Thursday, 4 December 2008

Farm Catch up

After the wet weather of the summer the frosty conditions are what we are all craving, allowing field work to begin in fairly good conditions. Derek has been been ploughing up on the hill in preparation for spring malting barley, grown on contract to Coors brewery in Burton. Derek will move onto the Vale land when and if the lower fields continue to dry up. The frost is great for breaking down the clods of earth forming smaller and smaller lumps which are great for planting spring seeds into, hopefully in January or February. As we didn't plant any Oilseed Rape on the hill this year, it was too wet and then too late, the area of spring barley has increased 5 fold this year. There will also be some winter barley grown around park farm, the first time for over 15 years! Lets hope we an keep it standing for the combine next July!
One of the knock on effects of the wet summer, and we will be feeling these for several years to come, is the fact that we haven't got any stubble turnips of note established to feed the ewes or the lambs this year. We have therefore concocted a ration made of our home grown crops to feed to the lambs indoors instead. The mix consists of woolly wheat (see 6-10-08 blog) oats and beans. The mill mix company are supplying some molasses, to sweeten the mix and make it more palatable and some extra energy in the form of fat.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Harvesting a Nightmare

Firstly apologies for it being nearly 2 months since I last sat down to write a blog, actually it feels like two months since I last sat down!! We have had a really hard time harvesting this year, not another moaning farmer story but one of an expensive, morale breaking, grinding, painful and traumatic time. This was one of the last fields cut on Bredon Hill, the wheat battered down by heavy rain and winds all through August. You all can remember August? We only had 10 dry days in the month with no rain. The crops would dry a little and just as we were about to cut it, rain would be upon us. We only managed to harvest half of this field, the crops on the ground looked like this.... We started on the 25th July and finally wrapped the job up on the 21st of September. In a normal year we would like to be completed by the 1st week in September ready to start drilling the wheat crops. The knock of effect will be felt this year and well into the coming years. We only managed to plant 2/5ths of the Oilseed Rape, and 1/2 of that has succumb to water logging and bird damage.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Carrant Clearout

In the lull before harvest, which will be late this year, due to the cool weather, Derek and Gordon set to to remove a couple of willow trees that had taken root in the Carrent Brook. The trees were trimmed earlier in the year by the electric board, as they were growing towards their cables, but left the hard job of removing the stumps to the experts! The digger freed the roots whilst the tractor applied about 200hp of pressure and eventually the trees gave up, luckily before the digger slid into the brook!

Monday, 9 June 2008

Turning The Taps On

After a few hot days the potatoes need a drink! We are putting between 15-20mm on these crops which will last them about 1 week if it doesn't rain in the mean time. the forecast looks dry and the small tubers are starting to form (hooking up) and need to be kept wet for the next 6 weeks to avoid any problems with scab. This disease causes little blisters on the skin of the potato. It makes no difference to the taste or quality of that potato but when packed under plastic and on a supermarket shelf, looks a little dirty. Tonnes of potato's are rejected each year because of scab, either powdery or common, (there are two kinds). The run in this field will last 11 hrs and the rain gun will travel 370m each of the 3 times it will take to cover the field at a snails pace of 33.6m/hr

Thursday, 5 June 2008

The Real 'Bee Movie'

I'm at a loss as the living object that I found on the farm the other day. Actually it was Ted and George who pointed it out to me. We know what it is, do you? If you do know could you tell me what they are, what they are doing and why?

Those of you who walk Bredon Hill will know the gate and heaver by Whiteways. We have at last done away with the heaver and replaced the gate with a new Oak gate. Please do not let it slam closed after you have been through it, as it cost a lot of money and I don't want to have to replace in the next 30 years. Gordon has been up to give it a coat of 'creosote' (alternative) which will help prolong it's life.

