February on the Farm

Richard Fonge writes:

February the years shortest month, with the first signs of Spring in the offing. February the 2nd is Candelmas a Christian festival and the winter Equinox. That is halfway between the shortest day and the Spring Equinox. There is a very good old country saying, that a good farmer has half his hay to feed his stock on Candelmas day. If we have a late spring, stock can still need supplementary feed till the end of April.

The sheep we saw with the rams in October will be having their lambs at the end of the month at their farm in Greatworth before returning to the same pasture and the mustard up on the field at Barrow Hill, has now died back and will soon be incorporated into the soil.

So much depends on the weather and ground conditions as to when a farmer can get onto the land to start sowing his crops and fertilising, spraying etc at this time of year.

So before we see tractors at work, around the village or stock back again in the pastures, it is worth mentioning the strict production criteria that quite rightly all farmers have to comply with. All farms have to keep a record of all field operations and management decisions relating to each individual field and a movement and medicine record of their animals. If producing for a supermarket, there will be additional compliances to comply with.

The pasture field at the bottom of the bridle way which adjoins the old railway line has slits in the turf at regular intervals. The field has been sub-soiled, that is a means of breaking a pan up by passing a thick tine through the soil at a depth of 15 to 18 inches normally. This helps in drainage and lifts and aerates the soil, so improving the grass.

A comparison to look out for is the different methods of sowing. On the footpath to Stuchbury and as you go to Barrow Hill, these crops have been sown directly into the soil, whereas those up the concrete road have been sown after some cultivation. The other observational point to notice is the straightness of the rows of corn. Whilst the operators of farm machinery are highly skilled, their tractors are today guided by G.P.S., so making a straight line simpler.

Looking forward to spring and the new life it brings.

Richard Fonge


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