer v's slugs has resumed this week. High tech farmers armed with heavy machinery, slug pellets, a strategy to reduce the slugs invasion and lots of careful watching of the fields. The felon armed with an ability to lay eggs and reproduce faster than even the randiest of rabbits and an insatiable need to eat Oilseed Rape seedlings and newly planted wheat seeds.

Our latest deployment is to pull our two sets of rolls along one behind the other. This is effectively rolling the fields twice but only using one tractor and one pass. This speeds up the operation and reduces the cost. Time is always in short supply at this time of year. With the land consolidated (rolled) the slugs find it harder to move around looking for tasty snacks. We will have to follow up and apply a light dressing of slug pellets to try and protect the crop as it emerges. If germination is even and the crops establishes (grows) well then one application should be enough.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Late Nights

Combining is going well in this 'summer' month! We started cutting wheat on Monday (6th August). This is historically when we would start. Here is the combine cutting Hereward, a bread making variety of wheat, in Big Grass Drier field. The results so far have been disappointing on yield and quality. This wheat will probably not make milling grade and will be down graded to animal feed. I don't think it had enough sunlight when it was growing and the wet weather at the end of it's 'grain filling' time put the crops off resulting in poor grain fill , leading to depressed yields. At least the price is compensating for the lack of yield.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Dog Poo Wrapped Just For You

I went for run last night (madness I know) along the Whorlies track going from Beckford through to Crashmore lane. What did I find along the way? 4 bags of dog poo that the owners had kindly collected in a bag and then left! What is going on? Is it the thought and embarrassment of walking along carrying a little, sweet smelling package? Is it the quandary of what to do with that package when you get home? What ever the excuse, there is no excuse! You have a dog, you clear up after your dog and you take the rubbish home with you PERIOD! You wouldn't leave a package like that in the high street in Cheltenham, or drop food wrappings out of your car window driving down the M5, then why leave that rubbish in the countryside where someone else has to pick it up! Take responsibility for your own lives and live them responsibly or stay at home where the dog can poo in your own garden. It's not just along this track I've found neat packages everywhere on Bredon Hill. If I find out who it is I might be tempted to deliver a little package of my own, and I'll leave you to guess just what that package might contain.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Drivers Eye View

This is the view from the drivers seat on our combine harvester, (John Deere STS) while I was cutting Oilseed Rape yesterday. We started at 9.00 hrs and were stopped by rain at about 18.30. Had we missed the rain we would have finished that crop.

Tim, who usually drives the combine, was off spraying some wheat before harvest can begin on that crop next week. We now need the weather to be hot and settled to allow us to harvest the rest of the farm. We still have the wheat, oats, spring barley and beans to harvest which will take us about a month to complete, with a few breaks for the weather. We can't cultivate the ground at the moment as it is still too wet and we will damage the soil if we drive all over it at the moment, if it stays dry we will make a start later in the week.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Salad Onion Soup Anyone?

This was Aston Big Ground West today after the rains on Friday. Harvest was due to start in 10 days and with more rain forecast for the next 5 days that date might be delayed. If the crops get too big then they are not worth anything to the supermarkets as they don't meet the specification. What a waste and is that sustainable in a modern world? Whats wrong with an onion slightly too thick or a potato that has a blemish on its skin? You tell me.........
At least the field is providing a haven for over 100 seagulls!

Summer Madness

This is the scene after 144mm rain fell on Bredon Hill on Friday 19th on our usual flood spot! No-one on the farm has seen this much rain and the damage it has caused. People trying to get home, spending all night in the car it was an incredible day. The village had over 15 houses affected by the floods to a lesser or great degree. The farmland has suffered a bit, it could have been much worse. The wheat has started to go flat, affecting the yield and the quality. Some of the oilseed rape has shedded. There doesn't seem to be any real improvement in the weather this week either. I took this shot on Saturday morning. On Friday night the water was level with the top of the post and rail fence. The owner of the landrover was airlifted from his roof at 5.00am. What a day!

