April on the Farm (2022)

Romney sheep on the footpath to Greatworth

Richard Fonge writes:

We are enjoying a warm sunny spell of weather as I write these notes, and with the blackthorn beginning to go over the air should feel warmer. The adage that we are in a blackthorn winter is a very true one, especially when it first comes out as in this year we had very wintry conditions followed by cold easterly winds, although the sun shone. I saw the first two swallows on the 10th April by the stream on the gated road. After their long migration they usually stay around a water course to feed for a week or so before beginning to nest.

The crops around the Parish are starting to grow with the oil seed rape now coming into flower up the gated or Moreton Road. Notice the variable flowering stages, this is because the pigeons have grazed it during the winter, so stunting the plant and therefore it flowers later and ripens later making harvesting time often a compromise. This year it has become a premium crop with the Ukrainian War, as most of our sunflower oil is imported from the Ukraine and Russia, as are our fertilisers. The conflict certainly brings food security to the fore!

A crop looking exceptionally healthy are the oats up the concrete road. Planted in mid November, small areas have suffered from wet, but as a percentage of the total acreage of all the field very insignificant.

The Romney breed of sheep on the footpath behind Weymss Farm are now lambing and are having singles (although I have noticed a set of twins). These sheep are part of a larger flock and were scanned to singles. Scanning at around seventy-five days of the 145 day gestation period enables the shepherd to manage his flock accordingly.

I mentioned in my January notes how important the pig was to the villager’s living until relatively recently. Other regular or seasonal foods from the farm were bislings or cherricurds, the first rich milk from a freshly calved cow. It was cooked and eaten like a baked custard. Sweet meats or calves testicles were another delicacy. Today we are inclined to look in amazement at what was eaten back in the past. However, it was a healthy diet of home grown vegetables and local delicacies of this kind, including pigeon and rabbit. The harder physical work of the time necessitated such food.

The electric fence to control livestock first came about around 1940, I believe and here are two true stories. My father was on Home Guard duty one night when two of the platoon, panicking in true Cpl Jones style, announced that they had heard a bomb ticking behind a certain hedge and that the end was nigh. It was, of course, an electric fence unit ticking. The second occasion happened at Stuchbury Manor where we had moved just after the war and Reg the cowman concluded that this bit of single wire was useless to keep cattle in, so he touched it with hob nailed boots on, leapt in the air and respected the darn thing forever more!

Richard Fonge



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