August may be holiday time for many but on the farm it is probably the most stressful time of the year. Do not ask anything of the farmer; his head is full of “is the crop ready to harvest. What is the moisture content of the grain? Can I rely on the weather forecast? ” and much more. This year we finished combining earlier than usual, before the end of the month, in fact. Then it was stop/go, stop/go as first it was too dry to cultivate then there was rain and it was too wet to cultivate. No wonder they call it “man’s land”. At last it is workable and the tractor was going until 11 o’clock last night preparing the ground for drilling oilseed rape today. I am often asked what the oil from this plant is used for. I am sure everyone knows the cooking oil, euphemistically called vegetable oil, but, amongst cosmetics and other things, it is also used in the manufacture of plastic bags, making them easier to open.
Sadly, the young hedgehog, mentioned in a previous blog, died, but another is being fed cat food, the jellied sort, not the one with gravy. Fed at the same time and in the same place each evening, they soon learn to come for food. It has been a lean summer for hedgehogs as the drought has meant a shortage of grubs on which they feed. This year a bit of ragwort appeared in the Hagg lane verges. In its dried state, as in hay, it is poisonous to livestock but while it is growing they will not touch it. The plant is home to the Cinnabar caterpillar so as there are no hayfields nearby we pulled off the flower before it went to seed. It will grow again next year from the root. Any which appears in fields which we cut for hay are dug out complete with root. Thankfully there is a special fork for this as it is not an easy job, especially in a dry season. Those of you who follow The Mews on Facebook will have seen our orchard casualty. Due to the weight of fruit, the drought, and ivy climbing up the trunk hiding a developing split a very old apple tree, a Newton Wonder, split in half and fell onto the drive. Ivy makes a wonderful nest site for birds, the flower is loved by insects and birds eat the berries in the winter so I tend to leave it but I shall be more selective in future.
Local and Social News
I enjoyed a visit to Tuxford recently. It is not far away and I wanted to purchase some organic, stoneground flour from the Tuxford windmill. After an excellent courtyard lunch I was delighted to find the The Museum of the Horse, (the only one in the UK ), on adjacent premises. With memorabilia covering nearly 2000 years it was definitely not to be missed. Next time I go to Tuxford I shall go on to East Markham where there is a family-run cider mill, The Scrumpy Wasp, where cider is produced using apples from local orchards.
Closer to home, The Bookcase in Lowdham re-opens after three weeks of refurbishment. They have issued their usual warm invitation to drop in on September 1st to see the improvements and celebrate with snacks and a glass of bubbly. Epperstone Tea Shoppe is a welcome addition to village amenities, providing well-presented tea and coffee, excellent light lunches and delicious cakes. They also have a small range of useful items for sale which would make good gifts or to treat yourself to. The Women’s Institute held an enjoyable fund-raising Fish, Chips and Skittles night. There will be an orchestral concert in the Village Hall later in September, fund-raising for the church this time. Life is not boring in the country.