Monday, 20 December 2010

Scenic Overbury

 'The Plains' looking North East from the park road

 "Wish we were up in the barns at Park Farm"
 The southerly view through the Oaken Wood, the Park Road is there somewhere!
Sun setting across 'The Break'

Cold Snap Bites hard

The cold weather is really starting to cause problems on the farm now after the enjoyment and picturesque beauty of the fields and farmland when it first arrived.  Water pipes are frozen up and with up to 8" of snow in places we are having to feed hay out in the fields.  This wouldn't be so bad, except that the fuel in the tractors is turning 'waxy' and blocking up the fuel filters.  Pershore, only 6miles away, recorded a temperature of somewhere near -19 Celsius of Saturday night.  This morning I went to Chris Tallis Farm Machinery to get some diesel anti-freeze and we're adding it to the tractors and farm trucks as we thaw them out.  I have never experienced problems, to this degree, before although I'm sure it's nothing compared to Scottish and Northern England farmers who would experience this much more frequently. Just a case of wrap up warm and keep the home fires burning ready to thaw us out when we return!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Ashes

No not the cricket, although that has been riveting watching, listening and googling, but a row of Ash trees in one of our orchards.  The trees have not been pollarded (trimmed) for a number of years and so whilst we were replacing the fence line we trimmed up two of the trees.  We didn't do all of the row in order to keep some existing habitat for the wildlife in the area.  We'll get back to those in 4 or 5 years or so.  Some of the wood will be dried out and used as firewood.  The tops and some smaller branches will be left to rot down in the field where they will provide food and habitat for a wide range of insects, fungi, mammals and bacteria, all living in and feeding on the decaying material.  They are very old trees and host a wide range of insects and birds.  There is even a little owl living in one of the hollows. 

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Update on Rape Plants

This is a shot I took last week (18th MOvemeber) of the Sesame OSR planted with our direct subsoiler drill.  The plants are growing nicely with most of the field ranging from between 7-10 leaves.  They are now 83 days old.  There is some predation around the field margins from rabbits and some game birds, but most of the field is looking well.  They have been treated with a single fungicide application, some trace elements and a grass weed herbicide mix.  Now all we need to do is keep the pigeons at bay.  We are experimenting with a few different bits of equipment this year to do this, as a large block of rape is near our local village.  There is a wide range of prices for bangers, kites and day ropes so it is paying to shop around.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Hands Off Our Kit!

As part of the one going battle against farm theft we have installed the CESAR cesarscheme datatag system on our farm tractors, JCB and combine.  The potential problem really came home to roost when a neighbouring farmer had a tractor, very similar to one of ours, stolen a couple of weeks ago.  There are some shocking statistics from the agricultural and construction industry with 11,174 machines stolen in the last two years. That's more than 15/day, with huge cost to the industries and major hassle when a machine is stolen.  Gone are the days when you could just pick up another tractor off the shelf, they're normally built to specification and to order.

We do take farm and village security very seriously and so this seemed the logical next step.  The system was very quickly installed by Chris Tallis Farm Machinery christallis and was up and running immediately.  I first saw the service in the Farmers Weekly security supplement and thought that the combination of stickers, chips and DNA paint seemed a belt and braces approach that meant we would be more secure.  The photo attached was taken by John from dark arts marketing who are running the marketing campaign for CESAR.  Keep your eyes open for our combine appearing (in print) all over the place, it is after all quite distinguished!

Thursday, 25 November 2010


With the majority of the arable work done, just some P and K to apply when I conditions allow, our eyes turn towards the inevitable winter maintenance requirements.

