John and Jack have been working restoring the old pond in Kennel field. It must be many years since this was last done. They also cleared the pond in Randolphs Orchard. Just in time before the rain comes.
Many more butterflies about now – mostly rather dull Meadow Browns and Cabbage Whites but here is one of the first Peacocks I have seen on the red clover in the Common . The clover is re-growing after being cut for silage and will soon be grazed by the lambs. Bees also getting busy again after a slow start but still not many about.
This is one of several visitors to the farm office this morning. I have to admit that the insect life we support is probably attracting them although I believe chickens have a spirit of adventure and just want to know what’s there – like the one that crossed the road.
There is some doubt surrounding the exact meaning of the phrase “Ne’er cast a clout till May be out” but this year the Hawthorn blossom seems to have arrived just at the time when it seems a good idea to “cast” winter woollies.
Talking of woollies the lambs are growing fast and we have already sheared the tegs. The main flock will be done in a couple of weeks.
You can read more about the origin and meaning of the phrase here.
Jim Etches ploughing in preparation for sowing with spring wheat. The field has been growing grass/red clover for the last three years so the fertility should be good. It has also been spread with last year’s manure from the cow sheds.
In the background you can just about see the 18 Kw solar panels on the barn and the oast house – which we hope to restore and put to good use soon.
J.Etches and sons working the plough down to a fine tilth with their rotary harrow. It will be sown with our home-grown red clover seed. This 55 acre block of land at the Common will grow a clover and grass mixture that will be cut as silage and used to feed our cattle over the winter. At the same time the clover, being a legume, will build up the fertility of the soil ready for the next rotation when it will return to growing wheat again in 3 or 4 years’ time.
There has been a recent rush by local farmers to install their solar photovoltaic panels before the end of December in order to get the higher subsidy payments that are due to be reduced on January 1st. We have joined them – thanks to being prompted by Simon Wright of Lamb Farm in East Guldeford, near Rye (you can follow Simon’s topical reports on farming issues on http://www.ryenews.org.uk )
Most of the installations are being done by BeBa energy http://www.beba-energy.co.uk/. They also installed the panels on the roof of Hobbs Parker Market building in Ashford. This may have encouraged the recent enthusiasm for Solar Power amongst the local agricultural community.
Some lucky farmers are putting 50-100 Kw arrays on their barns. Simon and I were restricted to 18 Kw installations as the local electrical grid, managed by UK Power Networks, was unable to handle any more than this from our farms.
We did the maths on this project and it proved to be such a good investment that Natwest Bank were happy to lend us the money to pay for it at a very reasonable interest rate. It seems a very good idea for any business with suitable roofs to take advantage of this opportunity. BeBa tells me that very soon the UK will have 5 Gw of solar power installed and the rate of installations is growing. 5Gw is about 20% of the total average UK electricity demand and 50% of the current nuclear power output (when the sun is shining).
Recent changes to the subsidy payments has made ground mounted solar much less attractive so we may not see so many solar farms but maybe more roofs instead.
I am looking forward to charging my electric car from the new panels.