Big Thank You 2 You

Well done to every-one who attended and those who helped make our Open farm Sunday event at Overbury on the 1st June the best yet. We estimate that over 220 people enjoyed the detailed farm tour with many others taking in the displays in the field. The John Deere, Autotrac 8530 proved a major success with people standing in awe as it performed a twisty route around the trees, with Trevor Bolton (Chris Tallis Farm Machinery- Service Manager) sitting in but not steering the tractor. We were also supported by The Farm Crisis Network, James Meadows (Meadows Farm Shop), Kevin Minchew (Cider), James and Harry Philips, with their ducks and chickens and the NFU. For those not wishing to miss out next year Open Farm Sunday will be on June 7th! Nationally over 400 farms were open on the same day doing all kinds of activities and events, a real credit to those farmers who support LEAF and are prepared to get the message across about British farming and food production to the general public.

Monday, 12 May 2008

3 Weeks To Go Before.....

Open Farm Sunday is only 3 weeks away as I found out after looking through the diary this morning, Help! We have put out the signs and are releasing a press statement tomorrow detailing the events of the day. For you, avid bloggers and readers a sneak preview of what you can expect to experience on your visit to Overbury Farms. There will be tractor and trailer rides around Bredon Hill, these have been lapped up by previous visitors, booking is required so if you want to come along for that ride then contact the Estate Office (01386 725110), and speak to Suzie. They will book fast and it's a first come, first serve basis! Whilst the tractors are off around the Estate, Chris Tallis Farm Machinery be demonstrating 'hands free' tractor driving! There will also be sheep, cows, pigs, chickens and other animals to learn about. There will be some refreshments in the cricket club, where the bar will be open to quench dusty throats after lots of talking (mine). A short nature walk, collection fun and games should also be in place to amuse little ones. Rumour has it that there will be some ice-cream to buy as well! Don't forget that the whole day is organised 'free of charge', although ice-creams and beer will of course need to paid for. Why not try and visit a few farms in the area, there are 5 registered within a 20Km radius of us at Overbury and 18 in 50km radius and make a proper day out. Click the link, find a farm, and add your post code to explore the marvels of the farming world.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Open Farm Lambing Day

A really big thank you to the 319 people who turned out to visit us on the 29th March for our Farm Lambing Day. The weather men, unfortunately, got the forecast correct with a bright morning followed by raining the afternoon. It really did get very cold. Every-one, however had a really great day out! There were lambs popping out everywhere, video's to watch and lots of dead animals, supplied by the game department to study and look closely at. Do you know the difference between a stoat and a weasel, a pole cat and a mink? Here is Tod lambing a particularly tight ewe with a watching audience with baited breath for the outcome! Do NOT forget the LEAF Open Farm Sunday on the 1st of June, I will keep you posted with regular post here or look up the LEAF website!

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Dogs on a Lead

Many congratulations to this walker who proudly stood for a photograph holding his dog on a really long lead. The ewes and very young lambs are now in the parkland fields and indeed all over the hill, so all dogs should be on a lead. The ewes are easily disturbed by dogs running loose, however 'well behaved' or 'uninterested' pooch is of sheep. Any disturbance can lead to the ewes running off leaving lambs or turning to fight the dog ending up with injuries that might requiring treatment.

On a lighter note, if you want to come up to Park Farm and see for yourself what all of the excitment is about, our annual Farm Lambing Day is rapidly approaching. Tractor rides will leave form the village hall at Overbury on Saturday 29th March from 10am with last one leaving at 3pm. There will also be cookery demonstrations in the village hall, by Mark Devonshire from The Eckington Manor Cookery School. Rod, Paul and Shaun will also be available to talk about the Estates conservation projects and what their jobs entail.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Breath of Fresh Air!

Last week we hired two muck spreaders for a day to spread various heaps of manure on different fields around the farm. Some fields were grass and others were about to be ploughed up before being planted with game cover or spring barley. The manure was well rotted and a great vintage for clearing nasal blockages. I'm sure a minor celeb would patent the aroma and start to market it, it seems to be trendy these days!
The manure has a good selection of nutrients held within it which will reduce the amount of fertiliser we have to apply later in the season. The organic manure is also very important to us as it will help retain moisture in the soil for the long dry summer months.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Keeping Warm on the Hill!