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Harvest Begins Between The Showers

Today, the 18th July, saw the start of the harvest at Overbury. It is still quite early for us, the average start date is on the 24th July and considering the wet weather through June and July it is amazing that the crops have ripened at all. We have started in a field called 'Horse Close' and we are cutting Oilseed Rape, a variety called Castille. It's too early to assess the yield but the moisture started at 15.5% for the first load. The second load was better at 13.5%. We need to store the crop between 6-9% so Graham will be busy in the drier. The weather forecast looks OK for today and tomorrow then rain on Friday, so we're pressing on to grab what we can before the rains arrive again. Heavy rain on a ripe crop of rape will cause the pods to shatter, spreading the seeds all over the ground and lost to the combine, therefore reducing the yield. It's worth drying rather than loosing it! It could be a late night!

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

A Right Royal Show

These splendid examples of a LEAF employee's are Justine (left) and Val. They, along with the rest of the team work tirelessly for the charity promoting all that is great about British Agriculture and how we can communicate that fact to the general public. Val and Justine were at the Royal Show at Stoneleigh on a 'LEAF Pod' in the Waitrose stand.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I was told they would be on a 'LEAF pod'. I had visions of nightclub podiums and costumes reminiscent of an Adam and Eve fancy dress competition. The show was damp to say the least with torrential downpours. Numbers were well down on where they were last year (I expect). Many two wheel drive cars were being pulled out of the car parks onto the hard roads. It was a shame but I gather the bulk of the show has been cancelled on Wednesday for safety reasons.

At 5pm I was over at the Marks and Spencer's Pavilion adjacent to the main ring for a LEAF Royal Show Reception. LEAF had asked me to say a few words about the LEAF Marque, seen on more and more M&S and Waitrose products. The Marque is the gold standard in farm assurance. It tick's all the 'other' standard marks but includes vast requirement's about biodiversity, environment, energy use and reduction, social impacts on the community and pollution control, amongst others. Check it out on You can also look up Leaf Tracks which is a number on your produce that you can type into the LEAF site and it will tell you where that produce has been grown and give you contact details of the farmer! Now that we're LEAF Marque'd we'll be pushing our flour, whole grains, lamb and game later on in the season. I was very nervous speaking after Baroness Byford (President of LEAF), Caroline Drummond (CEO LEAF), Hugh Mowat (M&R Representative) and before Tony Worth (Chairman of LEAF and farmer in Lincolnshire)! I really did that extra glass of red after the talk! It was very successful and encouraging that a supermarket has morals and that it can deliver, through support of British farmers, real benefits to the countryside that we manage and love.

A little Pea'd Off!

These are hand picked peas on the top of Bredon Hill. It amazes me that they will grow in this thin soil but they usually grow a very healthy crop, aired by the south westerly winds coming up the Bristol Channel.

This field was planted on the 30th April by Andrew. Andrew has worked her since April 1961 and has ploughed, worked and cultivated parts of Bredon Hill every year for 46 years! Andrew takes great pride in the peas, scarring off pigeons, rooks and crows with un-resting ferocity, using rockets, bangers and scarecrows. If you have seem them protecting the peas who do think they were modeled on? Answers via the comments please and there is no prize.

Feeling at little Flat

The heavy rain and high winds are starting to have an effect on the wheat crops on Bredon Hill. This is a field called Elmont, (the field that grew the Soisson wheat that we milled in 2005) it is a variety called Zebedee, unlike the cartoon character this will NOT spring back up!! At least we are not the only ones to suffer. The down sides to fields like this are many. The worst worry is the deterioration of the quality, this wheat should end up in buscuits, but with much more rain could be downgraded to animal feed wheat. There will also be a yield penalty, as the weight of each grain is reduced and the combine will struggle to pick up all of the ears of grain on the floor! A farm managers and combine drivers nightmare.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Fresherbymiles all Smiles

Today saw the second delivery to Overbury from Fresherbymiles! Several customers had ordered over the Internet by Monday midday and were able to collect their locally grown/ produced goods straight from the delivery van! I was one of the lucky ones buying ham, steak, tomatoes, onions, Stilton bread and an array of other exciting nibbles. You know the best bit? I didn't have to travel to Morrison's, Tesco's or Sainsbury's, stand in a queue and be bombarded with offers all trying to extract the last penny from my moth ridden wallet!

