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Week 26: Water water everywhere

The weather put itself firmly back into the limelight early this week with some fantastic and dramatic storms.  We needed it, the air had got so close and oppressive.  We love storm-watching, and although I didn’t catch any dramatic lightning strikes on camera, I did manage to catch the entire sky lit up.  At one point it was right overhead and struck the field 100m from where we were watching from the safety of the house.  Loud!

Two days later, a huge bough from one of our trees came down across a fence into a neighbour’s field. Many of the Ash around us are really struggling this year, with a much-reduced leaf canopy and increasingly brittle branches. After each storm, it is small ash branches that litter the roads around our way. So although there were no winds that night, or even rain, it was little surprise that another Ash bough had made it’s bid for freedom but succumbed to the laws of gravity and crashed to the ground. It transpires that the trunk of the tree in question is almost entirely hollow, and some of the bough was rotten in its core. A huge bough still takes some shifting so Phil and Peter loaded up the chainsaws, slings and grab, and set off for a tiring morning getting it all moved to our side of the fence, patching the gap to keep the lambs on the correct side. After the recent heavy rains, we will wait for the land to dry again to move it to the logging and burning piles.

The rain duly started up again, which is fantastic as the grass is finally properly getting going. I suspect in the next dry spell, farmers round our way will be getting in the fields to get their first cut and in the end, it will be a decent cut. It’s a funny thing, fields of “just” grass. It makes up so much of our green and pleasant land. But grass isn’t just grass, like the lawn in a back garden. In the fields, it is an actively managed crop, and in our climate, it is a very successful crop. Some manage it by grazing livestock across it, as we do. Others manage it by cutting and storing it to feed livestock throughout the entire 12 months of the year, selling it to the livestock industry as a crop, enabling so much of British Livestock to be almost entirely grass-fed. A dairy neighbour can tell you the carbohydrate content of the grass in each of his fields to a very precise degree on any given week of the year which I think is just amazing and I certainly wasn’t aware of that at all until I came into farming.

In the brief gap of dry, Phil and Peter set about another big farm job - setting up the solar tank system to supply water from the brook in one of our fields that doesn't have access to our brook. Phil is really getting rather good at all this, having worked through so many watering conundrums in the various fields over the last few years. The biggest difficulty has always been getting the right fittings, not helped as the industry is still stuck halfway between imperial and metric measures, and the two seldom sit seamlessly together. With the help of the amazing Smiths of the Dean, he collated all the necessary fittings, sourced the solar panel, pump, battery, and battery housing, put it largely together in the barn and transported it over to the field. It now sits with the pump in the brook, a full IBC container, and a full water-trough for the sheep to access. A big job, which you can read about on our blog by following this link. And you can watch the video on YouTube, link below.

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Week 26: Water water everywhere