This winter we are focusing on fencing.  With about 2.5Km needing attention we will be quite busy for most of the winter.  The most urgent ones, those containing the sheep in will be targeted first.  The fencing team is made up of Derek, Gordon and Graham (when he isn't loading grain - lots moving at the moment).  We are currently doing some of the fences at Manor Farm Conderton before heading up on Bredon Hill (hopefully it will be warmer by then!)  As always the team is accompanied by a 45 gallon drum to burn all of the off cuts and old stakes providing some much needed warmth during breakfast and lunch.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Movember Artistry

Well the month of Movember is rapidly approaching a close and our Mo's are looking very splendid indeed.  For those of you Mo Bro's and Mo Sista's out there who don't know what we're on about,  a few of us have been raising the awareness of mens health, mainly testicular and prostrate cancer, during the month with some facial topiary!  Dominic came over today to have a look around some fields and Penelope grabbed us for a quick photo session!  To find out more about these issues and get involved just click the link movember This Movemeber is coming to an end but the worldwide charity event, I'm sure will be about next year.  So if you want to get creative with your face then get involved!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Malvern Conference

Tonight I am at the Malvern Showground at a conference with the title, 9 Billion People 'Feeding Britain in the Global Context'. First up is Professor Sir John Beddington responsible for all science and engineering in the UK.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Ploughing For Spring Barley

After the very exciting EBLEX progressive sheep group meeting, it was nice to get home and see how the farm is progressing. I caught up with Derek ploughing in MF Allotments, getting it ready for spring barley, due to be planted early next year. We're ploughing some of the hill land to speed up the spring workload even though it costs slightly more per hectare than using the topdown in the spring. It will also allow us to start planting earlier in the year as the ploughed land should dry out faster.

Lamb Control

Today we had to move a small bunch of store lambs down the road from a field of grass onto some stubble turnips.  The turnips were planted in the summer and should provide enough winter feed to fatten these lambs.  They are in a bunch of 77, with a further 260 to follow in a couple of days.  The road was quiet and after we had got them out of the gateway they moved swiftly down the road.  It amuses me that if you ever want to get sheep out of a gateway intentionally they will not oblige, however, leave that gate open when you want to remain in the field it's a different story!  Storm, the sheepdog, favourite at Wychall school, makes an excellent cornering manoeuvre to herd the flock into the field gateway.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

UK Grain-Event

This a first for Farmer Jake, remotely sending a picture from the phone, uploaded straight to the blog.  I have slightly edited the words as I didn't know if it would work or not, but hey presto here it is!
Well, I've had a successful day at the East of England Showground looking at all aspects of grain.  From the marketing forecasts from Jack Watts ,of the HGCA, for this and the coming season, to various building manufacturers and grain drying equipment it really was an interesting time.  I met some interesting people, some with old Overbury connections, and some new contacts as well, worth the 2.5 hr drive, definitely!

Well now that I have mastered this skill, well the IT dept have (thanks Suzie), you never know where the next blog update will be sent from.......

Monday, 1 November 2010

Autumn Rolling In

This is a view along Crashmore Lane running towards our main farm buildings.  The hedges and verges have just been very neatly trimmed, by Gordon.  The colours this year look amazing and although not particularly cold I definitely have that autumn feel.  The field work has nearly been completed.  We will start overwinter ploughing a couple of fields in preparation for salad onions and spring barley later in the week.  There is some outstanding spraying to be done, weather permitting and then the farm maintenance schedule will begin, this year we're targeting quite a lot of sheep fencing!

I have to start writing a talk that I am giving at the LEAF Presidents Event, in London on the 16th November, all about getting the most out my LEAF Membership LEAF.  A little nervous I have to say but I'm sure it will alright on the night!  After the talk I am attending a series of meetings about becoming a LEAF Demonstration Farm which is very exciting.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

HLS Renamed as Hopelessly Lost Scheme

Well the title says it all!!  Forgive me for this blog but its been a week brewin' and a stewin' and there are no fancy video's put to music, for if there were I would be struck off!  In summary 2 years of vists, meetings, planning and at least £60,000 of Natural Englands funds spent to date and we are no further forward, he's more....

Over 2 years ago we could see the termination of our Countryside Stewardship Agreement and Entry levels Stewardship happening on the 30th September 2010. Natural England (NE) had European funding and were willing farmers to take up HLS options on their farmland.  We got NE involved from day one to work together from the onset of the scheme to deliver the optimum benefits for the farm business and our environment.  We studied hard, did the Farm Environmental Plan (FEP) looked at our natural biodiversity, paid for bird surveys and helped out in the COSMIC study to assess our archaeological credentials to get into the scheme (see earlier blogs).  This has helped future schemes assess the risks to archaeology much more effectively i.e cheaper, faster and more accurately.   All of this has taken up considerable time and funding.  At last the joint ELS/HLS application was drawn together and handed in on the 17th June 2010.

