The first newsletter of 2017 so Happy New Year !
I hope it has been a healthier start for you than for me. I am on day 14 of this cough / cold bug and it is a tad tedious. Phil only had it for two days which was a relief ( ah, his editorial input has just corrected that to a week = uncaring wife ).
Anyway, there are two months of farm activity to report so I had best not procrastinate any longer. Though the house windows do look dirty in this bright winter light .........
In the crop rotation which we are now able to instigate having taken on the tenancy on some land around Abberton reservoir, two fields next to the house and cottages which have been down to grass since we moved here in 1971 are now sprouting winter wheat. The last time the fields were ploughed was after the grass was sold for turf in the 1980's. Though quite lucrative during the building boom it isn't to be undertaken often as it takes 7 years of regularly applying organic matter to regenerate the top soil taken with the grass roots.
Before ploughing this time, the grass was sprayed off to kill it so it wouldn't become a weed in the wheat. Phil completed three days in the classroom followed by an exam to be allowed to use the sprayer. This is regulated by the chemical companies not being permitted to sell you the chemical unless you can show you have the correct competency certificates to be able to use it. Once the grass has died it can then be ploughed in.
This task was undertaken by our near neighbour Richard Bradshaw who is an arable farmer already equipped with a suitable tractor and 6 furrow reversible plough.
Click here for Ploughing Video
It is quite mesmerising watching the soil being turned 'brown side up' and the action of flipping the plough is ingenious, allowing the next furrows to be ploughed without running on what has already been worked.
The plough was followed by the press ( heavy, steel rings ) which break and compact the clods and finally a pass with the disc harrow at the speed of 1 acre per hour. However, it only needed one pass in most places to produce a fine enough tilth to call a seedbed. You don't want it too fine or it will puddle together when it rains.
Then it was time to call in another neighbour with a seriously expensive and complicated combination of tractor and drill.
Once set up and programmed in, with two sat nav systems the driver is not required to steer until the need to turn at the end of the field. The inside of the cab does look a little complicated ! All that was necessary after that was to position two Phil look alike scarecrows and put them on rook alert. The two fields have still been popular grazing grounds and the birds have had to be scared off regularly but as of last week , rows of sprouting wheat have emerged.
Meanwhile, as promised in the last newsletter, there has been concreting action.
Once the slab has been laid, the vibrating poker is run slowly along bringing the air bubbles to the surface. This makes a stronger mix. The walls are made by pouring concrete between shuttering boards made out of plywood with a metal frame. The day after the concrete has been poured, the shuttering is removed and cleaned off to ensure a smooth finish next time.
The shuttering is heavy and needs setting up with the tractor especially the second level, needed to make the wall high enough to prevent the cattle being in a draught. A rare sight on the right; both sons in boiler suits helping clean off the shuttering. Apparently a fun family activity for the Christmas holiday according to their father.
Son in law Dave has also been initiated into the concreting process but is mainly tasked with making the gates for the cattle shed. A fairly warm job constructing them inside the work shop, less warm painting them in an open sided shed and cooler still when on the outside fitting the cladding. They are a good fit so far and progress is being made without Phil spending EVERY evening in the workshop getting back ache.
The last photo was taken by Phil driving past in the warmth of the Manitou cab on the way to collect more silage for the cattle. Strawing up and feeding the cattle are self designated Phil jobs. The spread-a-bale attachment means strawing up has evolved from the use of a pitch fork to occasional moving of beasts from one pen to another but mainly just giving them a straw shower from the comfort of the cab. Silage feeding was a different matter involving exiting the cab to cut the net holding the bale together and the plastic wrap keeping out the oxygen so anaerobic fermentation can take place. Back in the cab to drive to the feeder, out of the cab climbing and stretching to remove the wrap, back in the cab to deposit the bale then out again to collect up the net and wrap. An exercise regime FitMIx would be proud of even if it didn't involve a burpee. However, mutterings were made on TFF ( the farming forum, a 'discussion' site for farmers ) and soon a You tube demonstration of a shear grab was compulsory viewing for anyone visiting, and a Christmas present to himself was purchased.
