Forthcoming events ..... Amanda's Diary
If you have any news of forthcoming events etc. you can send them to amanda
Amanda Streatfeild amanda@higherdenhay.co.uk
An archive of magazine items can be found here
 

Sunday 11th August – 9.30 p.m. St. John’s, Symondsbury.  Celtic Worship service which really is a wonderful service, with quiet moments, good hymns, lovely music.  Please do try and make an effort to come and try it if you are in the Symondsbury area.

Sunday 11th August – 2.00 p.m. onwards.  Tithe Barn, Symondsbury. 

Symondsbury Flower and Produce Show in its new home

  • ·         Bridport Dog Display Team 2.15pm
    Dog Show entrants register on the day - £1 per class.
    Flower & Produce Show entries in by no later than 8pm on Thursday 8th August.    
  • Entry forms available from The Ilchester Arms, Symondsbury Store & Home & Garden Store.
    Cream Teas, BBQ, Bar, Face Painting, Potato Growing Competition, Auction of Produce
    Fun for all the family.
  • ·         All proceeds to MND, MIND & St John the Baptist Church, Symondsbury.

Monday 12th August – 3.00 – 5.00 p.m.  Broadoak Hall - Tea and Chat. .     Lovely cakes and tea for those who might not get out much and though there are regulars, this might be the chance for some new people to join in.  Please contact Sue Poppitt (425332) or Lynne MacLoughlin (07734 287009) if you’d like a lift.

Tuesday 13th August  - Symondsbury Parish Council Summer Recess – no meeting.

Sunday 18th August – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Holy Communion with hymns.

Thursday 22nd August – 8.30 a.m. onwards – West Bay Road – the wonderful Melplash Show with things for everyone to do.  Children go free! www.melplashshow.co.uk

 FARMER GEORGE’S DIARY – August 2019 

The importance of writing this and being able to explain what we are doing came home to me after I wrote the July diary; Denhay was criticised for hedge trimming out of season.  Why were we doing that when birds are still nesting?  The answer was that we were doing the road verges and especially the entrances and exits to our farms which are both required by Highways England and a sensible safety precaution.  We are not allowed to do the normal hedge cutting until September by which time the birds have long gone from their nests.  Having the diary enables me to explain what we are doing; you can always please send me questions if you don’t understand what we are up to!

 

We have put a huge amount of effort into getting our dairies as efficient as possible – that is the only way we can see we will be able to survive in our new world – or even the current one. But this drive for efficiency has to be run alongside the requirements of our customers; much of our milk goes to Waitrose who require us to graze the cows at least 120 days a year.  That may not sound much, but just at the moment, grazing is at a premium and the cows go out almost more for the exercise than any nutritional benefit!     In July we only had 30mm of rain – about half what we expect.  It has been so frustrating seeing rain fall all over the rest of the country but miss us!  The 20mm we had a week ago has been a life saver with grass looking better already.  At the same time we are using the very watery slurry from our lagoons to stimulated grass growth.

 

This year milk production has stayed up really quite well despite the lack of grass – it means we are now feeding our scarce conserved feed and planning to replace it with a good cut of silage in September – we live in hope!

 

I am pleased to say that Denhay Farms won the Specialist Dairy class in the Melplash Agricultural Society competition this year – it is every credit to the whole team and is a good indicator we must be getting something right! The judging is very thorough and they poke their noses into every nook and cranny.

 

With the dry weather continuing, at least the maize likes it and is looking well – many plants are going to have two good cobs on them which will increase the feed value. It also means that the maize harvest should be earlier than usual – I hope so because we will be able to get a better crop of late sown grass into those maize stubbles.

 

I try to avoid the next topic as much as possible as it is always in the background and can really get one down; we are having an awful time with TB again this year.  Quite a number of cows have become infected including the youngstock which graze our hills this year.  There is no one single solution to this but we have redoubled our efforts to keep badgers out of the buildings with new gates and electric fences and we have also put tall water troughs on the hill from which they cannot drink. (There are plenty of streams for them to get water). The movement of cattle is very restricted and apart from testing, there is really detailed recording required for every movement.

 

As I have said before, I try to avoid politics, but one cannot help fear for the future.  The best example I have seen was from Coombe Castle International – a cheese exporting business which we used to supply; they showed a block of cheddar which they sell to Canada for £500.  If we leave the EU without a deal they will have to pay £1200 duty, meaning the price to Canada would be £1700.  That is not likely to encourage their export drive!

 

Let us enjoy the sunshine while it lasts!

