April on the farm (2023)

Blackthorn Flowers (Photo: Colin Wootton)

Richard Fonge writes:

April’s showers have been more like heavy rain, and are delaying the planting of spring sown corn along the concrete road, which should ideally be in by now. April sees the blackthorn in blossom, a sure sign of a continual nip in the air and wintry conditions. The saying “Blackthorn Winter” is one that always resonates. Do note how much blackthorn there is in our hedges. The white blossom is very prominent. A field of grass opposite the Magpie has been ploughed up as has the remainder of the field where the HS2 compound is situated, and it highlights to me as a farmer what a travesty it is to see such good agricultural land being turned into a railway!

All the pasture fields around the parish are now stocked with ewes and lambs, so making it imperative to keep dogs on leads. It is easy to forget during the winter months when some of these fields are empty of stock that their prime purpose Is for the feeding of sheep and cattle.

I started writing these notes to inform people a little of what is happening in the countryside that surrounds us, as I think it is of interest and importance to the community . Especially if you are new to rural life. You cannot sanitise rural life, as it comes with its distinctive smells, sounds and at times plenty of mud. When spreading cow manure once I was asked by a local dignitary in all seriousness if I “could mix lavender with it”!

Agriculture is the business of producing wholesome food whilst maintaining the countryside which we all love and appreciate. Farming means that we have to work with nature not against it as the land is our income. That means managing nature from time to time. Vermin such as rats and mice in farm buildings have to be controlled and their extermination is part of Farm Assurance schemes. A box that must be ticked.

Pigeons are great menace to oilseed rape growers as they are to anybody who grows brassicas in their garden, and have to be controlled or scared away. Foxes also pose problems at lambing times and for those who have hens. It must be remembered that a fox is a serial killer and nothing preys on the fox, so to keep the balance in nature there has to be some control. As can be seen if you watch any wildlife programme it is the survival of the fittest of any species that keeps that species strong and eliminates the weaker genes.

I saw my first swallow today the 13th, but they were first seen on the 10th going into the barn by the stream up the Moreton Rd.

The weather has been very variable and it reminds me of a villager I knew who when asked about his health always replied “Like the sparrows up and down”!

Richard Fonge



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