About Us

My photo
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.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

A Tricky Spring Clean!

As we moved into spring we were busy tidying the yard up for our LEAF Launch; sweeping the concrete, cutting the grass, filling pot holes, clearing scrap metal that had built up through the winter and generally trying to make the yard spotless! I do like a tidy yard, tidy yard and desk means a tidy mind and things don’t get forgotten and overlooked. We try and keep on top of the clutter, as we get busy and then on into harvest things become manic but hopefully we remember to put back tools where they live so in the times of emergencies you can lay your hands on everything in a hurry.
We have kept on top of the yard but my attention has been turned to keeping our crops clean! The weather has dramatically changed from one that was relatively low in disease pressure: dry and cool, to disease pressure that is now off the scale.
Disease on the green leaf
All crops suffer throughout the year from attacks from pests, weeds and diseases and farmers combat them throughout the year with the use of cultural controls as well as the agrichemical options. The use of pesticides is always the last resort and they need favourable conditions to work. For instance, herbicides usually need moisture in the soil to activate and this year the seed beds were so dry the activation was very short so we have been swamped with black grass across the country, as the flushes of weeds like this invasive grass kept on germinating through the mild winter. The same happened with aphids in the winter. Being so mild, the aphids transmitted a plat virus that has caused stunning of plants and this has not been seen for years on this scale. Then we come to the disease pressure! I have never - and even the older generations can not remember a year like it. Septoria and Rust have been a huge problem; these two diseases are fungi that attack the plant throughout the growth in the spring. If the crop is left untreated, the fungus spreads up the plant and from plant to plant by air movement as well as rain splashes carrying spores. What we have had this year: high winds and lots of heavy rain droplets, topped with dramatic temperature changes from cool nights to blistering hot sunshine; has led to a running battle to keep the plants clean of disease.
I use the term clean because, if you don’t keep the disease out, the crops turn yellow and brown very quickly and the plant looks dirty with fungus spores. The aim for us is to maintain green leaf for as long as possible. Green leaf is the Holy Grail, especially this year, for, not only is it a great year for fungus growth it is also a great year for crop growth and the yield potential is out there. 
Fungicide Treated
The winter wheat crop has just come to a critical growth period called grain fill. The ear is out and the individual grains have started to form and swell as the water is moved up through the roots from the soil, into the cells of the plant to form each grain. The sun beams down on the crop and photosynthesis gives the plant the energy it needs to maximise all the grain - that hopefully in the end we catch as we combine the crop after it has died naturally and dried out.  The ear and the last leaf to be exposed (known as the flag leaf)contribute to 65% of the yield that we harvest later on, this is why it is paramount to keep the fungicide cover up to prevent the diseases taking a hold of the plant and killing off the green cells. In a normal year, we cover the new leaves 4 times with chemicals that cure and prevent fungus growth. However, this year we have already done 5 and may have to do another! This becomes expensive for us and hopefully we get rewarded with the yields that the crops look to have the potential of giving, come harvest. If we did not spray for the disease so much our crops would be yellow and dead in the field. This is a picture of one of the field edges where the spray never quite reached and you can see there is not much green leaf left compared to the middle of the field.
No Fungicide Treatment

We just hope that this wet and humid weather subsides and the sun arrives for summer and we can fill the barns with nice large swollen grains and our high fungicide bills can be paid off! Time will tell……BWB  

Monday, 25 June 2012

Bridging the gap

One thing we try and do on the farm is bridge the gap between us the farmer and you the general public. This is done by a number of ways either with evening talks to local clubs, farm tours that we have been busy doing in the last couple of months, helping at other larger events such as the Suffolk Schools Farm Fair, Open Farm Sunday (organised through LEAF) and LEAF Technical days which we are heading off to later. All these events are done by invitation and getting people of the farm directly to have a one on one interaction with a farmer. Those who have not been to one of these events can organise their local clubs to have an evening talk or Spring Farm Tour by booking directly with us or through LEAF.

We moved into the modern age and bridge the gap with this Blog, set up so that we could try and keep everyone reading it informed about little things that we find and do through out the year. However we do apologies for the posting as of late, life is busy down on the farm and around the farming community so posting as been infrequent. Sorry for that, note to self, must try harder!

