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Helen's Notes From The Farm - Week 10

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Election Special: Pigs and Politicians

I wonder which way farmers will vote this week. Having been pretty gung-ho for Brexit, an NFU survey seems to show a strong dip in medium-term confidence amongst their members, which is hardly surprising given the lack of clarity about future policy, and the fact that farming and the environment is nowhere near the political radar. I restrain myself from screaming sarcasm - instead, we invite all the local parties to the Oak for a good grilling. Bless them, they all turn up… except our incumbent Tory, Robert Buckland, who has a very valid personal excuse. With Tim doing a better job than Dimbleby (or so several punters vowed, but they'd had a pint or two), it was a couple of hours of heated debate, with plenty of focus on rural issues. Full house, and great fun. Pity it’s all quite serious really.

On the farm, first cut silage is finished, and we are looking for the weather window to start making hay. There’s loads to catch up on: stubble turnips need planting (we grow these after the pigs, to catch all that fertility, and give the land a chance to recover before we plant cereals); there’s muck and slurry to spread on the fields that have been cut for silage; miles of fencing needs doing, and we need to be cutting grass around our new trees: they are starting to get swamped. The winter wheat is coming into flower, which is when we want sun; I always feel that a good spell of sunshine at flowering time is the biggest determinant of yield. In our glorious valley, the orchids are out in force. We have grazed the valley this spring, and I was slightly worried that we had left the stock on too long for the wild flowers, but it’s looking OK. 

The big event of the week is our ‘International Pig Racing Festival’, a daft day which consists of a few pigs trotting down a road chasing a bucket of feed. In fact, they often don’t even trot, but amble rather aimlessly, stopping to investigate the crowds and decide whether to deign to step over the upturned brushes that are their equivalent of National Hunt fences. With a tote in aid of charities, and to lure the young into their first experience of betting (!), food stands and wonderful band, The Ragged Edge, giving us a chance to dance in the rain, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. This is Bishopstone life as its bonkers best, and the hundreds who joined in the fun seemed to agree.

Meanwhile, the hotel snags continue to emerge. The Soil Association were hosting the Leading Organic Alliance here last night; these are a wonderful group of organic organisations from around Europe who, like the SA, aim for the skies in developing our farming and food systems. I joined them for a feast at the pub, then scuttled off to bed for an earlyish night. Just heard that our very own Chris Atkinson had an unpleasant surprise when he got to his bed….a waterfall from the room above, following the clearly rather bungled plumbing job that had taken place yesterday. I gather he slept on the floor. Sorry, Chris! (But glad it was you and not one of your guests!)