It's been a constant problem on Bredon Hill for centuraries. How to keep warm whilst working, resting or playing? The farm staff have copied the ancient Brittons and resorted to fire, man's best friend, after his dog of coarse. The staff, from right to left, Andrew, Graham, Derek (can tell by the boots) and Gordon, in the smoke, are burning old fence posts, pallets and railings in a bid to keep warm. They have been re-fencing the northern boundry as the old fence has seen much better days. If the field was to remain in set-aside I would not have bothered re-fencing it but due to the removal of set-aside we can now use the field to graze our sheep on and so we must fence it to keep them in. It is a preferable alternative to ploughing it up if you are one of the skylarks that use the field to nest in. I have regularly seen upwards of 20 pairs all nesting in those fields. It does bring a new dimention to the debate about food production verses energy production verses wildlife habitat. Thanks to Fiona for the photograph, it was a long walk to take it!

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Lambs to The Slaughter

At 7am on the 10th January Tod loaded 160 lambs onto this lorry to send them off to be slaughtered in Wales. The lambs were sold through the May Hill Sheep Group and will end up on the shelves of Sainsbury's marketed as 'Cotswold lamb'. The lorry will hold about 400 lambs on 4 decks, which totals about 18tonnes of lambs. After they have been processed there should be about 8800 kg's of sheep meat worth to the farmer £19,360. By the time it reaches the supermarket shelves the total valve of the meat will be in the region of £52,000. Next time you pass a lorry full of livestock on the motorway have a think about that! Whilst I'm on the subject of slaughter I watched the 'Kill it Cook it Eat it' programs on BBC3. I didn't have a problem with the suckling pigs. The veal calves I thought were a appalling as the following animals could see their mates already dead, which did not put farmers/industry in a good light at all. The milk fed lambs which, were no more than 3 weeks old (the youngest) and 8 weeks old (oldest) also had a very disturbing end to a short life. At first the electrical tongs did not work so they were dispatched with a bolt gun, after much stress, they too could see the fate of the siblings already dispatched. I don't think it did the trade in younger animals any favours at all to the general public, although there will always be a selection of the market wanting these niche' products.

On a lighter note we scanned the ewes for the March lambing at 180% which is about normal for us and similar to those around us. You can come and see those lambs being born at our farm open day on the 29th March.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

New Year New Style!

This is Derek giving a very old willow tree a hair cut. It is called pollarding and should be done about every 5-7 years. It removes all of the new growth. These branches are very straight and would have had various uses in the past from fencing materials, to basket weaving, thatching pins and anything larger used for burning in fuel production. Large scale Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) is becoming part of the renewable energy scene. Rather than letting the willow trees get this big, they are harvested just above ground level when the tree is 3 years old and then annually thereafter. The 'chips' are then dried and stored before being burnt in a wood chip boiler. If you go along the A46 from Alcester to Stratford, look over to the right and there you will see acres of SRC.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Hedgerow Coppice

This was the area of the farm that was badly hit by the floods in July 2007. This stretch of track and hedge was under 4 feet of water at the deepest part. Check out the blog from that date to see the field from the other end. (And a few stuck cars!) The hedge was badly damaged and actually flattened by the water and rubbish floating downstream in some places. After a talk by FWAG (Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group) we had decided to coppice the hedgerow. This is some very old management techniques and involves cutting off the hedge at ground level. To the untrained eye we'll get told that we have removed the hedge but in a few short years the hedge will re-grow, bushier and stronger than ever. Cutting the stems of the plants encourages tillering, lots of new stems were there was once one. Derek and Gordon are shown here tidying up the last of the stray stems. We will put a post and rail fence along the line of the hedge to keep the sheep in until the hedge is able to take on that task. Whilst the team is in the area we will also pollard the willows, again a useful management technique to maintain the structure of the willow trees.
I also want to wish you all a very Happy New Year and lets keep the positive side of farming in the headlights! Keep a look out for up and coming events..... Lambing Day 29th March! Open Farm Sunday 1st June!