September on the Farm (2020)

Texel rams on Castle Hill

Richard Fonge writes:

As I write these notes the harvesting of crops is now complete after a lovely hot spell. Although the harvest from the land is in general a poor one due to the very variable weather conditions of the last year, the hedge and tree fruits are abundant. Plenty of sloes for the gin, blackberries, apples, pears, plums to preserve for the winter and conkers for the children and to keep away spiders

It is three years since I started these notes, and September as I wrote then is seen as the farming years end. Michaelmas day the 25th September is the day when farms change hands, either in ownership or tenancy. The land ownership has changed over the years, as the industry itself has evolved to meet the needs and demands of an ever more discerning public.

The land to the east of Sulgrave to Weston is owned by an Oxford College. The colleges of our two oldest universities are still owners of many estates but not as much as they used to own. Stuchbury Manor Farm where I was brought up was owned by Balliol College, Oxford until it was sold with the rest of the Marston Estate in the late sixties. They had a great way of extracting the rent by giving the tenants dinner in college twice a year, with the Master of Balliol, Bursar and estates committee always present. A very civilised way of paying.

A crop which will not be seen so much nationally and therefore locally will be oil seed rape. The flea beetle the main pest to the crop since the banning of neonecotins has been hard to control, to such an extent that many farmers have not sown oil seed rape this year. Therefore I can see more beans and linseed being grown, to maintain a healthy rotation.

Sheep are very evident in the pastures around the village, and with a gestation period of 145 days it will soon be time to put the Rams in with the ewes for lambs to be born in early spring. The Suffolk ram with its black face was for many years the main crossing ram. Whilst still popular, the Charolais and Texel have superseded it as they can produce a great butcher’s lamb. Those eight young rams that have been grazing Castle Hill all summer are Texels and at some time this Autumn all their Christmas’s will come at once!

Richard Fonge



Leave a Reply