It is another attachment for the front of a telescopic loader. Open up the jaw, drive under the bale, shut the jaw and it clamps the net and wrap, drive to the feeder, the blade slices the wrap and bale in half and you can distribute it in two manageable halves. Drive to the waste bin and release the wrap and net - all achieved from the comfort of the cab. Ingenious, and sufficient time and energy preserved to go concreting.
If you stop on the Layer Breton causeway it is possible to see the latest housing development provided by Northumberland Water. The residents it aims to attract are sand martins. It took a week to complete, from clearing the island site, building the main structure, fitting it out with individual nest boxes each with their own entrance and human access from the back, to cladding the roof in an environmentally sympathetic manner. It looks a very desirable residence.
The breeding flock of mainly Welsh Mules is still outside. Due to lamb indoors at the end of March they have been moved from this sheltered spot in Layer Breton where they have finished the grass available, to grazing the bund as you approach the Layer causeway. It is too cold for the grass to be growing at the moment but there is a fair amount of grazing available here as it wasn't suitable to put the cattle on in the summer. It is also a steep slope so drains well and is dry, meaning the sheep aren't wearing clay boots which can irritate and cause rot.
On a recent visit to do some fencing this fallen tree trunk was discovered. It has also been found by an amazing colony of bracket fungi - and is our current screensaver. There is public access round a large part of the reservoir now that the expansion work has been completed. A leaflet has been created detailing the different routes available and featuring various local places. One of which is our WTM meat shop at Garr House Farm. Our advert highlights that bacon butties and sausage sandwiches using our pork are available from the visitor centre - why not stop off there for refreshment on your walk ? Some of the routes are suitable for wheelchairs and an electric off road wheelchair is available; just ask at the visitor centre. Leaflets are available from WTM or the Visitor Centre priced £1.
ther structure on the newly tenanted land round the reservoir is a detached, one bedroom property with amazing views aimed at the osprey market. It comes with vacant possession and the tenant would be able to extend the structure without applying for planning permission.
Hopefully both properties will achieve occupancy soon.
Shop News :
Opening times : Thursday 11 am - 3pm, Friday and Saturday 10 am - 5pm
Please ring first if you would like to call outside of these times.
Following a successful Christmas sales period with more customers bravely purchasing a gammon to cook and turn into ham themselves ( a gammon isn't just for Christmas ), we enter a leaner sales period where most people are recovering from the excesses of Christmas and trying to become leaner themselves.
To entice you to eat healthily and economically, we currently have an offer on lamb. So, let me introduce the
1/2 LAMB BOX
This typical box of frozen lamb contains a 1/2 leg, 1/2 shoulder, 2 x leg steaks in garden mint, 2 x Barnsley chops, a chump chop, 2 x 2 loin chops, 2 x diced shoulder and 2 x minced breast. Individually priced at £55. The lambs are all born and reared here, mainly grazing outdoors with locally grown cereals available to 'finish' them.
Boxes will be available until the end of February.
The next fresh beef will be available on Wed 1st March
Again, it will be a grass fed, Angus cross which was born and reared at Garr House Farm. There will be another newsletter along while it is hanging for you to place orders.
The shop stocks fresh pork, lamb, ham, gammon, bacon and sausages every week and chicken from Essex Birds.
We do free local delivery
every Thursday even if it is just 6 fresh free range eggs.
Yes, our birds are still free range despite the current bird flu regulations. We tried housing them but they get too hot in the houses which are only designed for them to occupy at night. A compromise is to keep their feed and water inside so as not to attract wild birds and though we are on the flight path to the reservoir, no wild birds have been spotted in the runs. The situation is being monitored.
Other items available are : local honey at £5 for a 1lb jar
Well rotted manure at £2 / sack ( load your own for £1.00, sack and fork provided ) or we can fill your own small trailer for £10.
Straw at £1 / sack or £2 / bale.
Hay at £2 / sack or £5 / bale.
Please ask about the price and delivery for larger quantities of hay and straw.
We also have 20kg sacks of everyday Layers Pellets . Currently these are from Bearts ( complete with royal warrant no less ) at £6 / sack
Dog news :
Murphy would like to show you his new coat and Poppy's puppies have had their first birthday.
You wouldn't fit one of them in a meat box now with their lanky limbs. A reunion is planned for March. Could be fun, could be mayhem.
Hope to welcome you to the shop soon !
01206 735694 07790 095 052