Our scheme covered, in summary, all of NE targets and then some...SSSI Calcareous grassland, Orchards plans, species rich grassland, woodland pasture, extensive heritage sites, including 5 SAM's (scheduled Ancient Monuments), arable bird options, arable plant options, open access, educational visits, the list goes on.

During harvest we had an onsite meeting and everything was going to plan, only one meeting required as the NE staff knew exactly what we were planning to do.  The overall scheme was included in this years NE budget and the capital works were budgeted for over the next 5 years.  Busy schedules and the inevitable computer delays meant that the date slipped into October.  Computer delays that are of the Rural land Registry's doing, this parcel number doesn't match that number or this code doesn't match another code. 

Then came the 20th October- meaning the scheme needed to be signed, sealed and delivered.  It was added to the computer after it locked out a few times and was ready to sign on the Tuesday (19th).  Then, wait for it, there was no-one senior enough to actually sign it off.  Just for clarity and in case you didn't hear that bit, It was sitting there ready to sign.  Had it been a smaller scheme it would have gone through.  So discrimination is rife at Natural England, size really does matter! So in our case it's the bigger schemes with more diverse habitat that will actually deliver the best results and be more efficient with the funding, that get penalised.  In our case having already had 10 years in CSS and 5 years in ELS. 

I attended the Sainsbury's 'Farming for the Future Conference' on Friday at Stoneleigh Park, where Jim Paice (Minister for Agriculture and Food) was delivering a speech so I managed to have a few words afterwards.  I will let you know the outcome of his findings when I get them.  I hope he will be able to pass on the concerns to Caroline Spelman, Secretary of state for DEFRA, mind you a letter will be on it's way as well, I don't expect she will be reading my blog!

Where to now?  NE are saying wait until 1st April but what happens then?  Will there be any funding?  How much and will it fit into our farming business.  NE don't know and I don't know the answers but I do know that whatever trust there was between this farmer and NE (policy makers) has gone in the same direction as the Dodo and there's no scheme around today to bring him back.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

First Run For Bean Drill

Yesterday was the first full day using our home made bean drill.  The machine started out as a sublift cultivator and a cannibalised accord air seed hopper and seed metering mechanism.  The shakerator legs are mounted 50cm a part and we're blowing about 20 seeds/m2 down two tubes behind each leg.  We thought two tubes might give us a little more protection in case one of the tubes blocked up.  Although conditions are a little damp the machine is going well, with good seed placement and fairly even depth (15cm).  Hopefully we can cultivate the ground to level it off before too much wet weather arrives.  This will aid herbicide activity, increase combining speed and make cultivations for next wheat easier and faster.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Head In The Clouds

Derek was out early this morning working ground after summer turnips up on Bredon Hill.  The field is called 'Cobblers' and was planted with stubble turnips in April earlier this year.  After the lambs had eaten all of the turnips we sprayed off the remaining weeds with glyphosate and left them to die off.  That was about 3 weeks ago and so in preparation for drilling the land is worked with the Vaderstadt Topdown. The tilth was really good and after 24hrs drying will be ready for planting on Sunday morning!  The land should be in really great condition with the poultry manure applied for the turnips (lots and lovely natural fertilisers) and the sheep acting as mobile fertiliser spreaders the wheat should get off to really great start.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Rape Plants 35 Days Old

Quick update on the new oilseed rape drill out come.  The picture above is the result 35 days after the seeds were planted.  We have managed to establish 36 plants/m2 having sown 80 seeds/m2 (45% establishment).  The higher seed rate was used as a higher seedling loss was anticipated due to seed falling down the leg slot and increased slug activity as consolidation was not as easy.

This picture is in the next door field sown at the same time but we only planted 60 seeds/m2.  The establishment has been much better with 52 (86%) plants established.  I would however think that 52 plants could still be a little too thick.  Only time will tell and there will be some plant loss through the winter. It's still a long time until the spring.  The next thing to look out for will be Phoma, sure to be a problem with warm temperatures and rain showers to get the spores moving!

