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rain over farm
 
January Farm News is still dominated by the wet weather and the impact 4 months of continuous rain has had on our crops.
 
Sian's Dad records the daily rainfall and December '19 was the wettest in 34 years of recording. As you can see  25.23" fell from September to December; it's no wonder our crops are drowning! More...

news from the farm

It was a harvest of two halves. A dry spell, followed by three weeks of rain and then the sun came out again. Those three weeks of continuous rain were not happy weeks for farmers and our nerves were shredded as we waited to see what impact the bad weather would have on our crops.

However, we were not as badly affected as other areas of the UK, especially Yorkshire, where one poor farmer had his whole farmyard washed away by torrents of water. More...

The UK Farmland Bird Indicator is made up of 19 different species of birds that are dependent on British farmland. This means that these birds they are predominantly reliant on farmland environments, unable to thrive outside of this habitat.

Of these 19 different species, a number of them are in stark decline. While the woodpigeon and the jackdaw have seen a widespread increase over the years, there are several species of farmland birds that have seen a dramatic decrease. More...

Richard finished spring planting yesterday, with the red millet going in well. The canary seed was planted about a month ago but has been struggling in the dry soil conditions.

The beans are looking strong, but they too need a good drink. Richard planted them deeper this year to help the roots find the moisture.

Planting the millet in these very dry conditions is a risk - the seeds need to be deep enough to find moisture, but not too deep or they won't grow at all! More...

We love hearing our customers' tales of their garden birds when they phone or email to place an order.

Susan Thompson phoned recently, and we were pleased to hear that she had seen a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers in her garden, one of them possibly a juvenile. She was concerned that they seemed hungry but couldn't access the peanuts in her squirrel-proof peanut feeder, however, they had been feasting heartily on a suet-filled coconut and hadn't yet discovered the multiple suet block holder on the other side of the garden.

Susan sent us this snap of the woodpecker on the coconut feeder, with apologies for the condensation on the window making the image slightly unclear. Of course, if she had opened the window or stepped outside to take a photo then the subject would have flown off instantly. Bird photography is notoriously difficult! She is hoping to have better luck in the summer when she can sit outside quietly in a corner. 

woodpecker

Susan says that both woodpeckers continue to visit daily and they have now discovered the suet block holders, although the smaller one still loves tackling the suet-filled coconut feeders when he gets a chance amongst the starlings.  Her smaller birds don't get a look-in either when the starlings and jackdaws are around, so she has moved the coconuts away from the other seed and nut feeders, into a hedge, so they can feed in peace sometimes.  As a result, the greenfinches (nicknamed 'The Green Party with a majority rule' by Susan) - who previously dominated the seed feeders and wouldn't touch the coconuts - have found them and really enjoy swinging away.

The latest development is that some blackbirds, which Susan had never before seen feeding above the ground, are now using the coconuts - probably after watching the tits, greenfinches and starlings going mad for them. The empty coconut shells have now been filled with our Tidy Garden Suet Boost which is proving very popular. Susan says that one of the blackbirds is much more adept at getting a good grip on the coconut shells than the other one, who wobbles and flutters off and needs to modify its technique somewhat.

Susan's quest for a good photo continues... she says she missed a classic shot recently of the woodpecker feeding from a coconut with a blackbird queueing on one side and a robin on the other.

What a fantastic lot of garden activity in Cambridge. Keep up the good work Susan!

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NEWS FROM THE FARM

As I write this, there have been snow flurries here in the south and the temperature has certainly dropped by a few degrees.

October was a lovely month for us; dry and warm, which meant our cover crops grew really well. Our buckwheat flowered for a long time providing some very welcome late nectar for the bees. However buckwheat doesn't like cold weather and it has started to fall over now. The linseed was somewhat slower to flower so didn't provide much late-season help for the bees.

This was Richard's first home produced cover crop and he is very pleased with the mix ratios of the various plants that he put together. This particular cover crop contained the following: oats, phacelia, linseed, buckwheat and sunflowers. Each element with a specific function, contributing to improved soil quality and stability. 

  • Oats have a deep fine root which hold nitrogen and potash in the soil, and when the plant dies off it provides lots of organic matter for worms, so we see huge numbers of worm casts everywhere :)
  • The phacelia will flower for the bees and it also has a shallow, fibrous root which gives a nice tilth for the soil.
  • Linseed will flower and its deep root really helps with soil drainage.
  • Buckwheat offers a late pollen source for bees and is a good phosphate recoverer. All clever stuff!

This is the first year Richard has direct-drilled his wheat and it is also looking really good. He had previous problems with soil compaction, so this time he ran a sub-soiler with new 'low-disturbance' legs to minimise soil compaction and the wheat looks really well as a result.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BIRDLIFE SPOTTED ON THE FARM

The use of all these cover crops on the farm seems to be having a really positive effect on the birdlife here, which is fantastic news and really heartwarming.

This month we have hosted a large flock of Golden Plover, and Snipe and Woodcock have also been seen. The biggest excitement came when Richard spotted a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - a reclusive bird that hasn't been seen on the farm for a few years - so we're delighted to know they are in our woods. These photos are obviously not the actual birds because we don't have the photographic skills (or speed of reaction!) to get great shots but nice to visualise what I am talking about.

 

GOLDEN PLOVER

For the full story, please visit this blog post to read all about Golden Plover.


 

SNIPE

Snipe are mottled brown, medium sized wading birds with long bills. Numbers increase in the winter months as birds from Northern Europe visit us. They eat small invertebrates, worms and insect larvae and have an Amber conservation status in the UK. There are two types of snipe - the Common Snipe and the much rarer (and very difficult to spot) Jack Snipe. Obviously enjoying the worms on our farm!