Our latest interactions on the farm for visitors have been installed around the farm, with a large amount of footpaths and bridleways on the farm that are always walked and enjoyed by many. We thought this was an area we could try and feed a little bit on info out and about. So last week our new LEAF information boards have been put up to hopefully give the walkers, horse riders and cyclists a snippet of information as they wander designated routes. They have interesting facts about farmland habitats, species and farming operations with the odd diagram so you can put a machine to the operation.

I hope you find them interesting to read and look forward to seeing on or around the farm, hopefully on the footpaths! BWB

Friday, 15 June 2012

Stop the mower and things appear!

We have pulled back the old school idea that a tidy mown grass drive makes for a welcoming sight on to the farm.
Patrick was really keen to stop the mower from cutting the long drive at Lodge Farm and let the wild flowers establish and use this as a statement of our new wildlife minded approach. In the last couple of years we have seen Black Knapweed and Ox-eyed Daisy's numbers increase no end adding to the Cowslips and Clover which was there but struggling to survive on the drive.

On Wednesday on his walk back to work Patrick discovered something that we had never seen on the farm and this is all due to the change in mentality allowing flowers to actually flower!...........

Our first Bee Orchid to add to the list of Pyramid Orchid and Common Spotted Orchid which we knew we had already.

A nice surprise. BWB

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

True Great British Spirit

Last week was a very strange week for me. It started off with a double bank holiday for the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, 3 BBQ's, 2 Cake days and a lot of Pimms or Calvors Lager consumed. Having just moved house, I attended my old village’s party in the village hall. Then the following day I was helping a couple of young residents in my new village to decorate crowns for a crown competition and went to that Jubilee party on the lawn. The weather didn’t dampen the true Great British spirit at either venue, with everyone dressed up in red, white and blue rain coats and rugs.

The only day of work on the farm was Wednesday! We are doing some much needed building repair to one of the old pig sheds and so we were quickly trying to get the new roof sheets on the old steel frame before the rain and wind got too much and the Health and Safety alarm bell in my head started ringing. We managed to get them all done and installed, with plenty of time to spare and the rest of the painting and walling will follow on smoothly this week now.

Thursday was the start of the County show season for us. The much anticipated and looked forward to Suffolk Show started on a chilly damp Thursday but the smiles of the occasion brought out the sun at times in the morning. All our family are involved in the planning of the show beforehand and during the two days. 
The Suffolk show is a great event where people far and wide come to see the best of the best that Suffolk has to offer: horses, sheep, pigs, cattle, machinery, art, crafts, clothes, cars. The list is endless and it is a great time to catch up with friends, make new ones and network with other businesses. The numbers coming through the gate were slightly down due, I think, to everyone being Jubilee’d out – and the weather! But the hardy souls that did come had a great show to look around.

I was given a very important job on Thursday. Having rescheduled my stewarding rota, I had to leave the Showground to pick up a VIP from the railway station. This was something I was looking forward to but was concerned because to get back in the Showground at 10am in the past has been very tricky due to all the extra traffic going to the site. I picked up the sponsor’s car and sat in it to find it was an automatic It then took a couple of minutes to find the automatic handbrake and how to get the car moving! I managed it and arrived in good time to await the arrival of the VIP!

The London Train was on time and my guest, the Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman MP was on board.  The Minister had been invited by the Suffolk Agricultural Association’s new President, Lord Deben, and it was her first time in attending the Suffolk Show. She had heard great things about the event and how it had retained its Agricultural background. We drove from the station and I had the opportunity to talk about the show, myself, our farm and LEAF. We managed to get back into the Show within 25 minutes and I left her to be taken round by a show organiser. She was thrilled to see the Suffolk Punches being shown in the ring as we pulled up amongst the crowd.  I do hope she enjoyed her invitation and day at the show.

The rest of Thursday went well but the weather started to deteriorate and this caused a few unexpected headaches for me as a steward and for the show organisers, but the Show must go on – or so we thought!
Friday was a different story altogether! High winds and driving rain made for a very uneasy drive to the second day at the showground. The normal pre day prep on the exhibitors’ stands was starting as we arrived at 6.30am. Patrick and I caught an early breakfast and rumours were already starting to circulate about the possibility of shutting the event down! In 181years of the Show this had never been done. To shut the show in the middle would be only done if there was a major incident or it was unsafe for people to be on site. It would take a massive call from the show committee and group of Senior Stewards but it would only be done for the right reasons.