Monday, 4 October 2010

John Deere's New Livery Spotted at Overbury

John Deere's new tractor livery has been spotted out and about at Overbury this autumn.  Any comments as to the reasoning behind the new design? 

Thursday, 30 September 2010

A Slick Fix

Our 2 year old Bateman RB35 (batemansprayers) self propelled sprayer was in the farm workshop yesterday with a hydraulic oil leak.  The leak started during harvest but was only a slight drip, drip, drip and so went unrepaired.  It has been getting worse with the increased use since harvest, spraying off volunteers and putting down pre-emergence herbicides on rape and latterly wheat.  As it was raining yesterday Tim power-washed the area where the suspected leak was emanating from, removed the wheel and located a small solenoid attached to a leaking pipe.   Half a turn with the spanner cured the problem after a 3 hour operation to remove the wheel and bodywork to gain access to the offending pipe.  If only all breakdowns were that easy to fix.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Sowing The Seeds

Sorry all I could not resist this bit of 'Farming to Music'.  It is actually a cover version done by the The Wurzels which I feel is rather fitting considering the agricultural theme!.  I was drilling, or planting, a variety of wheat, called Gallant, which we are growing for the milling wheat market.  This variety is liked by many millers and if all things go to plan could be being milled into flour from next November (2011).  A proportion of this crop has already been sold forward some as far ahead as March 2012!  This demonstrates how long term the farming industry is and how much money and investment is made into our crops that we will not see a return on for at least 18 months.
If you think this is a long term commitment then consider breeding beef animals? If the cow is pregnant for 9 months and then the calf takes a further 24 months to fatten (can be quicker) then you would have to wait nearly 3 years to get any money back and who knows were the price will be that far ahead.  Would you get a better return on a no ball during the 3rd over?

Friday, 24 September 2010

Quinoa On The Menu

This is a strip 15m wide of quinoa and kale that just about managed to survive and establish during the dry summer months. The colours are fantastic to look at and are shinning brightly in the warm autumn sun shine.  The seed heads are full and although a little thinner than I would have liked should provide a valuable feed source for the coming winter.  Too late for British Food Fortnight but great for the LBJ's (little brown jobs AKA birds) over the coming few months.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Lamb Selection

Today Tod and I gathered up a group of lambs that have been grazing the stubble turnips that were planted in April.  The lambs have been grazing them for about 4 weeks and we thought they would be ready to sell through the Mayhill Lamb Group to Randall Parker Foods and the onto Sainsbury's.  The lambs were all weighed and their weights recorded on our Shearwell weighing system.  They were weighed two weeks ago and the average growth rate has been about 1.5kg liveweight/week.  We picked out 86 lambs that weighed between 42kg and 46kg liveweight which will be taken to the abattoir early next week and could be on the shelves of Sainsbury's stores by the end of the week.We then have a bit of a dilemma as the field with the turnips, should be planted with wheat by the end of September but with so many lambs nearly ready a change in diet could set them back.  With the current growth rates many more will be of marketable weight in two weeks time so that might be the cue to move the lambs and plant the wheat.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Slug Trapping

We have now started to plant (or drill) the seeds for next years crops.  We have started drilling on our highest ground on the top of Bredon Hill to try and get the young plants well established before the nights get colder and slows down their growth.  One of the main risks to the young seedlings at this time of year and after oilseed rape, are slugs!  There are some cultural control methods as practised using 'integrated farm management' such as rolling the soil surface to consolidate the soil.  This makes it hard for the slugs to move around in the soil from plant to plant.  In conjunction to rolling we might need to apply slug pellets.  Before we spread the pellets on the field we have to see if there are enough slugs there to justify the application so we set some traps.  I have selected the area of the field where there is slightly more trash (crop residue from the previous OSR as there are likely to be higher slug populations in the moist organic matter. 

I raided the game keepers pheasant food bin and located some layers mash as my tasty lure for the unsuspecting slug headcount.  After dishing out the free lunch I covered the mash with an insulated sheet, weighted it down with stones and left the scene.  The sheet will keep the area of mash moist and dark, just the right habitat for the slugs to feed in.  I will return in a couple of days for a headcount to see if there is justification in a application of pellets.


