This farming life

Rookery Farm Holiday Accommodation, Norfolk

Life down on the farm

One of the reasons so many people enjoy a holiday at Rookery Farm Barns is because the accommodation is on a traditional working farm. While the barn and cottage accommodation is all about chic luxury, once you step outside onto the farm itself, you will find the cycle of gritty, rural, agricultural life.

Visitors, walking on footpaths across the farm, are able to see for themselves agricultural practices at work. Depending upon the season, they might see daffodils bursting into bloom or barley gently ripening in the sun. They might be unlucky enough to be stuck behind a slow moving hedge cutter in the late winter or traipse through the mud dropped by the sugar beet lorries. It is a mixed bag when you live on the farm, but it is never without interest.

Uncovering the mysteries of farming

As part of our drive to interact with visitors and the community, we will be posting regular updates on our website, under the heading This Farming Life, so that people can gain a deeper understanding of all that is happening around them. Whether it is explaining why the hedgerows are chopped so vigorously in the winter or why certain field verges cannot be trodden during the Spring and early Summer – we will do our best to explain the, often mystifying, ways of the farm.

Aside from the farmland around West Beckham, a good chunk of our farmland can be found on the western side of the county, at East Winch near King’s Lynn. Our regular “This Farming Life” column will provide information on both parcels of farmland, so that interested readers can get a complete overview.

Preparation is key

This month it is all about preparation. The dark months of November and December provide a little bit of a lull on the farm as the land turns cold and everything takes a deep breath before plunging into the new season. We always see those months as a time to take stock, to look at what happened last year and to think about the future.

But now, with Spring on the horizon, the farm bursts into life and it is time to put plans into action. In the farm-yard, it is all about tidying up, repairing and preparing. Machinery is serviced, spare parts ordered, buildings are cleared, gates and fencing checked and, where necessary, repaired.

This is the time of year when the farm itself gets a makeover. Just as the land goes through a lull, so too does the wildlife population. That makes January and February the perfect time to cut hedgerows. Throughout the Autumn and Winter, the birds and small mammals have been feasting on seeds, nuts and berries. The thick foliage also provides shelter through the worst weather.

A sharp cut for good growth

Now, with the food store depleted, the farmer works with nature to ensure a good hedgerow for the next year. A sharp cut this time of year will guarantee a strong shoot growth in the spring and summer and a good harvest of seeds and berries next Autumn. It is also a way of ensuring the health of the hedgerows because, left untended, the hedges would grow long straggly, weak branches that would be more susceptible to disease.

The farmland birds are huge fans of soil disruption as it brings worms and other grubs to the surface. Watch any plough or cultivator travelling up a field and you will see flocks of birds following in its wake. Just as a robin will view a gardener as its best friend, so gulls and crows are very fond of tractor drivers.

Freshly mown grass, ripening corn, warm cattle sheds full of fresh straw, luscious strawberries that smell as good as they taste – the farm can be full of heavenly scents. Then there is manure.

Where there’s muck…

This is the time of year when manure is spread across the farmland in preparation for crop sowing. The smell doesn’t last long. The manure is soon drawn down into the soil and becomes part of the organic matter. But just for a few days, the scent of manure reminds you of the saying: ‘the fairest thing in nature, the flower, still has its roots in earth and manure’.

But from the manure grows the ultimate sign that spring is on its way – the daffodil. At both West Beckham and East Winch, we grow a range of flowers, with daffodils being the first to come into bloom. The flowers are sold in local stores, the bulbs are sold to growers and horticulture businesses. The next few weeks will see fields and fields full of golden, yellow and white daffodils, the first of the crops on our annual rotation to make an appearance.