CUSTODIANS of the COUNTRYSIDE
Published 22nd March 2019
I often hear the words "I'd love to do what your family do - I'd love to look after animals and drive a tractor, but I don't think I'd want to work all those hours!"
It's true we all do work a lot of hours - Son Tom and farm worker Tommo do the major of the land work these days, but Andrew still jumps on a tractor to keep his hand in and of course it goes without saying he is still the prime combine driver at harvest - the boss still gets that job!
Of course, we are a modern farming business but most importantly we are a family farm and for us that means that we need to be a profitable business, but also that we all care very deeply about nature and wildlife and the countryside and community we live and work in to make our living.
We have an abundance of birds on and surrounding our farm and as the weather warms up they take it in turns to visit our farmhouse gardens and fields from owls; kestrels; sparrowhawks; swifts and swallows; wagtails, sparrows; thrushes; blackbirds, ravens and crows; tits; finches; pigeons and doves; the occasional buzzard, cuckoo and it always thrills me when I discover that my returning woodpecker pops back to a tree near our vineyard on the farm - now that gets me so excited!! I managed to take a photo once of him sat on the grass in front of the holiday cottage we rent out (I was peering out the window when I heard him - but the image wasn't very clear - but for the short time he sat there it was wonderful to observe him.
We plant a lot of ceanothus and buddleia shrubs at the farmhouse and holiday cottage and vineyard to help attract butterflies and bees and it goes without saying that the bright yellow flowers of our oilseed rape crops attract the bees in their droves! Did you know we have 4 beekeepers within a couple of miles of our farm and another one who has kept his hives on our farm for decades. Simon Croson of www.theartisanhoneycompany.co.uk is passionate about teaching everyone about looking after bees and which plants to grow to help feed them - and his hives are just across the road from one of our fields - always great to learn how we can help nature - so why don't you take a look at his website and FB page.
If you are interested in visiting a Lincolnshire nursery who specialize in bee friendly plants check out www.johncullengardens.com - he's quite a character! but with some amazing plants.
We are blessed with other wild animals on the farm - from muntjac and roe deer (we had 8 females and one stag in our garden at 6am one day this month - what an amazing treat!), there's also rabbits and a good population of hares, pheasants and partridge as well at weasel and stoat and foxes.
And then of course - we wouldn't be a proper mixed family farm without our cows which graze the ancient parkland from April to about October. I know it sounds strange but it's amazing to see the amount of bug life feasting on the steaming mounds.
Oh! and then there are the mixed hedges of hawthorn, elder, holly, blackberry and sloe, bullace, wild plums, and crab apples to brighten up our field edges and feed the birds, bees and other insects.
And none of this would thrive on our farm without the interest and care that as a family we all take to protect and preserve our beautiful farm and countryside. The little jobs that my men folk do to restore hedges, keep water courses clean and clear often go un-noticed and unpaid but when you care as much as we do about the soil we earn our living from, the nature that pollinates our crops, costs don't always come into it. But for us looking after our countryside is as important as looking after our children.
Until next month!