Sunday, 12 September 2010

Big Green Tractor

Sound again required for this footage and be patient right to the end! You can't beat a good bit of Country and Western (Jason Aldean on itunes), mixed with a slight rock undercurrent and tractors! Enjoy, I thought it was quiet funny, although I'm sure the mix has been done before, but it could start a new trend.. maybe the Wurzels could be next??

Friday, 10 September 2010

Rape Rolling

The beauty about autotrac is that once it is set up, in the field, it allows you to concentrate more on the job in hand rather than keeping in a straight line. That is the case most of the time! However whilst I was rolling yesterday, ipod wired into the tractor radio system, I had a little bit of fun. Listen and watch the clip to share in some of my humour.... (by the way no animals, trees, hedges, walls or pylons were hurt in the making of the clip)

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Oilseed Rape Planting with Home Made Drill

After sitting in the farm workshop most of the year our new project was finally tested. The cultivator drill was originally designed to plant beans straight into the stubble, a one pass, minimal tillage bean planter. After a little modification we managed to sort out the seed rate and Derek set off on the trial planting Sesame Oilseed Rape. Half of the field was 'topdowned', straight after the bales had been shifted, which meant a really good chit of grass weeds. Although not part of the original plan it will be an interesting test using the new drill into land previously loosened. The object will be to retain as much moisture as possible for the small seeds to grow in and to allow good root development down into the disturbed soil. A second field is to be trialled as well; half with the new drill and half with our vaderstadt carrier and biodrill. We'll see how the fields develop!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Princes Countryside Fund

I was sent this link through Twitter from and I found it really interesting so I though I would pass it onto my followers and post it on the blog for all to see. Agriculture is such a wide, diverse, complicated industry looking after so much of our countryside and nature, there is still so much to learn about. Maybe the silver lining about the wet weather means I can sit in the office and learn a little more about our great industry.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Pea Fed Lamb Time Again

It's that time of year again when the aftermath of the pea crops are utilized by the lambs. With so little grass around at the moment the availability to ship 500 lambs onto the peas for a few weeks really takes the pressure off the main grazing areas.
An advanced group of lambs have been grazing the peas now for 5 weeks and 2 days. They will soon be ready to sell as our 'Pea Fed Lambs'.
If you are interested in this very special opportunity, with unique flavours and rated by top London chefs do get in touch with Suzie at the Estate Office for more details. Orders need to be with us by the 1st September to secure your whole (£155+delivery) or half lamb (£80+delivery).

Monday, 23 August 2010

Indoor Catchup

Well with all of the wet weather it has meant that I have been able to catch up with a few jobs in the office. First on the list was to try and download some video taken during the harvest (still 1/3rd to go) Next I thought I would have a go at my soil protection review, to fill in the new mapping pages. Then I remembered that the maps that I have, through the RLR (Rural Land Registry) are incorrect. I did send details of the corrections with my SP5 form in May but as yet there have been no new maps issued. Oh well there's no point in doing the review on incorrect maps only then to have to redo them on the correct maps, assuming they will ever be corrected and agreed! With the rain beating down on the office window and the forecast not looking particularly special this could be a long week of finding indoor jobs to do. Back to coding invoices I guess!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Harvest Update

We've had a crazy couple of days, with the weather being as good as it has been (at least in this neck of the woods). The combine has been working hard, with numerous balers in hot pursuit, gobbling up the straw before the next shower appears from the Severn Vally.
Luckily the crops were sprayed off with Glyphosate which meant the straw was fit and ready to bale once the combine had been through the crop. (I dithered again this year about spraying them off but again glad I did!)Many thanks to the teams of balers, lorries and loaders taking the bales off the fields ready for Oilseed Rape drilling in the next couple of weeks.
Group 1 milling wheat safely gathered in tackling the Group 2 Cordiale tomorrow and Friday before the Tipple seed and malting barley. Another good week of sunshine and we will have cracked the back of the cereal harvest leaving the beans, which BTW are ready now!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Seed Cleaning

