What’s happening on the farm this June?
On our farmland in West Beckham and East Winch, the fields are exploding into verdant, green life. The majority of the sowing is finally complete, although the weather has played its usual part in disturbing the best-laid plans. We are also delighted to see the vast number of birds and plant life that are taking advantage of our many environmental initiatives across the two sites.
The following is a summary of all that is going on, in and around our agricultural areas. Guests at Rookery Barn, are always welcome to wander along the farm tracks and see first-hand how the farming year is unfolding.
An explosion of life on the farm
As spring moves towards summer, there is an explosion of life across the farm. The fields on which carrots are being grown are now taking on a distinctly green hue. In just a few weeks the tops have grown strongly and steadily. There are a number of different varieties under cultivation. There are a variety of growing rates and different shades of green as the feathery tops develop.
Elsewhere, the winter wheat and barley is growing robustly. The spring barley, which we planted at the beginning of April, is shooting through. The team also planted potatoes and sugar beet across the farm and these crops are also getting established. We finally drilled the last of the sugar beet, a little later than planned due to the late harvesting of raspberry canes and asparagus crowns. Maize has also been drilled – this feeds the biodigester at Swaffham, which in turn produces renewable energy. (Visit the Future Biogas site to learn more about farming and biogas production).
Doing a rain dance
Our big worry for the cereal crops and root vegetables at the moment is the paucity of rainfall. Both April and May have been very dry – 71 per cent of the annual average. This instantly puts the crops under stress. For this reason, observers will notice the roll-out of the irrigation pipes. We use these to deliver water to the crops via a closely monitored system. One of the recipients of the water irrigation system is the tulip crop. We have cut the flower heads off the Tulips to promote bulb growth. And now we are giving them regular doses of irrigation as they are shallow rooted and need that intervention.
We are very conscious of the part we play in conserving the environment, so our water system uses a complex and highly developed network of dykes and reservoirs to ensure that we use the correct amount of water, without wasting a drop.
Where there’s muck …
Also growing well are the pigs that graze the fields across the farm. The pigs are free range and are free to root in the rich earth for insects and roots. These uprooted materials feed the wintering birds. Starlings, jackdaws, gulls and wagtails can all be seen showing their appreciation for the extra food uprooted by the pig’s snouts. The pig muck produced from the pigs provides nitrogen, phosphate and potassium for following crops. And it also helps to improve soil organic matter. Improved organic matter in turn helps with water retention, improved soil structure and soil health.
On the subject of feathered friends, we are delighted to report a healthy number and range of nesting birds around the farm. The British Trust for Ornithology is carrying out a survey on parts of the land. Magpies, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Blackbirds, Doves and a host of other nesting birds have made their homes in the hedgerows and bird boxes across the area.
There are also a number of raptors making their home here. These include Sparrow Hawks, Kestrels, Buzzards, Kites and a variety of Owls, all active across the farm.
This is the season for growth and rejuvenation and it is a pleasure to see the farm and its surroundings springing into life.