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Tuesday, 13 March 2012

By the Barn - March

Each month, we bring you a snippet of country life by Angela Sargent of Baldfields Farm. Angela sends us much more than we can possibly include in the magazine, so we are make her full articles available to read in their entirety online.

Now it’s March and Spring is just around the corner, we’re hurrying to finish planting up the gaps in our newly-laid hedges, before the sap starts rising. We plant four ‘quicks’ (Hawthorn) to the metre and also mix them up with other species to ensure a rich diversity of plants and , consequently, birds and insects in the hedge.

In early March, we count and measure up the gaps and calculate how many plants are needed (incorporating some spares) and then place an order with the company who supplies us. We also order canes to support them and guards to protect them and this can add up to quite a bit, depending on whether or not the original hedge was in good condition or not.

This tends to be my department as hubby is usually busy getting the fields ready to be sown as soon as the ground is warm enough with the spring oats, barley and beans that make up our livestock ration. This means getting any fertilizer, whether in the form of farmyard manure or artificial to the fields in question and spread. 

This is the job for the muckspreader- resembling a tank on wheels, it can have chains and flails which turn round at a high velocity and throw the muck out, over the area you want covering. For artificial fertilizer, it is the job of a vari-spreader (in the shape of a cone or box, with a hole at the bottom and a nozzle that goes from side to side again at high speed). Of course there are basic models of these items and then the more high-tech/larger variations for larger acrerages, but they all need to be regularly maintained and calibrated and noted in the records along with quantities of fertilizer used (in our house, it’s known as the b******t book).

With the cold snowy weather we’ve had recently, we’ve seen lots of birds in our yards, after the corn and the Buzzards have been sitting on the telegraph poles, looking for prey.  Some guests rang me just after they’d left us, to say they had come across two fighting Buzzards on the drive and one had seemed to be quite seriously injured. That is nature- red in tooth and claw. 

We have also noticed three ravens around on occasion- we had heard they were in the area, but hadn’t seen any until now- a very distinctive sound. 

Lots of  grey squirrels are scampering across the fences and branches and their numbers seem to have increased dramatically over the last few years. These were first introduced in the late eighteen hundreds from Canada and are bigger than our native Red Squirrel, which now survives in small areas only. The Hawk man had an incident recently, when his Harris hawk went after a squirrel, presumably in or near its drey and the hawk was injured quite badly with bites to its legs and feet. 

As well as count down to Spring, it’s also countdown to the Olympics and good news for British farming. It has been decided (with lots of lobbying from the NFU) that all food consumed at the sporting venues is to be to Red Tractor, lion mark or fair-trade standard as minimum. This means 17million meals at 31 competition venues and 200,000 base customers (not including visitors) will be supplied by farmers in this country, where possible. This is definitely something to be proud of!

Angela Sargent,

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