June on the Farm (2020)

Pale blue flax (linseed) flowers contrast with a solitary poppy

Richard Fonge writes:

The consequences of a very wet Autumn/Winter, followed by two exceptionally dry months in April and May, can be seen in the crops around the parish and further afield. As you walk the path to Barrow Hill, the two fields of wild flowers are full of butterflies and insects, having gone through the wood you come to a field mostly bare with a few clumps of wheat. This field was sown wheat in October and the water-logging of the soil over the winter has killed it all except for those small clumps.

Up the gated road the spring wheat is coming into ear, and do take note how the green the leaves are and free from disease. This means a fungicide has been applied at the right time, so that the leaf can maximise the sunlight for photosynthesis to take place, thereby improving the quality and quantity of the grain. The beans up the Moreton road are in flower and like the other crops need some more rain.

On the Stuchbury path fodder turnips have been planted above the electric fence for the sheep to graze at a later date. The yellow flowers are those of charlock weed.

The other crop widely grown this spring is the linseed plant, now in flower creating a sea of blue. Linseed seeds are crushed for their oils, being used in paints and oiling of certain woods, and the oil has medicinal uses. The fibres of the plant were once used extensively to make linen, in particular bedding and tablecloths. But why are we seeing so much planted this year? Two reasons I would suggest. Weather and agronomic. For some years now an invasive grass weed, called black grass has been difficult to control in cereal crops, and by planting linseed, beans and turnips in late spring the black grass can be killed with a herbicide prior to sowing making control more effective, and hopefully making a serious problem less so.

Today our villages have changed so much from the time I grew up in the fifties. Back then most villagers either worked on the land, or had a close connection to it. I recall some of those characters:

Reg Isham who worked for my father at Stuchbury, who thought this new thing called an electric fence was useless, touched it wearing his hob nail boots, leapt into the air a foot and never went near it again! His brother was known as Samson. He had as a boy been asked to help push a thrashing machine that was stuck and when he did, it came out. Hence the nickname. He was waiting in Greatworth shop once to be served with his baccy, and was asked by the shopkeeper if he had planted his broad beans. The instant retort “The b—–s will be up before I get served!”

Finally a smallholder farmer in Marston St Lawrence said to a friend of mine he would pay him two shillings to pick his windfall apples up. He did so with the help of another boy, and when he went for his money, he gave them a shilling each!

Richard Fonge

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One Response to “June on the Farm (2020)”

  1. How we miss those old village characters and their wonderful stories of life on the land, but how brilliant that community spirit is still very much alive in the countryside in these difficult times. Sulgrave a shining example of this.

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