We’ve brought in our first Honeydale harvest. Definitely the most important events that have taken place on the farm over the past few weeks has been the hay-making in July and combining the barley earlier this month.
Nigel Adams, who grazes his sheep at Honeydale, brought his mower and tractor to cut and bale the hay meadow which produced 130 round bales and a further 40 small bales. The hay was cut on one of the many hot sunny days, so conditions were ideal, and Nigel was pleased that it made really well and was of good quality to use as animal fodder for the winter.
Our malting barley was combined with the help of the Swinbrook estate who arrived with two big tractors and trailers and a 10.5 metre combine complete with drivers.
I told Jim, who farmed Honeydale for many years before we took it over last year, that the combine was on its way and he was very excited and pleased that our first harvest had been successful. The barley straw has now been baled and sold on to farmers in Wales for livestock bedding, as we don’t have a requirement for it.
This means that the 12 month baseline cycle we have been following in order to observe the established practices on the farm before deciding what changes to make is now complete.
What’s particularly important about the barley for us is that it has only been in the ground for four and a half months. During the rest of the year the pattern has been for this field to be left as stubble. While this is an easy and low input method of farming it means that the soil has been left inactive for nearly three quarters of the year and this is something we’re going to change, starting from now. We’re planning to grow as much green matter as possible, to improve the soil and produce greater quantities of food. We’re looking at what we can grow to best improve the fertility and what can be achieved if the soil is more active.
The good thing about the stubble was that the skylarks and hares liked it, but we will still continue to provide some of this habitat on the farm.
Living on Honeydale over the summer months, I’ve had chance to see what’s been growing in the polytunnel and observe the changes on daily basis.
Earlier in the year we tried to plant a selection of the seeds we sell at Cotswold Grass Seeds and it’s particularly pleasing to see that the sainfoin has established well. There’s a noticeable difference between the growth habitat of some plants with the majority having a large rosette of basal leaves, while some have put up ‘heads’ and are in flower.
The majority of the cover crop examples have also taken and the cornfield annuals have flowered well. The buckwheat was the first to get going and has now gone over, making way for other species such as borage and annuals like crimson and persian clover.
Unfortunately, most of the brassicas have been badly affected by flea beetle which even struck the mustard and fodder radish which flowered early and are now setting seed.
The dwarf sorghum and millet got away quickly though and the sunflower and quinoa are catching up.
From our spring sowing the earliest wildflowers to bloom were the hawkbit, musk mallow and yellow trefoil while the self heal and lady bedstraw are just starting to come into flower now. The yellow rattle and cowslip did not germinate because they need to go through vernalisation (cold snap) first.
Outside the tunnel, I’ve spotted a clutch of 5 partridge chicks at the top of the drive. They’re very young and not flying yet.
As autumn approaches we’re planning on re-directing the watercourse in the middle field away from the hedge and into several shallow pools to create a feature and create better habitats for wildlife.