I did buy some succulent strawberries from the van. I know the farmer who grew them so all the boxes are ticked; local, fresh, good value and grown on a LEAF farm using the LEAF Marque! Brilliant! Oh and they tasted terrific as well. Find out more about the tasty strawberries and single varity apple juices at

Monday, 18 June 2007

Open Farm Sunday Sucess!

Sunday 10th June saw over 200 people descend on Overbury for an Open Farm Event as part of a national campaign organised by LEAF. We were only one farm out of 400 all doing just that, opening the farm gates and welcoming the general public onto our farms. It is estimated that 50,000 were out on farm on one day. That is still not enough! The new Wembley stadium holds over 80,000 and they just turn out to watch a bunch of overpaid pre-Madonnas' kick a football about and pay handsomely for the privilege!

It was great fun taking people around in tractors and trailers answering questions about crops, sheep, irrigation satellite navigation, bio fuels etc. We were even filmed! Check out in the future to see the event! Also look out for 'Getting Your Oats' a programme shot last harvest. Caroline Drummond (Chief Executive Officer) of LEAF also came to the event which was a real pleasure, listening to her talk about LEAF, the charity and the Open Farm Sunday Initiative. Next year it's on the 8th June, put it in your diary NOW!

Thursday, 31 May 2007

YFC On Tour

Last night saw a sunny end to a dismally wet and cold day, when 30 members of the Three Counties Young Farmers Club's arrived at Overbury for a farm walk. Penelope spoke about the Estate and the village, school and nursery school. I talked about the stud, which Simon runs, the arable cropping, conservation and the sheep. Gordon drove us around for the 2.5 hrs.
Everyone enjoyed themselves although it was quite cold, with a stiff southerly blowing as we toured around the Eastern boundary on Bredon Hill. Then it was off to The Crown in Kemerton for beer and sandwiches!

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Absent Blogger

Apologies for the month long absence from the blogging Farmer Jake. I have spent most of the first half of May completing the dreaded SP5 form required by DEFRA. Single Payment 5 forms are required by DEFRA in order for us to receive our European compensation. These have a very strict deadline of the 15th May, ingrained into arable farmers minds since 1991 when the first schemes were created. We have to inform DEFRA what crops we are growing, where they are, (each field has a national grid reference) and what the total areas claimed are likely to be. In addition to this where we are growing crops with protein supliment (beans and peas) or where we are growing crops under energy rules all have to be divided up separately. It is a little confusing but worth filling them in! Since then May has turned wet which helped out our droughty crops and held off us irrigating the potatoes. The new irrigation system worked well for a day then, the only part of the old system we didn't change failed, causing a few headaches for a couple of days. All sorted now! (Henry's sigh of relief could be heard from Ross!)

Farm Sunday is rapidly approaching, we're booking up fast but there are places of the 9.00 trip, worth getting up for and seeing the countryside waking up! Fresher By Miles will be launching in Overbury and the surrounding villages on the day some come along and see what local goodies are available for sale, freshly grown within 30miles from Badsey. Some prices are cheaper than Tesco's at the moment! Check out

Thursday, 26 April 2007


We are just about to start irrigating our newly planted onions for a second time and we're still only in April! With only 7mm rain so far this month, things are really dry and a continued dry spell will put the irrigators under-pressure. Watch out for the first hose pipe ban of the year coming soon! With the right weather these onions will be on the super-market shelves in 10-12 weeks.

The potatoes were having their first irrigation scheduled for the 25th May although talking to Henry today that will almost certainly shift forwards if no significant rainfall appears.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Lapwings Thriving

Derek spotted this lapwing nest whilst he was cultivating 'Sandpits' ready to plant stubble turnips for our summer sheep keep. Following our annual 'Arable Bird Survey' we counted 12 pairs of lapwing on the ground that we manage specifically for nesting Lapwing. This has been our highest count in 5 years. Lets hope with the correct 'predator' management, i.e. reducing carrion crows, magpies and other nest destroyers, these nests will yield healthy lapwing chicks!

