June was a strange month. After weeks of seemingly unrelenting sunshine, and no rain, at least in this area, our cereal crops are beginning to show signs of distress. In a wet winter the plants do not need to put down long roots to find water, with the result that now, with the upper layers of soil hard and dry, they are suffering. Our land is mainly keuper marle (clay) so holds moisture longer than the sandland nearby where cereals are already turning white and dying off. There is no doubt that yields will be lighter everywhere this year. Martins Hill and The Eastwood, drilled with rye in the autumn, were cut early in an attempt to get the blackgrass, with which it was infested, before the blackgrass shed seed. The result was a very low yield across thirty-eight acres (15 hectares), but hopefully the strategy will have reduced the blackgrass which is a huge problem at the moment. Oilseed rape is the next crop to harvest. It is quite short this year and has not gone flat, as happens when there are summer storms.
The spotted woodpecker which feeds on the peanuts, watched by it’s young perched safely nearby, has now been replaced by the younger bird. They have such pretty colouring it is a pleasure to see them. Another welcome sight is the goldfinch family. I could not understand why the goldfinches were ignoring the niger seed when previously they had flocked to it. Enquiries revealed that niger seed deteriorates over time and mine had been in stock too long. A quick purchase of fresh seed has resulted in a rapid return of the goldfinches: point proved. Red kite, buzzard and kestrel are frequently seen over the farm, and especially when we were mowing for hay. Skylarks sing above The Hoe, where they always nest. Their song is beautiful as they fly to an incredible height. A magpie, possibly looking for water in the yard, was mobbed by the swallows and driven off in no uncertain terms. Magpies are well known for taking baby birds from the nest. I do not think they would find the swallows nests under the stable roofs but the swallows were taking no chances. Another visitor to the yard was a leveret (young hare) which, curiosity satisfied, ran off at speed when it saw me, the dog and the cat! An unusual daytime visitor was a young hedgehog, rooting through the bark chippings under the damson tree. Finally, a barn owl flies regularly across the garden, barn owls are seen in the lane and I hear the little owl in the evening, although it is equally active during the day.
Forget jam and Jerusalem. The June meeting of the Women’s Institute was held in the beautiful garden of the Programme Secretary where members enjoyed a glass (or two) of prosecco or a Pimms, had a wander round the garden and looked for a number of everyday objects, previously hidden, which certainly had no place in a garden. The Book Festival in Lowdham could not possibly be overlooked. The village was made colourful with bunting, and knitted rosettes. Even the bollards. outside the Co-Op were dressed in knitted costumes