Harvest 2015

combining wheat 2015

Step outside the back door and you know that it’s harvest time. First the unmistakable dusty smell of harvest, then the steady noise of the combine in a distant field and the roar of the tractors driving into the yard …

emptying wheat trailer

… followed by the bang of the trailer tailgate as they empty their load of wheat.

wheat harvest 2015

It is a slightly fraught time of year, when everything seems to be done at a run, tempers run short and the weather forecasts consulted and sworn about more than usual.

harvest rolls

Thankfully, I’m no longer required to drive tractors and corn cart but have slipped into the role of chief gofer, provider of refreshments and soothing influence.

harvest bars

I am more suited to some of these roles than others.

harvest 2013

combining Far Blackley

Harvest has started and for once, we’ve started with the wheat because the oilseed rape is late this year due to the pigeon damage earlier in the year.

sweeping the grainstore

The grain store was swept out, the tractor and trailers checked over and the weather forecast consulted even more frequently than usual. Last week Bill did a few “farmer’s bite” tests on the wheat, where you take a head of wheat and rub it between your hands to thresh it out, blow away the chaff and then bite on a grain to discover how hard it is. While the grain is soft then it’s not ready but as soon as it’s hard to the bite then it’s time to do a more scientific moisture test to see if it’s dry enough to combine.

On Sunday afternoon it was decided that the wheat was ready to harvest here at Slamseys Farm and the contractors arrived to start the 2013 harvest. The combine first cuts around the outside of the field enough times to make a headland to turn on and then works methodically across the field. When the tank on the combine reaches 90% capacity, the flashing light signals the tractor driver to pull up alongside the combine as the spout comes out and the grain is unloaded from the combine into the trailers. The wheat is then tipped into a big heap in our grain store and from there will be loaded into lorries to be taken to the central grain store of the co-operative where it’s weighed and tested. If necessary the wheat will be dried and then stored in optimum conditions until it’s sold.

The contractors have now moved with their combine to another farmer and will return next week (we hope) to cut the oilseed rape and wheat on our outlying land.

Harvest is the culmination of the past year’s work and it’s always a fraught time, especially as we can’t control the weather that can make or break harvest, so it’s good to have part of the crop already cut and stored. As farmers, our job is done and the wheat passes down the line for others to process – the grain store, millers, bakers and food manufacturers of all sizes and then to the shops and markets for everyone to buy. It’s a good feeling to be part of the team that feeds the country, even if the UK is only 62% self sufficient. Do you realise that if all our home produced food was put into store on 1st January, then today is the day we’d run out? Scary.

on the farm this week

This week we’ve had sunshine, sunshine and more sunshine! A quick walk along the farm track shows how quickly the crops are ripening.

wheat Gardeners Field July 2013The wheat in Gardeners Field is just beginning to turn from green to golden. The countdown to harvest is beginning with trailers checked over, barns swept and paperwork prepared.

oilseed rape cropThe pods on the oilseed rape crop have filled out. Earlier this year, when the leaves had been eaten away by pigeons, (here’s the photos) we had to decide whether to leave the crop in the ground and hope there was enough crop left to grow or whether to plough it in and drill another crop. We decided to leave it in the ground and though it doesn’t look a fantastic crop, we will at least have something to harvest.

borage growing Essex July 2013Our neigbour was also growing oilseed rape in the field next to The Ley and over the winter we watched as flocks of pigeons flew from our field to their field and back again. Next door they decided to plough up their oilseed rape and drilled borage in its place and now the field is a sea of blue flowers. The tiny black seeds will be harvested for their oil.

ducklingsOne of my ducks has hatched off six pretty little ducklings. Having sat on her nest for a month with the sun glaring down, the mother duck was keen to get onto the pond with her brood as soon as she was satisfied that all the eggs that contained ducklings had hatched. She pushed the unhatched eggs out of her nest, rounded up her little family and headed for the pond. She walked up the ramp but of course the ducklings took the difficult route, having to jump up two steps each higher than themselves. They launched themselves upwards, flapping their immature wings and after a couple of attempts scrambled up, while their mother called them to follow.

ducklings swimming on pondHaving negotiated the steps and the walk across a small yard past parked vans, the ducklings tumbled down the bank of the pond  and plopped into the water. They took to it like … ducks to water and spent the rest of the day swimming around with the other ducks. Now they stand patiently by the gate with the others waiting to be let out every morning and each day the jump up the step seems a little easier.