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Thursday, 12 April 2012

By the Barn - April

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.

April already, how time flies, like straw blowing in the wind and how glad we are to have turned our cattle out. No more bedding and throwing straw around. How glad they were too! They romped around, exploring the fallen branches, pretending not to recognise cows they had been couped up with for the last few months and, generally, acting like young calves. Only Meg will be disappointed, she had great fun trying to catch the straw as we spread it around the sheds.

We are coming to the end of lambing now and will be starting to calve in the next few weeks. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this, some of our colleagues are having problems with a new sheep and cattle virus (Scmallenberg) of which we know very little. It appears to be from tropical Africa in origin and has spread up through Europe, possibly carried by the Midge, causing birth defects. How far it has got, we will only know when the lambing and calving season finishes.

Unfortunately, with climate change, this will be one of the problems. New diseases and ones that previously could only survive in warmer climates can now extend their range and this will have consequences for farmers in this country, as we have seen.

All spring planted crops will put in now and we are busy sowing spring Barley and Field beans on some land we left fallow over winter.

The grass is growing, rain permitting and farmers will be busy fertilising and rolling the sward. It is difficult for people to think of grass as a crop, like corn, but it is a very important one. Providing immediate feed for livestock ( for what else eats grass?) and future feed also, in the form of hay and silage, it needs looking after just as carefully. It is at its most productive in the next three months and contains the most nutrients/sugar. Unfortunately, for horse owners it is one of the most worrying times as overindulgence can cause laminitis - a chronic, painful condition affecting the feet of ponies, mainly.

Walking around our boundaries, checking hedgeplants I have planted, I have come across frog spawn in clumps in the running ditches. Toads lay eggs in long strings, but both hatch into tadpoles. After about 10 weeks of feeding on water plants, the froglets are ready to take to land. Newts also lay eggs in water, but in singles.

One of our old brick culverts in a gateway has fallen in and has to be replaced. This was where I saw a stickleback, last year. A main gas pipeline crosses this field and it is regularly inspected by helicopter. We were told we had to notify British Gas if and when we replaced it, as they had spotted the hole and wanted to be sure we didn’t damage the pipe as it could have dire consequences!!!

The tiny Celandines have been flowering for the last couple of weeks and the daffodils and other spring flowers are coming into blossom. Our Bees are getting more active and have been fed on sugar fondant whilst waiting for enough nectar to become available. They are seen drinking from the old trough on warm days and the colonies will be growing in size and in their energy needs.

The clocks have altered, a sure sign that summer is on its way and everyone is out making the most of the longer daylight hours. Most accidents happen on rural roads, so take care as dog-walkers and horse riders may just be around the next sharp bend and half a ton of horse on your car bonnet can cause serious damage.

One thing I have noticed whilst out round the lanes, is the amount of rubbish- cans, crisp packets, pop bottles etc casually chucked out, for what purpose? It’s as bad as fly-tipping!

Angela Sargent,

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