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

A Grand Day Out!

Bathed in glorious sunshine we held our 3rd Farm Open Day, based between our sheep sheds and the Overbury Village Hall. 350 people attended the open day and were treated to a tractor and trailer ride from the village hall, up to Park Farm on Bredon Hill where they were given a guided tour of the ewe flock mid lambing. Several groups actually saw lambs being born which they will treasure for a long long time.
The tour started by talking about the rams, which ones we use and when they are used, then we looked at the ewes waiting to lamb, before feeding a few orphan lambs and looking at some of the farm equipment on display.
After the tour was finished the tractor took our visitors back down to the village hall where refreshments, lamb casserole and home made lamb burgers could be eaten. There were displays there from SOYL and also local produce for sale from our neighbouring farm shop, (Meadows Farm Shop at Bredons Norton). Rod and Paul, the game keepers provided an insight into their profession and a look at some of the animals and bird they have contact with on a day to day basis. A big thank you to all of those people who helped organise the day and made it the success it was.
It was a really hot day but worth all of the effort, we'll be doing it again on the 10th June 2007 when we will be taking part in the 2nd LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) organised 'Farm Sunday'

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Planting Time

Last week saw the start of the potatoes planting here at on the farm. We let Henry Chinn from Ross-on-Wye use some of our fields to grow his potatoes on. This year fields Aerodrome and Pastures are being used by Henry and they will be irrigated from our re-vamped reservoir and newly laid underground mains. will tell you all about Henry's farm, where it is, what he grows and more importantly where you can buy it from! This machine is a bed tiller and cultivates the ridges of soil before they are de-stoned, (who likes mis-shaped potatoes these days). They are finally planted. They will take about 4 weeks to emerge when the rows will look something like this...........................................

Not only are potatoes being planted but spring barley has been drilled and our wheat and Oilseed Rape crops have been fertilised (plant food).
Lambing is well underway with about 430 left to lamb. I hope there will be some for the lambing day on the 15th April when over 250 people have booked to come and see what we do!

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Swimathon Success

On Sunday the 25th March I woke with butterflies, but looking forward to the challenge of my big swim. 6 weeks of training; in the pool, rowing, running and weights culminating in a 5km swim for Marie Curie. After a big bowl of porridge Oats (home-grown) I headed off to Gloucester Leisure Centre. After signing in the gun went just after 12 noon when over 20 people set off in tandem. I was in a lane with 4 other people, of different abilities and distance challenges which made it interesting at times!

After 1 hour and 50 minutes I finally reached the end of my swim, shoulders aching but very satisfied. Shoulders were really sore for the next day but the cause was worth it. The total raised should be over £1,400!
A really big thank you to all the support and generous sponsorship donations I have received.
I will soon be looking out for the next challenge so and ideas please forward them!

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Oh Dear!

Whilst driving across a field, destined for salad onions, my faithful Ford Ranger, had that sinking feeling much to my annoyance and of course embarrassment! Derek had to come down and pull me out! We knew the field would be wet and this was all the confirmation we needed.

Cultivations are still on hold at the moment as there are wet areas in the fields that we need to drill (plant) with Spring Malting Barley. Spraying herbicides and putting fertiliser on the wheat crops is continuing well where autumns sown crops were planted.

The second ewe flock is due to start lambing next week and will be in full flow by the time our 'Farm Open Day' arrives on the 15th April. We managed to get a good article about it in the Evesham Journal, although the phone number left off an extra 1, and we should have some more advertising in the Vale Magazine due out on the 30th March.

Swimming is progressing very well at the moment, a hard week training this week, aiming for 2 3 replications of 4km, before an easier week next week before the big day on the 25th March.

