October on the farm (2021)


Texel Ram

Richard Fonge writes:

The wonderful Autumn weather of the last few weeks has not only been good for us all to enjoy, but has allowed the Autumn sowing of crops to be completed in good time. With the soil moisture and temperature as they are, it has seen quick germination and establishment of the crops. A prime example being the barley sown on Barrow Hill and on the Moreton Rd, whilst nearer the village the oil seed rape sown in August is nearly too far forward. All seasons have their special aspects, but to me a misty autumnal morning takes some beating. 

The Texel Rams on the Stuchbury footpath have nearly completed their line of duty and lambs will be due in late February onwards.

A crop not grown a lot in this country is Lucerne or alfalfa as it is more commonly called across the world. It is a high protein crop, that like white clover makes its own nitrogen, through nodules on the roots. Multiple cuts can be taken through the growing season of either silage or hay. It is the main winter feed for cattle in the U.S.A after maize. In America maize is called corn, whereas here corn is wheat, barley etc. Can be confusing when with the Americans! I note this because a field of Lucerne has been planted on the right hand side up the Helmdon Road.

One of my first monthly notes nearly four years ago concerned ridge and furrow and I will return to the subject. The Saxons who were here for some six centuries until King Harold didn’t see eye to eye with William the Conqueror in 1066, were good farmers and cleared the land of forest, to grow their crops. A ridge and furrow are 220 yards long and it was thought the length one man could clear in a year. The width was a perch which was 5.5 yards. So the width of four ridges was 22 yards, therefore 220 x 22 = 4840 sq yards or an acre. 220 yards is a furlong, with eight of them making a mile. All horse races are measured in furlongs. 22 yards is a chain and the length of a cricket pitch. We may be officially metric, but land is still advertised and sold in acres. So from the Saxons came a lot of our measurements. The reason for the ridge and furrow was a ridge to grow the crop on and a dry area for the stock to lie on, with the shallow furrow to take the water.

Having just completed four years of these notes, I would like to thank all the landowners for keeping their footpaths in good order, as my regular walks along them give me the basic material for these notes.

Richard Fonge

More information on medieval land measurements can be found in an extract from the 1086 Domesday Book for Sulgrave posted on this website.



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