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Cousins working together on our family owned farm with the aim of running a commercial modern farm producing high yielding, high standard crops while maximising wildlife diversity. Brian is said to be the farmer and conservationist, whereas Patrick is a conservationist and farmer. This mix has given a new direction for the farm, building upon the work that our fathers and grandfather has done to improve the overall success of the farm business. The farm has gone from strength to strength with the farm being recognised at a national level winning the coveted National FWAG’s Silver Lapwing Award for farming and conservation in 2009 and then Patrick and Brian were named Countryside Farmer of the Year by the Farmers Weekly in 2010.

Friday, 11 May 2012

April Showers?….more like monsoons!

Pond like a puddle start of April

Wet, Wet, Wet! It has been a pretty dire month for doing anything on the farm. The weather has been against pretty much everything we had planned, like finishing off the nitrogen fertilising, keeping up the fungicide cover on all the crops, oh and our LEAF launch and all the other jobs we have on our list.
I downloaded our weather station records yesterday. These record everything you can imagine with regard to the weather and made for some interesting reading! For the whole of April, we have only had three days without any rain recorded; in April and one week of March we have had 149mm of rain and the average temperature has been enough to keep me office bound most of the month! Like most farmers, I would prefer to be out and about on the farm but this period of wet has really given me a chance to do lots of extra office work - the type of work you always seem to put off! We have got a number of projects on the go and all have required some sort of financial planning; budgets, costing and plans etc, so it has been great to dust off my old business planning folder from college. 
One of these plans has gone live! Our newly installed PV Solar Energy Unit was switched on and is now producing power. The installation has been kept clean with all this rain but fingers crossed it will be making loads of energy as the sunshine of spring and summer returns!
The crops are looking pretty miserable in these wet conditions. The wet and warm days with cold nights have created favourable disease conditions and with the land being water logged and not suitable to travel over, the diseases are really getting their claws into the plants, which will soon become stressed and the yield will be affected. As soon as we have had a few dry days, we will have to be out and getting some overdue fungicides on to the crops. We have had to change the chemicals for more expensive ones, due to this high disease pressure. The chemicals we will be applying will act as protectors but will also eradicate and cure the diseases that have found their way into the crops, so that hopefully we can maintain their high yield potential which we are hoping for.
One unexpected bonus of this rain was the fact that one of our very deep, freshly renovated ponds filled up over night. We cleaned the pond out in November, the bottom now being some 12ft deep. I walked past it on Friday night hoping for a bit more water to be in it and there was only a small puddle down in the bottom. Then Patrick walked past on Saturday morning and he called me to say it was full to the brim! I was shocked! What had transpired was that while doing the clearance work we actually redirected the drains off one of the big fields into another part of the ditch, hoping to redirect the water into the pond. We actually never did block the ditch to do this but a twist of fate did it for us. As the field hit its water capacity, the field drain started to run and run and run! The pipe we laid was a flexi pipe which then started to float as the water built up in the ditch because we had never built a head wall against it. This meant that all the field drain water off 16ha of land basically went into the pond and then backed up the ditch. We had to do some emergency pond plumbing to allow the excess water to get away and now we have a lovely deep water pond that will never dry out!
Pond FULL End of April
As May starts, we are hoping for some dry, warm, sunny weather so we can get back up-to-date with the land and environmental work that has been stalled by the high rainfall. Like every farmer, we are at the mercy of the weather, which is probably why we always want something other than that currently available. At the start of April and the hosepipe ban we were all complaining of lack of water, so the moral is: be careful what you wish for!!       BWB

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