Monday, 5 March 2007

Swimathon Update

About halfway through my training, if you can call it that. Fitting an hour in the pool here and there, managing about 100 lengths. It nearly kills me but I think I'm getting there. I have also decided to try and increase my cardivo-vascular abilities. Sounds impressive I know and not knowing how to go about it I joined the local gym. Rivers gym has two locations, one in Pershore and one in Evesham, both within striking distance. I have never been in a gym before and to the untrained eye it is more than a little humorous! Each victim, (myself now included) assumes his or her position on an electrical gadget before plugging themselves in via an ipod dock or a heart monitor, sets up how much pain they can handle and presses go! After what seems like a lifetime of pain, half a litre of sweat and the deafening tones of hardcore dance music, the machine slows up and starts it's 'cool down' phase. In my case this allows blood to re-invade my legs giving me an assumed drug induced dullness, maybe I am overdoing it? All around the room people are plugged in, looking in mirrors and 'pumping iron'. It site would be akin to a series of Big Brother filmed in a hamster cage!

A big thank you to all the people who have sponsored me, the total in approaching £500 now, so we're on the way. Don't forget the Farm Lambing Day which is on Sunday 15th April this year!!

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Cream Crackers

I arrived at the yard this morning having followed a Frontier lorry along Crashmore lane, only to find a further 2 lorries waiting in the yard, to be loaded with wheat and beans. Graham will have loaded over 400 tonnes of farm produce this week alone, mainly wheat. Frontier Ag has bought 348tonnes of grain in this contract.

The wheat is a variety called Claire, and is heading to a company called ADM (Archer Daniel Midland) based in Liverpool. The wheat will be cleaned, ground and the flour produced used to make biscuits. The flour will end up in a whole range of products from Jacobs Cream Crackers to Yorkshire pudding mixes. So next time you are tucking into the Sunday roast beef the Yorkshire's might have originated on the summit of Bredon Hill!

Monday, 5 February 2007

New Arrivals

Born yesterday at Park Farm Overbury were the first lambs of the season. Triplets from a mule (Swaledale cross Blue faced Leicester)ewe to a Texel sire. The females will be retained and will move into our breeding flock whereas the males will enter the food chain in about 3 months. These guys will stay in at the farm for couple of days so that they can build up strength and make sure mum can provide all of the colostrum and milk required to ward off the cold nights ahead. We like to turn them out into the fields as soon as possible after the lambs are born where disease levels are much less, although close watching of the weather forecasts will determine exactly when that is, at this time of the year.
First try out in the pool at the weekend after some physiotherapy on a dodgy shoulder, no side effects yet! I need to be swimming 3 times a week. Week one the target is 2.9km each time, seems a bit excessive as I have to swim 5km in total. Still I suppose this chap Duncan Goodhew should know what he's on about!

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Swimathon 2007

Right here we go, the challenge I have decided to undertake is to swim for charity! The target is to raise valuable funds for Marie Curie, who nurse terminally ill cancer patients at home. The financial target is to raise £1,000 although I will reserve the right to up the target as donations flood in! The physical challenge is to swim 5km at Gloucester Leisure Centre on the 25th March in a 3 hour period. Training will begin in earnest on the 1st February when alcohol consumption will cease, perhaps the hardest challenge? You can read more about the national challenge on

If you feel the need to help me raise these funds you can do so on-line, (just click on the above) or if you are passing the office then do call in where there is a sponsorship form! Thank you in advance.

On a different tack another date for your diary, the 15th APRIL, is our next lambing day! It was a great success last year so book early as places will be reserved on a first come basis!

Friday, 26 January 2007

Getting Your Oats!

The first load of naked Oats was dispatched today from the grainstore bound for 'Morning Foods' in Crewe. The lorry arrived whilst we were loading sugar beet and so a short wait was required. As it was the first load from the bulk store Graham had to open the store with the auger to take the pressure of the crop off before the doors could be opened to allow the JCB access. This load will have taken an hour to load although when we're in full swing it should only take about 25 minuets to load a 30 tonne lorry.