Really busy on the farm today. CAM (Cotswold Agricultural Merchants) arrived promptly at 8.30 to start cleaning and dressing next years seeds that we will be planting in a month or so. First on the list is Scout, a Group 3 biscuit making wheat. Next will be Gallant, followed by Solstice both milling wheats.
In addition to the seed cleaners arriving the sun also put in an (unexpected) appearance meaning men and tractors were at a premium to get harvesting and seed cleaning and grain drying completed simultaneously. Never the less all jobs progressing well at the moment (fingers crossed). I will be studying the forecast carefully today (and assuming the opposite), still trying to get the Grasshoppers out to watch the combine

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Monday, 9 August 2010

All in a Day's Work

Yesterday the team had a really good day combining winter wheat (Oakley) on Manor Farm, Conderton. The moisture started off at about 17% but soon dropped in the summer sunshine and stiff breeze. Tim kept Gordon and Tod busy on the trailers all day carting the grain back to Graham in the grainstore. By the end of the day nearly 400tonnes had been harvested and put into the bulk shed.
The autotrac was working well, here munching off a 9m part of the field to inch perfect accuracy.

The straw was sold off the field and the baler was hot on the heels of the combine all afternoon and by the following day many of the bales had been carted back to the farm.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010


After the combine, following a couple of days later, is the Vaderstadt Topdown, one pass cultivation system. This is a really great piece of farm equipment, versatile in all kinds of situations. From going straight into the stubble, see left, or working down ploughing the machine is very good at creating a seedbed, whilst doing a moderate job at some slightly deeper cultivation. Not as deep as a subsoiler but good shallow pan busting. The tractor, driven by Derek, is a John Deere 8530 pulling a 4meter machine, which on some of our steep fields is wide enough!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Dampened Enthusiasm

I think we might have been in this situation before! Rain that was not completely forecast at the weekend has arrived stopping the progress we made at the weekend. We managed an hour combining yesterday afternoon before rain arrived and more rain fell this morning, heavy enough to stop us for the day (I expect).
There are a few tidy-up jobs that will be done today as field work has also stopped.
A bearing to change on the hedge cutter before that is pressed into service. We can't cut any hedges until after the 31st July due to the cross compliance requirements. We would have taken a few wet days like this as an opportunity to get a few hedges trimmed up in the past.
There is also a new chopper belt tensioner that needs to be replaced on the combine. Hopefully when the sun does put in an appearance we should be ready to press on with our oilseed rape harvest.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Combine Rolling After False Start

Back to some proper Farming! We actually started combining on Monday on some Trick Winter barley, seed for Syngenta, which I would definitely grow again. On some very sandy light land, the feed barley topped out at 9.45t/ha (on 11.75ha) which is a great yield considering the year. Order your seed now, there's not that much going around this year!

Today saw the start of the OSR (Oilseed Rape)harvest, here Tim is cutting the first field of Excalibur on some of our lightest land. Moisture started of at 14% but by the time the headland was off it was down to 10%, quite acceptable. Not commenting on the yield yet as I will wait for the yield mapping data to come from the combine but early indications (i.e. me driving at lunchtime) look quite good but very early days so don't quote me on that!

Ragwort Worries

It's that time of year again when the yellow peril rears its pretty head above the grass and other weeds. Ragwort, poisonous to livestock when dead/dried, is one of the major 'non tolerable' weeds found around farms and even more readily seen on our roadside verges and central reservations.
It's an annual problem that can only really be controlled by digging/pulling every year. This year we have started early following the combine around pulling the few sprigs from the hedge bottoms and stewardship margins. An on going battle for us made even more frustrating when I see it seeding merrily along the A46 at the bottom of the farm. Wake up local councils and get it sorted out or with hard cuts coming in local budgets will it just fall of the bottom of the priority lists?

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Beasts in the Barley

Just for the records I also found a whole lot of ladybirds and larvae in the Coors Malting Spring Barley this afternoon. Even though it was raining the larvae were hard at work searching for their supper. On the menu tonight (I think) were grain aphids. There were a few small populations, not enough to worry about spraying them, so the beneficials will be able to control them for the next couple of weeks prior to harvest.
Interestingly the malting barley has not received any type of insecticide at all through the growing season but the wild bird seed mixture has received 3! It just goes to show that correct applications, at the correct timing, of the correct products can control the nasty (damage causing) insects whilst allowing the good ones (beneficials) to thrive.

