Whizz Middleton has a regular column in Shillington News, entitled "Ploughing On". Please see below for her most recent musings and see the right hand side of this page for links to previous articles.
Harvest is potentially only 7 weeks away and that is quite a terrifying thought. Before then we have a lot to do on the farm and the crops have a great deal of growing and developing to do. This cold weather could mean that harvest is later than normal but then who knows what we’ll see in the next few weeks…a cloudless sky, warm breeze and some lovely summer sunshine…?!
We have at least 10 different sheds where we store our grain as well as the grain drier itself and all the bins and conveyors associated with it. Each one of these areas has to be cleaned meticulously before any grain can be stored or processed. We do it all by hand working from the roof down, sweeping the entire floor area and using our large, industrial vacuum cleaner. Each gutter and down-pipe is checked too as leaks during summer storms can be disastrous. Roofs are repaired where necessary, the large doors on each shed are oiled and even the light bulbs are looked at to make sure that when it comes to the long hours in the summer everything is ready to go.
All machinery used during the harvest is serviced. This includes the tractors and trailers and of course the combine. Only this morning I heard its familiar engine start up as it was being looked at in the barn near my office. These are highly complicated machines and take several days to check over and ensure that come harvest, they’ll work long hours with as few breakdowns as possible (touch wood).
The wildlife is as interesting as ever on the farm and yesterday, accompanied by two over enthusiastic Labradors and Millie, I stopped to watch the various birds at the top of the Barton Hills. We saw a red kite, circling over the valleys of the beautiful nature reserve, flying at our head height only a few yards away. Over the field of wheat we heard the singing of skylarks and at one point I counted 12 swooping about. There were also swallows, diving to catch insects above the crops, a hovering kestrel and a green woodpecker cackling in the woods nearby. Our farm walks are coming up and it would be fantastic if we were able to see such birds while we’re showing visitors around the farm. It might even trigger a rendition of “Two Little Dicky Birds” from Millie, as it did yesterday, which is not to be missed!