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Winter Fill

While the local rivers are all bursting their banks after the recent rains our main winter storage lagoon has been relatively low of water after the summer use for the salad onions. We have made some repairs to one of the legs of the jetty and filling can now commence! It puzzles me that when there is flood water about and it's merrily washing through peoples houses and blocking roads that we still have to pay to abstract water upstream of the flooding. You could argue that we are providing a public service, less damage to property, less insurance claims and so on, ending with the question, shouldn't we get paid to help?

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

You know its wet when.....

You are crop walking and upon return your boots weigh twice as much as you do.
When 5 minutes after washing your truck it needs doing again.
All the sheep are huddled under the one bush in the middle of a field.
A group of 4 Herons set up a stake-out in the middle of a field.
When Sian, Emma, Charlie, Fiona and the host of other weather reporters all say we're getting wet. How can they always get this weather correct? It's a completely different story in the summer!
When the rain gauge fills up over-night.
All your coats are wet because there's not enough time to get them dried.
All the local horses are turned out dressed in, to the untrained eye, water-proof coats, scarves and I'm sure I saw one with boots on.
The flood meadows are underwater (see above). These fields regularly flood, which provide nutrients for the field, relieves some down-stream pressure and provides a good damp habitat for wadding birds to forage and feed in.

Friday, 5 January 2007

A five things meme

I think I am learning a new language having undertaken the pleasurable task of starting 'Farmer Jake's Blog'. The Black Sheep has included me in meme or 5 things you didn't necessarily know about me: - so here goes.........

  1. I play the trumpet, albeit badly, after learning to play the bugle with the Church Lads Brigade band,

  2. I was born in Zambia where, on and off I lived with Mum, Dad and sister Kate for the first 7 years of my life before moving back to Bristol,

  3. I apparently look 75% like Christian Slater and 71% like Zinedan Zidane, according to as detected from the mug shot below, I'm not so decide!

  4. I once won a Bristol Schools Cross Country Race, with only one running shoe on, the other one came off in the mud,

  5. I learnt to water-ski in Plymouth harbour, while studying my Agricultural Degree at Seale-Hayne (great college). We were very careful not to open our mouths as we hit the water after loosing control, just in case!


Next week will be putting our two crops sprayers through their annual MOT for the NSTS (National Sprayer Testing Scheme). This involves checking for leaks, drips, corroding pipes, lights, accuracy of application and 3 A4 pages of other checks and boxes to tick. This annual MOT is part of the Voluntary Initiative (VI), an industry led scheme to improve the environmental impact of spraying activities and to therefore avoid a pesticide tax, (which would cripple the arable enterprise). It also enables the farm to be crop assured, another scheme demonstrating our commitment to providing safe, traceable food. Finally it means that we can demonstrate our professionalism as we know our machinery is ready to swing into action in the early spring.

In order to cut the costs down, 4 other neighbouring farmers all bring their sprayer to our farm so that the engineer can complete more tests in a day, thus reducing the cost, both to the engineer and to us. The Bateman RB25 shown here is fertilising Naked Oats in early spring last year.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Wet and Wild!

What an end to the year, wet and wild, no not another instalment from America but the weather. It was a strange year with 693mm of rain. Monthly variances ranged from 6.6mm (Jan) and 118mm (May and most of that came in 4 days!) The total was about average but the variation in monthly totals was bizzar! The wettest year since 1990 was in 2000 with 873mm and the driest was in 1996 when 458mm fell, so we were about average in 2006.

These are some of the lambs being fed outdoors between Christmas and New Year, just after a very wet night! They are not happy but putting down some straw put a spring back in their steps. The turnips are running out and as a result we have taken 350 lambs to rear indoors on purchased feed, to ease the pressure of the home grown forage. They should start to be ready to sell from early January onwards.

It's time for a New Years Resolution I guess and it would have to be to remain calm whilst talking to the DEFRA helpline (LOL), about, well anything really! Those of you who have experienced this phenomena will know that the chances of keeping this resolution are, to say the least slim and....I know it's not the person on the end of the telephone's fault, and I know the help books are written backwards, inside out and cross referenced beyond belief, and I also know that the computer always says NO! But lets be optimistic at least until the end of the month!