“The leaf drops: earthworms draw it in
At night- time noiselessly,
The fingers of birch and beech are skeleton -thin
And yet on the beat are we.”
November and we hope the weather is kind- dry and crisp, not dank and wet. With the days noticeably shorter now (and getting shorter day by day), with some of our livestock still outside, we must tend to them whilst we can easily see- taking out silage if needed, checking for signs of illness etc.
Our younger cattle have been brought inside already, with a view to marketing when they are at their peak and we will be selling some of our older cows too, this winter, having tested for bovine TB last month- part of our twice yearly (fingers crossed) routine. These require daily feeding and regular bedding- hopefully our grain and straw /silage harvests will see us through until spring.
We have more grass about this time, with giving the arable ground a grass break as part of the crop rotation and this will provide extra keep for our sheep- ewes and tups, our own lambs and bought in lambs. The latter two categories will be sold throughout the autumn/winter as they grow to a suitable size for our clients.
Hopefully the ewes have mated and will produce strong and healthy lambs from March onwards, especially if we look after them well. But they can remain outside.
Striding out across the fields we notice the hedges beginning to get that empty look as the birds clear them of the berries that gave them the red hue, leaves also blowing off as the winter storms hit too! Slipping on the muddy banks of ditches, the thistles are still prickly enough and the nettles are still coarse enough to give a sharp nip.
The streams are bordered by brown and grey straggly remains of the colourful Willowherb, reeds and grasses, providing cover for all manner of small birds and animals and probably harbouring insect eggs and dormant adults.
These streams that form our boundary, have watered our livestock and provided hours of entertainment for our children as they were growing, as paddling pools, fishing ponds and for sailing on with home- built rafts. Flooding often at this time of year and over the winter, they’ve also fertilised the meadows of which they border, but also left stray branches, flotsam to dam them and slow the water down.
Other farms will be harvesting the maize crop now, a high nutrition addition to the feed mix for highly performing cattle. Unfortunately, it’s usually muddy and some, unavoidably, carries onto the road. This is cleared up as soon as is reasonably possible, but please be aware when driving along the rural lanes.