Little Forest Field in March

On the Farm in March

spring growth

Around the farm, there are signs of new growth. We have nothing in flower yet but the banks of the ditches are filling with bright green primrose leaves and the tiny fern like leaves of cow parsley.

honey bees and honeycomb

When Storm Doris blew through at the end of last month, the limb of an ash tree crashed to the ground. When Bill went to clear the debris and cut up the branch, he noticed a few bees buzzing around. Further investigation revealed a honeycomb in the hollow of the branch and an awful lot of bees. The chainsaw was quickly put back in the shed and the branch was been left in situ as we waited to see what happened to the bees. After a few days of wind and rain there were several dead bees scattered about but the main mass was sheltering under the honeycomb. We were told that if the queen bee is still there, the workers will huddle around her to keep her warm and if they’re left too exposed and cold they will gradually die off. There are still several bees in the branch today (you can just about make them out in the darkness on the right*), so for the time being we’ll leave them and the branch alone.

Hay barn at slamseys

Slamseys Hay Barn

Every time the fields start to dry out there is talk of starting the spring land work but then it rains and makes them wet again so there has been a great deal of building work and maintenance. Most recently some of the twentieth century repairs to the old Essex barn have been stripped out, which has completely changed the look of the barn.

The sun is shining today, so with luck the primroses will soon be flowering and the tractors will be able to get onto the fields.

 

 

*This was the best shot I could get without disturbing the bees

Little Forest field in the snow

On The Farm in January

Yesterday the meteorologists forecast snow and wind. The media got over excited and our local news was filled with photos of gritting lorries and dire warnings of ice and tidal surges.

 

Slamseys Farm drive

 

In the evening we had a light covering of snow.

 

snow on Slamseys Christmas trees

frozen puddles

 

Not enough to cause disruption but enough to make the farm look pretty this morning with snow dusted fields and patterned ice filling the puddles.

 

dovecote in the snow

 

Today is grey and overcast with flurries of snow and everyone wants to find a job inside to escape the icy north west wind. I may just be able to keep them employed for a while.

It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

oilseed rape crop

On The Farm In April

newly planted Christmas trees

The weather has been good here, with some gloriously sunny days that have dried out the fields so that land work has resumed on the farm. We managed to plant 1400 tiny Christmas trees earlier this week, mathematically agriculturally marked out using a spade, old electric fencing posts and baler twine. Standing only 30 centimetres high, these should be ready for cutting down in 2023, which seems an age away.

teleporter

Today they’re spreading fertiliser on the fields, which means the teleporter is running backwards and forwards between the barn where the fertiliser is stored and the fields. The fertiliser is delivered in enormous 1 tonne bags that the teleporter picks up and transports to empty into the spreader.

oilseed rape field

The oilseed rape is coming into full flower, which is a wonderful sight for those of us who don’t suffer from hay fever. This old tap standing in the corner of the field is a reminder of when this field was grazed by horses. After the crop has been harvested in early summer, the rapeseed will be sent away for pressing to extract the oil. If you buy a bottle of vegetable oil with a picture of a yellow flower on the label, it’s rapeseed oil. I can’t help thinking that somebody should think of a better name for the crop.

cheese and bacon flan

Packed lunches for tractor drivers call for solid food. I gaze in awe at pictures of bento boxes with their delicate salads and pretty arrangements of fruit but I know that beautiful as they might look in the kitchen, after a few hours bouncing around in a tractor cab, they would look decidedly unappealing. Apart from that, packed lunches destined for the fields need to be eaten with a minimum of fuss, preferably one handed. An old fashioned cheese and bacon flan fits the bill perfectly.

Essex huffer

Huffers are regularly packed into lunch boxes for tractor drivers and also into my rucksack when we’re walking. My family often tease me that I must be glad when we’ve stopped for lunch as my rucksack must be considerably lighter when we’ve taken out the huffers and fruit cake. Cruel. But true.

farm buildings

As the days lengthen and I no longer feel the need to close the shutters and sit in front of the fire in the early evening, it’s good to wander around the farmyard when everybody else  has gone home and enjoy the last of the sunshine for the day.

Even if nothing is growing in the cold soil of the garden, it really does feel as though spring has well and truly arrived.