 

George

 

 

 

Monday 8th July – 3.00 – 5.00 p.m.  Broadoak Hall - Tea and Chat.  This has been run in Askerswell Village Hall for several years, but is moving out and about now, and for the next three months will be in Broadoak Hall on the first Monday of the month.     Lovely cakes and tea for those who might not get out much and though there are regulars, this might be the chance for some new people to join in.  Please contact Sue Poppitt (425332) or Lynne MacLoughlin (07734 287009) if you’d like a lift.

Tuesday 9th July - 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council and Annual General Meeting (election of officers) with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.

Thursday 11th July – 2.00 p.m. St. Paul’ Broadoak.  A service of Thanksgiving for the life of John Green, from Shave Cross.  Please do come and celebrate John’s life with Alison and her family and the local community.

Sunday 14th July – 9.30 a.m. St. John’s Symondsbury.  Celtic Worship Service.  A more modern service with music and a chance to have some quiet moments in the service.

Wednesday 17th July – 7.30 – 9.30 p.m. Broadoak Hall – Broadoak Choir Summer Party and Concert.  This is the choir’s eclectic mix of words and music, followed by supper to which all the village, and our friends and family (which includes you!) are invited.                                                                                             

We do need to know by Friday 12th July if you would like to come.  There is no charge, but a small donation for the Hall would be welcome.  Please do come along.

Sunday 21st July – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Holy Communion with hymns.

Saturday 27th July – 3.00 p.m. Higher Moorbath, Broadoak.  Starting at Symondsbury – take a short walk (35 minutes) to Moorbath and enjoy tea in Jane and Jerry’s wonderful garden in aid of MNDA.   And you don’t need to walk – just have tea!!   See parish magazine for more information.

Sunday 28th July – 9.30 a.m. to around 4.00 p.m. – Broadoak Pony Show in the village. A wonderful opportunity to see every kind of rider and pony showing themselves to their best.

FARMER GEORGE’S DIARY – July 2019

 

Mid-summer is always a tough time for those of us who milk cows.  The milk flow is only going one way with many cows coming towards the end of their lactation.  When a cow calves, she will increase her milk flow up to 6 weeks from the day she calves.  After that, she will decrease at 2% per week and there is nothing we can do to alter that – it is nature!  If you don’t feed them right, they will drop faster.  I am really pleased to say that this year they seem to be holding up quite well and milk volumes are better than the same time last year. 

The crops are growing well – that rain we had in June was a life saver!  About 70mm but it came gently and evenly which allowed it to soak in rather than run off.  The result is that the grass is still growing – even though it wants to throw up seed heads rather than grow leaves.  To discourage that we mow the grazing fields after the cows have been in them; this stimulates fresh leaf growth.

The mowing grass crops have all been cut a second time and gave us a good yield in both quantity and quality.  The season is at least 2 weeks early, so we should get at least 4 cuts if not 5 this year.

 

As usual I will avoid politics like the plague, but we must be aware of the direction of emphasis from our ‘leaders’.  We need to improve our environmental work in line with public expectations; please note that our bacon is now in recyclable packs.  After a break of 3 or 4 years, we are now able to recycle all the plastic on the farm; if you look about the buildings there are strategically placed bags hug up for the guys to put old string and plastic sheeting in them. 

 

Those of you that read my diary regularly will remember the enthusiasm we have for sowing a winter cover crop in the maize stubbles.  This year we are doing a trial to go one better.  We have drilled 3 rows of grass seed between each maize drill.  We did this on 21st June.  The picture below was taken today – 11 days later.  Isn’t that amazing- 3 inches in that time.

I am told it will not grow a great deal more, just sit there not competing with the maize until that is harvested.  Once the maize has gone it will shoot away through the winter holding the soil in place, stopping nutrients from leaching out of the soil, providing cover for small birds and then an early cut of silage to be cut in the spring.   Meanwhile our maize crops will all be well over the  “knee high by 4th July”  

I often hear moans about the lack of insects – writing this, a green woodpecker has taken up residence on our lawn and is laughing away while I write this – have a great summer.

 

George

 

 

Tuesday 11th June - 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council and Annual General Meeting (election of officers) with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.

Thursday 13th June – 8.00 p.m. Loders Arms - A Pint and a Ponder. Friendly chat in a friendly pub for an hour.  “Plastic – how do we reduce our consumption”  

Saturday 15th June – 9.30 -5.00 p.m. Askers Meadows – Bridport Food Festival – a great chance to see the range of producers within a 20 mile radius of Bridport.     Enjoy the Beer Festival too on Friday and Saturday nights.                                 

Sunday 16th June – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Holy Communion with hymns.

FARMER GEORGE’S DIARY – JUNE 2019

 

A week may be a long time in politics but three weeks is even longer on a dairy farm in the spring!  We have been blessed with the most glorious weather and that long list of work to be done has been done.  Our guys have done an amazing job helped by Bartletts the contractors. 