Ladybird Bonanza

I popped in and had a look at the wild bird food mixtures that we planted in April to see how they were progressing and what a surprise I had.
Many of the plants that were growing, this is fat hen, (actually a weed), but good feed value never-the-less are hosting the largest populations of mealy cabbage aphids I have seen in a long time.

Feeding on these aphids are many hundreds of ladybirds. Here is a ladybird in it's larvae stage fattening up on the aphids.

This shot is showing three adult ladybirds feeding on some black bean aphids on a Quinoa plant. There was also more hoverflies and other beneficials than I could count.
Many of the plants have seeded well and should provide the most fantastic source of seeds during the coming winter months.
In the fore ground of this picture is some fodder radish that has some very large seed pods that will hold their seed well into the winter providing a much later seed source.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Litter Louts - No Respect!

This was the depressing scene that I found tonight in one of our farm gateways. The field is not open to the public and there is no public footpath within the field. The rubbish was beer bottles and cans, plastic food containers and even a pair of broken glasses. Not only was the rubbish left which in itself is wrong but they had also had a fire at the same place. With the very dry vegetation and fields of crops adjacent to this field who knows what may have happened. This problem is becoming more of an issue on Bredon Hill and it is a real shame that this area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) is being treated this way by a ignorant few, spoiling it for the many people who appreciate it's magnetic charm. If you see or suspect this kind of activity happening please, please do not hesitate to contact me and let me know.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

More Bee Food

Here is another small area that we have planted with a duel purpose. As well as providing a great source of pollen and nectar, as well as overwintered bird seed (it's intended target) it will also enhance the shoot area as it forms part of a game cover.
The mixture contains; phacaelia, triticale, oats, red and white millet and is targeting tree sparrows.
At the top of this area is a block of maize, both sections are about 0.4Ha in total.

Again in the warm sunshine insects were everywhere, feeding on the nectar produced by the flowers. Here a honey bee is just about to land on a phacaelia flower for lunch.

Millbank Trials

The field photographed is hosting our trial areas for wild bird seeds as part of the impending HLS scheme. It was planted in April with a wide variety of plants aimed at producing wild bird feed through the winter. the mix included mustard, fodder radish, kale, linseed, sunflowers, millet and we added some spring barley just for good measure.
Despite the dry summer the crop got off to a great start, fending off most of the pigeons eyeing up the juicy seedlings, mainly the sunflowers and kale. The flee beetles and the pollen beetles also had a go but a timely insecticide brought them to a swift end. What has amazed me is the diverse insect life that is benefiting from the plants in flower. I walked into the crop this morning to find bumblebees, honey bees, butterflies, spiders, ladybirds, hoverflies and many other hungry beasties all feasting on the pollen. I was really pleased about this, an uncalculated but not unsurprising benefit.
We need more farmers to take up these options as part of Campaign for the Farmed Environment, it wasn't that expensive to establish, it might last two years, with the kale surviving, and the benefits to general farm biodiversity will be enormous.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Straight Talking

This truck was parked up in rural Ontario, in a small village called Manotick, just outside the capital city of Ottawa (Canada) and I had to stop and take a picture of it. I feel it demonstrates in a heartbeat a simple message, straight to the point.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Coors 'Best Practice' for storage

The malting trade is a very difficult business as we are dealing with a living growing seed. The seeds or grains must therefore be kept in perfect conditions to avoid loosing germination or getting pest infestations. Keeping those two key thoughts in the forefront of our minds was the key message from James, who's farm we visited last night. Drying the grain and then slowing cooling the crop was the best way to avoid any costly rejections at the malthouses in Burton on Trent.
Trying to get the crop dried to a target of 14% moisture and then cooled down to about 10 degrees should see the crop safely into long term storage, from harvest 2010 until the summer of 2011.
Next week a group of growers are heading to Denmark to see what we can learn from the Danish growers and maltsters about getting the right product to the right customer at the right price. I'll keep you posted as to how we get on!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Evening Tours

On a cool and drizzly Monday evening Alex and I were joined by the new (and not so new) tenants of The Overbury Estate for a farm tour. the idea was to introduce ourselves to new neighbours and to try and explain what goes on at Overbury Farms throughout the year. An explanation about tractors roaring through the village at midnight during harvest to why dogs should ideally be kept on leads whilst walking around, lead to an engaging discussion. All sorts of interesting subjects were raised, keeping me on my toes answering all of the questions, which I really appreciated, I did honestly!
We are so busy carrying on our normal but hectic lives, we wave at each other whilst passing not really knowing the purpose of the trip but hopefully now some greater insight as to what might be going on will be helpful. It really was a great fun evening, even though we overran by half an hour, finishing the trip with the lights on the tractor, tells it's own story. I feel that this might be a trip worth pencilling in your diaries again for next year, I might even have attracted a few more followers of Farmer Jake's blog!

