March on the Farm (2019)

Richard Fonge writes:

March has so far given us its usual mix of weather. So having come in like a lion, let us hope it goes out like a lamb. This is an old country adage that is normally right, as is the saying that when the blackthorn is out, we will have a blackthorn winter. And as long as the blackthorn remains in flower, you will find that there is always a chill in the air. One saying that I have never known to come true, is “The oak before the ash and we will have a splash. The ash before the oak and we will have a soak.” Because the oak always precedes the Ash in coming into leaf, whether we have a dry or wet summer.

Many of us walk the footpaths regularly and now we have a walking group who will be walking each footpath on a weekly basis. By doing this they can see the development of each crop they walk through. So on the Barrow hill lookout for the emergence of beans planted after the green crop. Up the gated road the flowering of the oil seed rape. The field called the big green off Little Street with the path down the centre will have cattle in it from late April, and the ewes and lambs are already in the fields up to the railway line.

Note the difference in the breeds of sheep behind Wemyss Farm when they arrive and those that are in the field by the Helmdon Road.

On the road to Halse from Greatworth there are two very large heaps of a white material (See photo above). What are they? They are piles of gypsum, which will be spread onto the land after harvest, as a fertiliser and conditioner. We normally associate gypsum as a building product, in the manufacture of plasterboard, but it is mined for agriculture purposes. By applying quite a large quantity per acre, it becomes beneficial to the heavy clay soils, as it sticks to the clay particles, making the soil more friable and helping in better infiltration of water, and helps to break up compaction, thereby making the soil easier to cultivate and the establishment of a crop. A natural product being put to good use.

Finally, I farmed for twenty years on the urban fringe which had some interesting challenges, but the great contrast to Sulgrave was the night sky. We had light pollution to such an extent that I had forgotten what a star lit night was like. I now appreciate those stars, and have on occasion been drawn to a particular Star!

Richard Fonge



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