 

As I said last month, the success of a dairy farm depends on 2 weeks in May.  This year those two weeks were perfect – warm and dry.  We cut, spread out to dry, rowed up picked up and clamped all without a hitch.  In fact we finished by 17th May which is the earliest we have ever completed first cut silage.  The yields were poor, but that was to be expected after the late winter weather.  But the quality should be good as it was made with sunshine and well wilted.  To make good silage we need to wilt it by spreading it out: ideally we achieve about 30% dry matter (fresh is about 18%).  Then we cut it ½ long and ‘clamp’ it – that is putting into airtight bunkers to ensure an anaerobic fermentation rather similar to making picked onions.  The secondary benefit from a good wilt is one gets no silage effluent leaving the clamp and finding its way into the water course; this is a highly polluting substance and can cause terrible trouble by using up the oxygen in the water and thus suffocating aquatic life.

 

Once the grass was cut, our energies turned to getting the rest of the muck spread, the ground ploughed and seedbeds prepared for maize.  All that was achieved by May 25th – admittedly 2 weeks later than ideal, but all in really good, moist and warm seedbeds.  The next ‘target’ is that it should be “knee high by 4th July”.  The inch of rain we have just had should help.

 

Meanwhile our cows are loving grazing fresh grass in fields that are no longer bogs and clearly enjoying the sun. All our cows get out to grass every day; apart from the benefit to the cows, it takes some pressure of our teams looking after them which is always appreciated.

It is also good to see the hill fields being grazed well by the heifers.  I hate it when they ski down the slopes in the wet tearing up all the grass and leaving the way for thistles and nettles to establish themselves.

 

Amanda and I have just returned from the Royal Bath and West Show.  We have been involved for more years than I care to remember.  Amanda used to run the Cheese Show, one of the UK’s premier cheese competitions and I run the Food Hall area; we both feel that it is a brilliant way to demonstrate the best of British Food and Drink to consumers.   85% of the show’s visitors have no connection to agriculture. We need to enable people to reconnect the food they eat to the land we farm, the environment we care for and the animals we look after.  Open Farm Sunday is another way to make this connection.

 

George

 

Tuesday 7th May – 3.00 p.m. Symondsbury House.  The Colfox family have invited everyone to attend the service of Thanksgiving for Lady Colfox. Lady Frederica ruled Symondsbury for many years, as did her mother-in-law, in the nicest possible way.   She was deeply involved with the school, and many other activities in the village.   Our thoughts with all the family.   Dress Code is warm and jolly. 

Tuesday 7h May - 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council Annual Parish Meeting – we are delighted to welcome Professor Denys Brunsden who will speak on our particular bit of the Jurassic Coast.  Professor Brunsden is one of the world’s leading experts on this particular field, and we are so lucky that he is coming to speak to us.   This will be really interesting, not just for those in the parish.  There will be refreshments! 

Professor Denys Brunsden OBE, DSc; FKC (Emeritus Professor, King’s College, London), is a geomorphologist specialising in landslides and coastal erosion and is the founder of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.

Former President of the British Society of Geomorphology, Geographical Association and International Association of Geomorphologists, Denys was also the first Chairman of the Dorset Coast Forum.  He proposed the Dorset and East Devon Coast for World Heritage Site and worked with many others to achieve this and to write the scientific case.  In 2010 Denys was awarded the RH Worth Prize of the Geological Society for this work and had previously received the William Smith and Glossop Medal awards from the Society.

 

Thursday 9th May – 7.30 p.m. Literary and Scientific Institute. A fund raising talk for the Bridport Area Development Trust given by internationally acclaimed writer, Anna Pavord.  Get your tickets soon as they are fast being booked up.   LSi, TIC, or contact me.

. Anna Pavord’s books include her bestseller, The TulipThe Naming of Names and her most recent work, Landskipping. Her column in the Independent newspaper ran for 30 years from the paper’s launch in 1986 until the paper’s last print edition. She now contributes to the Sunday Times and is an Associate Editor of the magazine Gardens Illustrated. She served for ten years on the Gardens Panel of the National Trust, the last five as chairperson. She also served three 3-year terms on English Heritage’s Parks and Gardens Panel. In 2001 she was awarded the Gold Veitch medal from the Royal Horticultural Society. For more than 40 years she has lived in West Dorset where she gardens on a steep sunny slope among arisaemas and magnolias.

Tuesday 14th May - 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council and Annual General Meeting (election of officers) with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.  We will hopefully be able to welcome our new Dorset Councillor to the meeting.  Who that will be remains to be seen! There has been no election for the Parish Council, and we now have one vacancy if anyone would like to join us.