Monday, 7 June 2010

Silage Wrapped Up

Following the grass being cut, the grass swath is spread out in the sun to dry. When dried to the correct level it is gathered together into long rows that the baler can follow. This makes it an efficient way of collecting the grass and wrapping it up. The baler and wrapper is a very new piece of nachinery allowing both operations to be completed by one machine.

Worm's Eye View of Potatoes

This is one of the potato fields that Cobrey Farms rents from us. The field was planted in mid April and the potatoes emerged a couple of weeks ago. With the dry weather Henry Chinn has asked us to start irrigating the potatoes. they receive about 25mm of 'rain' each time we irrigate. the bare area in the middle of this field is where we spotted a lapwing nest when we were cultivating the field. In order not to disturb the nest we cultivated and subsequently planted around the nest. unfortunately the nest was predated after the field was planted. At the start there were 3 eggs in the nest but they soon disappeared leaving no trace.
This is a shot down between the potato rows showing how the plants grow and develop. Wit the warm water and adequate water they will very soon reach to meet across the rows. They need lots of water so that the skins of each potato are blemish free. This means that they will look more desirable to the customer when packed in clear plastic for the supermarket shelf. If these skins are good when harvested in August, Henry will pack them into 1 tonne boxes and put them into storage where they will stay untill Christmas (I expect). To find out more about Cobrey Farms you can visit their web on

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Yesterday evening (Wednesday) Gordon went off, with a good forecast for sunshine to mow one of the silage fields. The field is just south of Conderton and was planted last spring with perennial rye grass and red clover. The ley was grazed by sheep last summer and autumn before being rested over the winter ready to be cut for silage this spring. the red clover in the sward (mix of forage types) will provide good protein for the ewes prior to lambing next March. The rows of grass are being thrown around today to get the maximum wilt (to reduce the moisture), before being baled up in round bales tomorrow afternoon. The British summer can play havoc with silage making and even more so with hay making (as you need about 5 days good weather at least) so fingers crossed it stays dry for the time being. (Although the rest of the farm desperately needs about 50mm of gentle rain sshhhhh)

Friday, 28 May 2010

Crow Predation

Paul, the head keeper at Overbury sent me this picture of a crow that was living on the farm. Under the nest was a total of 56 pheasant eggs and 5 partridge eggs. These eggs were all from wild bird nests and just goes to show the damage that just one pair of these predators can do to the native bird populations. There is lots of evidence published by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust detailing the need to control these predators to help game bird survival but also to have a very positive effect on the LBJ's (little Brown Jobs) ie the rest of the natural bird population (thrushes, blackbirds, yellow hammers etc).

Adjacent to this nest site was a magpie nest which was taken out earlier in the year and it was swamped with thrush and blackbird eggs.

Beetling About

Earlier this year we decided to plough up about 0.5ha of winter beans in order to establish a beetle bank and some extra winter bird mix area. The beetle bank will protect the wild bird feed area, incorporating a game strip from the activities going on in the field. I walked up and down the strip hand sowing grasses such as Timothy and Cocksfoot which will provide a great nesting habitat for the birds. The beetle bank as it's name suggests will also provide a wonderful home for many beetles and insects which in turn will provide food for creatures higher up the food chain. This mixture is called 'Yellow hammer Mix' and includes, mustard, spring wheat, mixed millet, triticale, spring barley and fodder radish. It will of coarse provide food for many more birds not just the Yellow Hammers.

The reason for this trial is to learn about growing these mixed crops as we are preparing our HLS scheme application which will include some areas of the farm dedicated to growing crops to feed birds. Now all we need is some nice warm rain to get the crops established!