Welcome to part 3 of my ‘Through the Seasons’ series! Gosh, that means it’s been over half a year already! If you need a little refresher on what happened in the previous seasons, you can find Winter’s blog here and Spring’s blog here.
Now then, with the trees beginning to change colour and the nights drawing in, it can only mean one thing… Summer is well and truly, fading away. But first, I’m going to take you back to those long, sunny (well, not always, this is England we’re talking about) days and tell you all about Summertime on the farm…
If June had a smell, it’d be freshly cut grass. Everywhere you look, there’s swaths of grass covering fields, or some kind of operation going on involving it. Whether that’s tedding it out to encourage it to dry more evenly- making the cut forage look more like waves rather than individual blades, or raking it all back into neat rows which wind their way around the countryside.
With some of our silage already made in May, the aftermaths are left to grow throughout June, until the grass is long enough for the cows to be moved on to.
The cows had other plans
One morning, at the end of June, we awoke to a cacophony of moos… At some point during the night, one herd of cows had decided the silage fields were ready for grazing, so took it upon themselves to make their own way up the lane to them. They hadn’t done very well at sticking together, so there were cows and calves dotted all over the farm, calling to and fro to one another, and even a heifer making her way into the village!
Sometime later, the air was bluer and everyone was safely contained again, but a head count showed we were one cow short. Unfortunately, that cow was Esther, one of our original Lincoln Reds; who was later found dead at the bottom of a fenced off banking. We still have no idea how she got down there, why she couldn’t get back up, and ultimately, why she died… What they’d gotten up to that night, we’ll never know; one of life’s mysteries.
Esther’s gentle nature will be missed around here. Thankfully, her calf has been taken in by the rest of the cows, and seems to be managing to steal enough milk to keep up with her peers!
Early Summer (or sometimes late Spring) is also shearing time. We don’t keep any sheep (despite my best efforts), but we do have two alpacas who need shearing every year, to keep them cool and stop maggots making a home in their fleeces. This year’s shearing was quite eventful, but I think that’s a story for another time…
Another month on the Farming Calendar which is mostly dominated by grass!
With absolutely scorching weather, this July saw a lot of hay made while the sun shone! We’ve never had so many bales of forage in our stores ready for winter- which we definitely aren’t complaining about after last year’s drought left the whole country rather short!
July is also the month where the combine has its first outing of the year. We started in customers’ Winter Barley and Oilseed Rape at the end of July. Seeing the combine set off up the lane is always a cause for celebration, it means Summer is really here. I think everyone gets a bit of that childlike excitement at the sight of it!
The weather was glorious, sometimes a bit too glorious- are we allowed to say that? The fire risk increases quite a bit when harvesting in sweltering conditions, due to all the chaff and straw coming into contact with the hot, mostly moving, metal parts on the combine! Luckily, we didn’t have much of a problem there, seeing as our combine seemed to get regular rests, thanks to breakdowns…
Harvest properly gets going in August, with the combine finishing off in our own, fairly small, patch of OSR, then moving onto ours and others’ Oats, Spring Barley and Wheat.
With the combine running (mostly), that means the balers are hot on its tail- round and square baling the swaths of straw it leaves behind, to feed and bed livestock in the winter months; alongside baling all the hay, and second and third cut silage… in other words, our farm is a bit like a ghost town in August!
Each day, some food you’ve left out disappears, and various tractors can be heard coming and going late into the night- leading grain or straw bales (we have to be careful with leaving them in the fields, as kids like to set fire to the valuable bales as a summer pastime), loading wagons, swapping machines… but it’s rare to see any human life! Well, unless it’s a wet day, or they’re drying crops to get them to the target moisture percentage because of said wet days.
August should technically be the end of our bulling period, but as there’s usually no one here to actually take the bulls out of the herd, they stay with the cows until things quieten down on the arable contracting side… and we cross our fingers that everyone who is going to get in-calf already is, and there’ll be no calves still arriving into next June! The cows still need moving to fresh grass regularly, though. With two bulls this year instead of our usual one, we decided this August would be a good time to merge the two herds and leave Clifford, our 12 year old Limousin bull, in a field with just a couple of heifers to keep him company, as he approaches his final few weeks on the farm.
Clifford didn’t approve
He must weigh over a tonne; there’s not many fences which can stand up to that sort of weight, as we found out! He was very put out that we’d taken ‘his’ herd away from him, so decided to spend the next few days continually breaking through a fence into the adjacent field. We’re still not quite sure why… it didn’t even get him closer to the rest of the herd! But he certainly made it known he can go where he wants, when he wants, and well and truly secured his trip to the auction market next month!
We’ll be sad to see the cantankerous old git go, though; he’s become part of the furniture around here. But it’s always best for them to walk off the farm, fit and well, having had a good run (with over 300 calves under his belt, I’d say he’s definitely had that!), rather than letting them keep working until old age catches up and leaves them suffering. It’ll be the end of an era, having had solely Limousin bulls for the last 30 years.
So, I think that brings this Summer to a close, I’m sure I’m not alone in being extremely grateful we didn’t have a repeat of last year’s drought!
As you can see, Summer in the British countryside is a hive of activity, and our farm is no different. I know Spring is seen as the season of new beginnings, but seeing the stubble fields always reminds me of wiping the canvas clean, ready to start afresh in Autumn.
I wonder what this Autumn will hold? Hopefully, less escapee cows!