MAY 2014

The showers we have had over the last few days have been very welcome if not a crop saver. The patchy spring barley which was sown into cloddy seed beds may not totally green up as I suspect the seed, which was not covered well, will have been used to increase the many parliaments of rooks which have been virtually living on the fields but the rain will definitely help the remaining sugar beet to emerge and grow away. Fertilizer and herbicides need moisture to make them work so there will now be a hectic week getting the rest of the nitrogen on and getting sugar beet, spring barley and beans sprayed with weed killers. Despite the two months of dry weather we’re getting warning about slug activity so gardeners keep vigilant.

I have been doing a bit more spraying than usual this year and it has been interesting to look over the fields from the high vantage point of a sprayer cab. One gets a good view of any wild life lurking in the crops which is not visible from the ground. Buzzards and Kestrels seem to shift towards the machine as it disturbs prey for them. Our rape crops close to the cart track are fairly well populated with skylarks this year and sugar beet and spring barley fields are hosting good numbers of hares. Whilst spraying the rape in Green Lane I was interested to see a pair of Reed Buntings flitting about. They are an attractive addition of our breeding birds list which have succeeded in exploiting an opportunity provided by intensive but sympathetic farming practice. The Buntings have decided that there is a similarity between reed beds and fields of rape so nest in the thick canopy provided by the crop. They need a good thick crop to hold the nest and some years they need all the time they can get before harvest to fledge their chicks. In the days before round-up desiccation of the crop we used to swathe it to kill it off and let it ripen for the combine. This would often catch nesting birds too early but desiccating with chemical, or leaving the crop to ripen naturally gives them a vital extra two weeks to fly the nest.

Back in the mid nineteen seventies the EADT started an initiative to pair up schools and farms. The aim was encourage school visits to farms enabling children to learn where their food came from and discover how it was produced and who produced it. I had a friend at the time who taught at Needham Market Middle School and so we formed our partnership with them. We have hosted a visit every year since, except for the year when foot and mouth was at its height, as it would have been irresponsible to allow a visit. Over the last few years we have had parent helpers coming with the children who visited Broughton Hall as ten your old themselves – a somewhat sobering thought! However on May 19th we will be seeing them for the last time. Needham Middle is to close in the re-organisation being carries out. It is ironic that their last inspection praised staff and children very highly. I would agree with the inspectors’ opinion.