Spring (and early summer) has sprung on the farm!
(A little late…again!) Spring has sprung on the farm. House martins, swallows, blue tits, great tits, robins and bad boys - magpies and rooks - are in abundance. Early morning is a cacophony of bird song.
June - not so flaming this year - has seen most of the young woodland trees going though a growth spurt and starting to peep over the top of their high protective tubes. A hard lesson learnt was not making sure all the trees had been sufficiently mulched with wood chip to keep surrounding grass and weeds at bay. As a result, and seemingly overnight, the beautiful meadow grasses, loving the mixture of wet and warm weather, have shot up around them, blocking the sun and crowding the baby trees, competing for water and nutrients from the soil.
To try to minimise the effect of this long sessions have been spent on hands and knees, cutting back the grasses, removing each protective tube, pulling up the grass and weeds immediately around the base of the trees, having a quick chat with them (Prince Charles would be proud) before encasing them back inside their tubes (not so easy now the saplings are sprouting). And finally surrounding them with a deep bed of mulch. More work to be done here, including planting Yellow Rattle this autumn, which should help to tackle the grass.
Over in the orchard, most of the trees are full of leaf and many have produced apples - all removed bar one per tree - hard to do and it feels like we are going against nature, but it will help them in the long run if they can get their roots well established this year. We’ve lost two of the 47 planted, so not a bad loss, Plus I added a greengage and a damson a few months ago and they have taken off really well. Im looking forward to making damson and port jam (will be available via the online shop before too long!) it will have to go some to beat the popularity of the Plum and Mulled Wine Jam mind you:)
The pair of quince trees are suffering from blight again this year, as last, but I have it on good authority it is to be expected in our area of the country, but despite that the resulting fruit should be okay. Let’s face it, they are not the prettiest fruits to start with!
Last year’s regular orchard visitor, Little Owl, has not made his presence known so much this year. I have seen him a handful of times in the last few months, but not daily as last year, sadly. How lovely then, to go out late one recent evening and spot not just one but a pair of little owls in my torchlight. Having been a little spooked by me, they flew to alternate perches but did not fly away completely for a couple of minutes. What a joy.
A sad update as we go to press - Shirley (Bassey) - a blue maran hen (pictured) not singing Welsh diva - has gone to the hen coop in the sky. Having also lost one of our ex-batts, Tilla, a little while ago, it is time to get some more, so next weekend we will be collecting four more ex-batts from the British Hen Welfare Trust and giving them a much better life than they will have had thus far.
Finally, having been an avid Blue Peter fan as a child (and indeed winning a much coveted Blue Peter Badge!) I think we ought to bury a Blue Peter style time capsule under one of the oak trees. Any ideas what to put in it? Leave suggestions on our Facebook page please!