Monday, 1 February 2016

Winter



So the winter drags on.  Mid-January saw a dramatic fall in temperature and we had our first snowfall.  In twenty-four hours it had nearly gone and we waited to see if the old saying that it takes another snowfall to take the first away was fact or fiction.  Well, I can report that, in 2016 at least, it was fiction because two days later there was no trace of snow and once again the temperature had risen.  As I have said before, in Britain we don't have climate, we have weather.

My small free-range flock of laying hens is wintering well; the rain does not seem to bother them although it makes for unpleasantly muddy conditions underfoot. So far only two are moulting; that is also unusual.  It makes them fair game for the others who take every opportunity to peck them - a clear demonstration of the meaning of the phrase "the pecking order".

It will be interesting to see the result of the Farmland Bird Count which is scheduled to take place between February 6th - 14th.  With buzzards, foxes and badgers on the increase I  expect to see a reduction in the numbers of ground-nesting birds.  It is important to leave cover to protect them wherever possible.  I find it hard to believe that House Sparrows, are on the endangered list, as there are plenty to be seen here.  They live in quite large family groups, are incredibly shy, and fly into the nearest hedge at the slightest disturbance.  Another attractive visitor is the Long-Tailed Tit, or rather, Tits, for they also live in families.  They are a delight to watch and hear as they fly down onto the bird feeder for a welcome top up.

On the farm we continue the battle against blackgrass.  It has appeared in yet another field.  Where does it come from?  Spraying at the right stage of development and in the right conditions is critical to success in eliminating, or at least reducing it, but so often the weather dictates and we cannot get onto the land without damaging the soil structure.  It then becomes necessary to employ a contractor, who will have the best equipment for the job, but this will add to the cost; a difficult decision to make.