Easter weekend and the sun is shining, quite a change from last year which was the coldest on record. Easter can range from snow on the ground (last year) to really quite hot, but cold weather is the norm; in fact a white Easter is more common than a white Christmas. This year though we are very fortunate and it is a glorious weekend.
Our apple trees are in full bloom as I start to hope that there will be no frost now in late April. The magnolia tree has had a great run this year after an early scare, and we have tiny berries on the plum tree.
The woods are all green as the oak beat the ash easily this year, which should mean a splash rather than a soak? The skylarks are active in their usual place where there are no footpaths and stray dogs to interfere, and whilst they are on the ‘Red List’, we have them here every year.
Farmland birds are increasing in numbers, mainly due to more favourable weather in addition to farmer’s efforts to create habitat. The pressure groups are so quick to blame farmers and farming methods, but if they are honest they will need to correct that this year.
Talking of birds I have added 4 hens to the single bantam hen in our garden. She is very productive and lays an egg most days, but now these rather handsome red hens are adding to that number and I am eating a lot of omelettes!
A strong dawn chorus each morning as we enjoyed a good week of excellent weather, ideal to get stuck into some serious spring work. We are drilling maize and by the time you read this about 200 acres will be in the soil on the lightest and warmest ground, with some rain encouraging it to get going.
Conditions were superb at the weekend and we shall get going on the power harrow again at a rate of around 50 acres per day, with a drill appearing every two days or so.
The grass is leaping out of the ground and we are no longer worried about quantity for the young stock which means it needs keeping an eye on to prevent it getting away from us in the coming weeks; it is always a challenge to match the grazing to the number of animals so that quality grass is always available.
At Tillington the heifers there are also in top quality grass with plenty ahead, the challenge being greater over there as the ground dries up rather more quickly than on the clay at Plaistow, which we need to bear in mind.
My ‘zero-grazing’ machine has arrived and I have started cutting fresh grass for the low yielding milking cows.
We are feeding about two acres a day which will gradually decrease as grass growth takes off. I need to cover the ground quickly at this stage so that when the ‘grazing’ platform is cut, I will be going back into some good quality grass once more.
Needless to say the quality of grass in the wagon now in this sunny weather is superb, but there will be wet days as well. The cows have gone mad for it and devour the whole load in about six hours, we then top them up with a mix of maize silage, chopped straw and some concentrates.
I went over to the German border last Thursday to visit the well-known slurry tanker and trailer manufacture ‘Joskin’. A very sunny day as we crossed over under the Channel and motored across France and Belgium, and there they all were making first cut silage in the middle of April, tedding the grass furiously as they want to make high dry matter silage.
This will be rocket fuel and no doubt they will cut every four weeks all summer in order to keep the quality to the highest level.
On arrival at the factory, we were given a guided tour of the show room and various machines before lunch, followed by a full tour of the factory afterwards. It is a very impressive place given that Mr Joskin started as a machinery dealer only 40 years ago and now employs over 800 people, ploughing all the profits back into the business.
They have robots welding chassis and tanks, whilst robotic laser cutters expertly and accurately minimising wastage, cutting thousands of intricate parts from high quality sheet metal.
The tankers are assembled once all parts are treated and galvanised, cleaned and if painted rubbed down by hand! A huge array of tankers and trailers are built, with a list of options and specifications as long as your arm. They are all custom built to order with two or three months lead time.
In the quiet period over the winter they build machines which are more standard and they are sold at a lower cost, given that they have been built more cheaply.
However, there is still a choice of wheels, tyres, pumps, disc injectors, dribble bars and cultivator injectors of different sizes to choose from and my head was spinning for the first hour or two.
Mr Joskin and his family are first into the factory every morning and last to leave at night, and he has a small unit at the back which he has filled with machines and tools bought at auction, which are used by the local school.
He takes an interest in this and if he sees a promising youngster he mentors them and offers them a job which is enterprising. Can you imagine children being allowed to visit a factory and have a go with some machines in this country? The red-tape clip-board jockeys would not allow it; yet we all operate under the same European rules; maybe the problem is nearer home Mr Farage?
I see that John Bercow has apologised for the low standard of behaviour in the House of Commons during Prime Minister Question Time.
It might have been more appropriate to apologise for many other things which are rather more damning than making a lot of noise. Some women MPs are apparently boycotting the event because of its rowdiness, and Mr Bercow is concerned that too many ‘outstanding’ women are leaving Parliament.
Only he could be so silly as to connect these two events, most of the MPs who leave the House do so due to pressure of the work and hours, salary, and mostly due to disappointment (others not sharing the ‘outstanding’ bit).
As someone who occasionally tunes in to the BBC Parliamentary Channel, I see Mr Bercow himself causing a fair amount of this noise at Question Time, grandstanding and picking fights with various MPs.
I find it the only time we have a bit of colour in our modern political system of political correctness and bland politicians who say nothing; frankly if MP’s can’t stand the heat, stay silent and seated (and you Mr Bercow).