February on the farm (2023)

Aconites on Moreton Road

February filldyke is the saying, meaning it’s the month of rain filling up our ditches. This year we have had very little rain in February, with the ground relatively dry. Firm enough for some early spring operations with tractors to take place.

Early applications of nitrogen have been applied to some of the winter sown crops, and up the concrete road it looks to me that the black grass I noted last month has been sprayed with roundup. Those fields on both sides of the road were cultivated to form a “false seedbed” last autumn. This fine tilth of soil allowed a good germination of the black grass seeds. A good control of the grass now will allow the spring crop sown, whatever it might be, to grow without the competition of this weed which stifles the crop and reduces yield considerably.

Whilst on the subject of weed control, I would like to put into perspective, the use of sprays in agriculture, the industry that feeds us. Herbicides are used to control weeds so that the crop can grow without competition. Fungicides are used to keep the leaf clean of the many diseases that attack the plant. A clean green leaf allows photosynthesis to take place to an optimum, thereby producing a good fruit. Insecticides, contrary to many reports are only applied when absolutely necessary. The control of flea beetle in Oilseed rape being the main one.

I can assure one and all that Farm Assurance Schemes monitor the use of all these applications very diligently, and the cost per acre alone means that any spray is only used when needed.

On the top Stuchbury footpath an electric fence has been put up to hold a flock of sheep in. They are grazing the autumn sown grass down before maize is planted in April.

Sadly despite many reminders from farm organisations, sheep and cattle worrying by dogs is on the increase. As recently as last autumn a sheep in our parish was mauled to death. It is essential to have control of the dog at all times .

It is great to hear the woodpecker tapping away, and it is wondrous how the hole they make is so perfectly round. On another nature note, the aconites up the Moreton road are still in flower, some five weeks after first appearing. I am sure this is due to the many hard frosts we have had, making our winter weather as it should be. These successions of hard frosts do a great deal of good, especially to the earth. Take note of how easily the soil breaks down after being dug in the early winter.

Cold weather and outdoor work used to be a recipe for chilblains. An old and effective remedy was to make an ointment from the elderflower.

Richard Fonge



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