March on the Farm (2020)

Richard Fonge writes:

As I write these notes, Spring has finally sprung, after what has been a long and very wet winter, with February being the wettest on record. In the midst of this pandemic we certainly need some sun to make us feel better. How fortunate we are compared to so many that we live in a rural area, with its footpaths and countryside to enjoy and the most pleasing of those must be the arrival of lambs in the fields on the Weston side of the village, to see them and watch them as they have their races certainly lightens the gloom. When farming I used to lamb some 350 ewes every March and at its peak you often had thirty plus lambs in one day, but at the day’s end after some sixty odd lambs being born, there was still that sense of wonder at the arrival of the latest one.

The fields up the concrete road as far as the bridge were half prepared for sowing last October before it came too wet to plant. I suspect they will now go in spring barley, or oats, or even left fallow to be planted wheat in October. Economics obviously come into the equation, so when costed out, is it better to leave or to grow a crop. There is no point in growing a crop if you can’t make a return and late spring planting compromises yield. So I will wait with interest to see what happens with all those unplanted fields around the Parish.

This worldwide pandemic of the coronavirus has brought home I think the need to produce as much food from our own country as is possible and shop locally. The last crisis to hit the countryside was the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak which put great restrictions on our movements for a short time, but what was shown was the great resilience of those small communities, often very isolated whether up in the dales of Yorkshire or the Welsh mountains, or Exmoor they all recovered in the course of time. I was one of a group of farming volunteers dispensing grants through a charity and whilst we heard many distressing stories, there were always lighter memories to take away, with that countryman’s down to earth philosophy.

The Cumbrian farmer whom we had granted as much as we could in monetary terms, but knew it was not really enough, thanked us and said “Us’ll have to find another hole in the belt then”. The Dorset farmer who we refused as we felt he had some cattle he could sell to ease his situation, who succinctly replied “Well tell your panel to come down and help catch the B…..s”!

Here’s hoping that April will be kind to us, with some nice weather and whilst sadly the cuckoo no longer comes, watch out for the return of the swallows around the 10th of the month.

Richard Fonge.

PS. A Reminder.

At this time of year we are surrounded by flocks of sheep either with lambs at foot or expecting very soon. The gate into Castle Mound was left open a few nights ago, allowing the young Rams to escape, reminding me of the need to be vigilant at all times when walking through sheep especially with dogs. Signs are up so please respect them and the sheep they are there to protect. 



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