Sure enough, that call had to be made and the gates shut at 8.15am. It was then all hands to the pump making sure everyone was told and anything not tied down was needed to be pulled down and removed as the wind picked up. The Show Committee, Showground maintenance team and all the voluntary Stewards did a tremendous job in the face of adversity. Some Exhibitors and General Public were a bit miffed by the decision but when one of the largest temporary structures on the showground: the food hall marquee, lifted up and moved, it put the day into perspective.  By midday many store holders had got their tents and gazebos down but those who hadn’t watched as one by one the wind lifted them up and rolled them over the ground or onto other stands. It was a scary place to be with 90mph gusts of wind, flying marquees and whipping ropes & tent flaps and this is why they evacuated the whole ground at 1.30pm.

It was a very sad day for all involved. Stewards and organisers described it as if they had been bereaved and were in a state of shock. Luckily no one was hurt or died and the show will be back next year bigger and stronger and possibly with a few more guy ropes on the marquees!

Our next show is Cereals, the biggest farming event of the year, followed by the Norfolk show, so fingers crossed for these events. Other than this, the farm is ticking along with the crops looking windswept but well. Sunshine is much needed from now until harvest and beyond, so, in the words of my mother when I was a little boy….’Smiles bring sunshine,’ - please get smiling and do your best for us!                                 BWB

Friday, 1 June 2012

Reduce our Carbon foot print!

One thing we have to consider with all operations on the farm is our Carbon footprint. Farmers have got to use to driving their tractors so found this bit of equipment that will cut out the engine, improve the stamina and allow us to cut all our 180acres of hay by hand!

Just don't think everyone will be volunteering to head out with the mower so readily, maybe with this one they might! Farm machinery just keeps getting bigger and bigger!


Hirundo rustica
Swallows are an attractive species with a glossy blue/black upper body and white underparts. They have distinctive red faces and throats plus long tail 'streamers' - male streamers are longer.
17 - 19cm
16 - 25g
Mixed farmland, often near cattle.
Usually on shelves or beams in buildings such as barns.
4-5 red spotted white eggs.
Flies, bees, butterflies and moths.
Sweet twittering song, a 'swit, swit, swit' call.
A graceful and elegant bird often seen swooping over water looking for insects, the Swallow arrives in the UK in March after a winter in Africa. Before migrating back to Africa huge flocks will gather together on telegraph wires.
BTO Statistics
Swallows are amber-listed as they have suffered moderate declines in recent years. The Swallow's vulnerability is thought to relate to a reduction in insect populations - their main source of food - and a shortage of suitable nesting sites.
Nests are cup or half-cup shaped and built with a lot of mud. The incubation period lasts for 14-15 days, fledglings leave the nest 19-21 days after hatching. They are still fed by their parents for another week. Parents are very protective of their young and will mob any predators including cats and magpies and drive them away from the nest.
Swallows eat and drink on the wing. However, if there is a shortage of flying insects they will take small invertebrates from the ground.

House Martin

House Martin

Delichon urbica

House Martins are small birds with glossy blue-black upper parts and pure white under parts. They have a distinctive white rump with a forked tail (easily distinguished from Swallows as they lack the long tail streamers). Juveniles have a browner rump and have some white mottling in the nape.
Found throughout the UK, bar the Scottish Highlands. Some still nest on cliffs, which were their traditional sites of choice. Nowadays most House Martins can be found in villages and towns where they nest on buildings, often forming colonies.
Swallow and House martin (Flying) collecting nest material
by water of muddy pond.
A cup-shaped nest is built from mud and lined with feathers and grasses. All but the mud is collected on the wing.
1-3 clutches of white eggs (May-August)
Insects including flies and aphids
A soft twittering song
Extremely sociable, House Martins will help out other parents by calling chicks out from the nest when it is time for them to fend for themselves. Fledglings are fed by parents in midair.
BTO Statistics
Overall numbers are still high but House Martins are now amber rated due to recent moderate declines.
After spending the winter in Africa, they return to the UK in the Spring and most will return to a previous nesting site. They breed in colonies that usually include five nests but can increase to tens and even hundreds of nests. Lack of mud can be a problem (particularly in dry summers) but House Martins will readily use man-made nest boxes. Both parents build the nest, incubate the eggs and feed the young. Eggs are incubated for 15 days and chicks hatch 22-32 days after hatching.
Most feeding is done on the wing. House Martins fly higher than Swallows to catch their prey, but the insects are generally smaller.