Silver Birch

By Peter Lundgren, The Farmer

These long dark nights and grey dank days get me down.

The field of wheat is in the quiet winter stage when growth slows down and little happens. Just the rabbits chomping away at the moment. And there’s been an unusual visitor – some short-eared owls have appeared on the fen to the delight of the local twitchers.

There’s plenty to do around the farmyard and in the office but it seems a struggle to get enthused about all those jobs that get put off until there’s time in the winter to get them done. This year I’ve been very lucky and a friend has come to help me out. He’s almost finished his time in the military and the thought of sitting at home is driving him stir-crazy so he’s kindly offered to help me out with all those jobs that are easier with two pairs of hands; and its interesting to hear another’s views on some of the recent worrying world events. Anyway we seem to be doing a lot of coffee drinking and occasionally a bit of work gets done.

Thankfully Storm Desmond passed me by. The wind was horrific out here on the fen – it was shaking my house like a terrier with a rat – but thankfully I missed the heavy rain and there’s been no serious damage. I feel so sorry for those farmers in Cumbria who have lost livestock and whose farms and livelihoods have been damaged. I can’t imagine what 14 inches of rain in one day must have been like. And still we talk about one in a hundred year storms when these increasingly violent storms are occurring every few years.

Its also the time of year when all those organisations that regulate farming arrange meetings. Last week I attended a soil and water event that was looking at the legislation relating to the protection of soils and water quality. Some of the evidence put forward by Anglian Water on the levels of pesticides in our local rivers and waterways is pretty damning stuff — and of course Anglian Water are using those waterways as a source of drinking water. There was the presence of the expected headline pesticides like metaldehyde (molluscide)and glyphosate (herbicide) but it was shocking to see detectable levels of pesticides that have not been used on farms for decades still present in our waterways.

On a more cheerful note my next job is to sort out a Christmas tree. This year I’m breaking with tradition and instead of the usual fir tree I’ve found a silver birch that I think will look good. And don’t worry I’m not chopping down a tree – its just a branch that needs to come off anyway.

Please feel free to read through questions and responses from the Field of Wheat collective members and the Farmer.