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Lockdown birding

Last month I wrote the notes on a sunny day while praying for a calm dry spell to allow us to get on with the spring barley and bean drilling. We were given just that, and the first 10 days of lock down allowed us to drill it all. The soil conditions varied from OK to poor but because we had not moved the soil before drilling, most seed went into moisture and is now emerging. This year will be a real test for our Claydon strip tilling system. Charles spent a fair time during the wintering tinkering with shims, spacers and tape measure trying to get all the coulters placing seed at the correct depth. My father would have been horrified to see spring seed going into such a rough seedbed. Rolling in spring beans was strictly forbidden in his day. The 7mm of rain that arrived yesterday may well have saved the crops. After having faith that the good Lord would send rain, we also have to have faith in the Claydon Hybrid Drill. Watch this space!!

As the virus situation becomes worse, we had a family discussion on how we were to manage it. Elizabeth and I, who are both close to, if not actually in the vulnerable category, were to remain confined to the farm and our needs would be fetched by our children. I could self-isolate to a degree by using one machine and Charles and Sam would each have a main machine with disinfectant cloths in the forklift and yard tractor to wipe down before a change of driver. Social distancing would be practical as far as possible and, after several forgetful actions to start with, things have been reasonably safe. I have to say folks exercising and walking dogs through the farmyard have been very thoughtful indeed. We are very lucky that we do not have full time staff and we have been able to continue working safely and so far with minimal disruption to the various supplies we need. We are taking the view that we need to stock up with wearing parts for autumn work and trying to think of other stuff which might run short.

One very positive side to the lack of necessity to travel, is that we have finally spent a bit of time sitting on the deck that we have had built at Halls Garden. When we moved out of Broughton Hall we realised that we had, for the first time, moved into a house with a view. Our veranda has an uninterrupted view across the Jordon Valley to Mowness Hall and Little Stonham which is very nice. Because the garden is a bit natural – I would say feral when the grandchildren are playing in it, we do get a lot of wildlife passing through. Muntjac, rabbits, squirrels, foxes and Mr Grieves lovely tabby cat. Woodpeckers (green and greater spotted), song and mistle thrushes, finches and titmice, robins, resident red legged partridges and spotted flycatchers in the summer. Plenty of company which together with the wonders of email, Facebook, zoom and Whats-app helps to partially make up for the suspension of a pint with a chat at the Middy!!

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