June on the farm (2021)

Modern hay making, with the hay being stored in plastic parcels as “haylage”.

Richard Fonge writes:

The wonder of nature. We have had one of the coldest and latest of springs, but following heavy rain, and a warm and sunny start to June all the crops have caught up in their growth and look promising for a good harvest. Nature soon takes back after being disturbed, a great example being the Moreton Road verges. Full once again of its natural grasses and wild flowers. The old railway line is another example of natural regeneration. At present there is a countrywide campaign to plant wildflowers where possible, and it should be encouraged, but in our own parish we have two fields of some twenty five acres planted as wild flower meadows many years ago and walked through on your way to Barrow Hill. Besides these fields we have within the parish other small areas not always adjacent to footpaths where wild bird mixtures have been sown as part of countryside stewardship schemes. Farmers take great pride in the stock and crops they rear and produce to feed us, but also in managing their land in sympathy with nature.

We have had much woodland planted over the past forty years on the farms and within the village. These woods and railway embankments are home to many species of wildlife and also provide a habitat along with he bird seed margins for pheasant shooting.

Late May early June is shearing time for the sheep, but this year it is later simply because the shearing gangs from New Zealand have not come over in their usual numbers, because of Covid restrictions and therefore a shortage of shearers. It needs to be warm to shear. When the lanolin has risen the wool falls off much easier. On the Stuchbury footpath you may have noticed a ewe with no fleece. Her wool has fallen off. This has been caused I suspect by a course of antibiotics at lambing time. Wool has among its many uses great insulating properties. A natural product sadly underused. A sheep farmer friend tried to sell fleeces to undertakers to line coffins, but with only limited success. The problem being he didn’t get any customer feedback!

Haymaking in Sulgrave in the 1920s (Bill Branson)

June was always hay making month, but nowadays silage is more likely to be made, or haylage where the grass is wrapped in plastic and preserved that way. To make hay is more labour intensive and at the mercy of the weather. Over the next weeks please look out for and take note of the grass mowing, the rapid growth of the maize at Stuchbury, and the flowering of the linseed at the top of Barrow Hill and at the Magpie junction. A wonderful blue flower.

Richard Fonge



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