October on the Farm

In 1840 some 44% of the population of Great Britain worked in agriculture. By the time of the 2011 census this figure had declined to 1%. Currently, less than 4% of the rural population has any connection with farming or associated activities.

Growing up in the village during and just after the second world world, I lived in a community which was acutely aware of all that was happening on the surrounding land. At busy times of haymaking and harvest, everyone had a part to play. Many of the village men were away at the war and so everyone was pressed into service, including prisoners of war from the camp just outside the village on the way to Helmdon and airmen stationed at the RAF Communications Unit near Greatworth. I was one of the many village boys happily queuing up to drive the ubiquitous Fordson tractors and trailers between the haycocks, thus releasing an adult to wield a pitchfork.

Nowadays, almost all employed people in the village work in surrounding towns or take trains to London from Banbury or Milton Keynes. Those remaining in the village go about their daily lives largely unconscious of local farming activities, other than large tractors passing through, towing equally large trailers with hidden contents heading for unknown destinations. Those who use the footpaths through surrounding fields may pass through a growing crop one day and return a few days later to find it has gone with next year’s crop already in the ground. No one is to be seen other than in tractor cab. Gangs of children no longer roam the fields looking for employment, entertainment or mischief!

In order to re-establish a degree of connection between villagers and agriculture, the website’s de facto Agricultural Correspondent, Richard Fonge, has volunteered to provide a monthly digest in respect of current farming activities, which will be illustrated with pictures as appropriate. Richard grew up on his father’s farm at Stuchbury, went to agricultural college and before retirement spent 40 years in farm management. He is thus well placed for this task.

Colin Wootton

See next page for the first of these items, for this month of October 2017



It is appropriate to start these regular notes in October, as it is the beginning of the farming year. September 29th is Michaelmas day, a very significant day in the farming calendar. This is the day when if a farm is sold, the new owner takes control and new tenancy’s also begin on this date. Farm rents are normally paid at Michaelmas and Lady Day March 25th.

We have our harvest festivals today around about this time to celebrate the getting in of all the food we produce. In times long ago when the whole village or settlement had a direct connection to the land, a feast was had at Michaelmas to celebrate the gathering in of the harvest. The Squire putting it on for his workers.

October is the month we plant winter wheat and barley. Oil seed rape is sown in late August. It is essential that it is well established by now, to survive the winter. Example of this crop can be seen in the fields the other side of the bridge up the concrete road leading eastwards past Rectory Farm.

If you walk up the gated road to Weston, you may have noticed a heap of material in a gateway on your right (see photo above). This is lime quarried in the Cotswolds and will be applied to the field by a special spreader. Lime is needed to maintain the pH of the soil, to a certain level. Very important for the plants health,and therefore the quality of its fruit. This field will be planted winter wheat. A crop that follows in the rotation naturally behind oil seed rape.

On the footpath to Stuchbury off the Helmdon road, in the second pasture field, are a flock of sheep. These will be mated this month, with the lambs being born in March. The gestation period for a sheep is 145 days. The normal ratio of Rams to ewes is 1:40. The photos below show, firstly, a ram wearing a harness including a pouch of red dye and secondly a ewe marked with the dye. In this way the farmer can be sure that all his ewes have been impregnated and will have lambs in the spring.


You could say he has made his mark! (Ed)

Richard Fonge





Leave a Reply