Farmer Focus: Snatching in the millet between showers

Farming is no bed of roses when Mother Nature is not on your side, and I will remember autumn 2019 for the muddy trail I made across my garden while making almost daily trips to the rain gauge.

We did manage to snatch the millet harvest thanks to Hew’s bloody-minded approach one day when it was not actually raining.

I suggested waiting for the morning dew to go off, but he rightly pointed out that it would mean waiting until lunch-time.

See also: Expert’s 5 tips for arable farmers converting to organic

Off he went, with the combine sounding more like a forage harvester, but it went remarkably well, and he cut all 40ha that day at a speed I would not have dared to attempt.

The winter wheat area we have drilled is even less than in the horrendous autumn of 2012.

Drilling bonus

We had the extra pressure of planting someone else’s farm then, in addition to ours, and I offered a £5 bonus to each of our two staff members at that time for every acre drilled before Christmas – what was I thinking?

It just encouraged us to maul good seed into hideous conditions and the thin and backward crop struggled to break even.

Right now, I dearly wish we had more seed in the ground than in the bag, but I am satisfied we have not damaged our soils by going on in atrocious conditions.

We have 75 people booked in to discuss integrated pest management at our first winter Monitor Farm meeting.

In light of our determination not to use insecticides here, I am looking forward to learning more about pollinators and beneficial insects, and how we can encourage more on this farm.

I have been putting out some pitfall traps and sticky pads on field edges to see what invertebrates we have.

Looking at the changeable weather forecast, it seems highly unlikely that we will have an empty hall due to people being out on the land, so what better way to spend a Friday morning than to share a bacon roll and coffee with my fellow farmers while identifying some creepy-crawlies?