Friday 17th May – 7.30 p.m. Broadoak Village Hall.  We hope to be holding a showing of the classic 1976 film ‘Rogue Male’.  The English part is set much in the Marshwood Vale, and the site of the ‘foxhole’ may be revealed.  More information to follow.

Sunday 19th May – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Holy Communion with hymns.

FARMER GEORGE’S DIARY – MAY 2018

 

At one point I thought we might catch up on rain, but that is short lived – it is really dry for the time of year.  One of the reasons why agriculture is such an interesting and rewarding industry is that no two seasons are the same and so each year brings it challenges.  Driving around yesterday I noticed many grass fields in head (flower).  Apart from affecting hay fever sufferers, it means that to make high quality digestible silage farmers will need to cut their fields right now.  

Last months ‘big beast’ picture has been at work and I am pleased to say all went really well; we picked up over 200 acres (about 75 Wembley football stadiums) in under 2 days.  We will be at it again this weekend if the dry weather continues.

Meanwhile getting the maize drilled (sown) continues apace.  Again different cultivation methods are required to conserve as much moisture as possible around the seed.  Much is being made in the press about ‘soil health’; this is a good thing.  I have always said that in the Vale you have to farm with “god on your side” – in other words considering the soil conditions.  On our heavy clay you cannot successfully force a seed bed; it has to be created with care, skill and timeliness.  We may hate the site of huge tractors but their power does enable timeliness to be achieved. 

Every week we measure the amount of grass growth with a ‘plate meter’ – a plate on a sliding stick.  By taking a random number of measurements in each field we know how much grass is there; taking that and the previous week’s reading we know how much growth there is and consequently we are able to plan our grazing for the cows; it is surprisingly easy to either run out of grass or have too much.    The cows are now grazing day and night and only getting extra feed to complement the grass.

I try to avoid politics as much as possible, but one has to follow the ‘mood music’.   We are going to see a change in the way agriculture is perceived and supported both by governments and consumers.  It is really important not to be swayed by single interest pressure groups but they will have an impact; the current debate over the removal of the general licence to shoot certain birds, notably crows and magpies, is having some extraordinary unforeseen consequences as curlew and lapwing chicks are being destroyed in huge numbers due to the lack of predator control. How daft is that?!

However taking a wider view, there is no doubt that greening, environmental measures and even wilding are here to stay and farmers are going to have to make some fairly big changes to their thinking to survive.  My career in agriculture has been fascinating; when I was at University things were just starting to change – Wye had the first agricultural computer and it filled an entire room!  Since then we have been through some amazing revolutions – manual handling, power, data management to list a few.  The conundrum between global warming, the need to feed a rapidly growing global population and a largely urban population which want to see, and have access to, a beautiful countryside means that farmers are going to be squeezed in all directions: over the next five years we will continue to “live in interesting times”.

George

 

Friday 5th April – 6.00 for 6.30  p.m. Broadoak Village Hall – Family Fun Easter Bingo.  Please come along and join in the fun.  Please let Camilla know if you would like to donate a prize or two.   Camilla Murless (camillamurless@hotmail.com)

Tuesday 9th April - 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council meeting with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.  There is stlll time to stand for council elections  - www.dorsetcouncil.org.uk

Wednesday 10th April – 6.30 p.m. Symondsbury Church.  Annual Church Meeting.  Please come and hear about the past year, the financial position and future ideas.

Saturday 20th April – 8.00 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak. Our Easter Vigil and Festival of Light service – the chance to break your Lenten fast.  Please come celebrate the start of Easter with us.

Wednesday 24th April – 7.30 p.m. St Mary Magdalene, Loders.  Broadoak Choir Concert – premiere of Aldhelm’s Bridge – a Cantata by Chris Reynolds, and a meditation in Words and Music on the themes of Easter.

Sunday 28th April – 6.30 p.m. Pilsdon Church.   Another opportunity to hear Aldhelm’s Bridge – a Cantata by Chris Reynolds, and a meditation in Words and Music on the themes of Easter. 

FARMER GEORGE’S DIARY – APRIL 2018

 

I keep going wow!  So many things – what a wonderful spring it is turning out to be.  This March we have 69mm rain whereas March 2018 we had almost double at 134mm.  I described farming  aquaculture then!   I am well aware that the ‘sages’ amongst us will be foretelling doom with so little rain, but it’s nice living!

 

Another ‘wow’ is our brand spanking new shiny forage harvester – all 530 horse power of it!  (Note the new driver)

Sunday 3rd March – 9.30 a.m. – 12.00 p.m.  Broadoak Village Hall.    Our Great Big Breakfast.  Do come along and enjoy our British Breakfast and meet up with friends and neighbours in aid of the Village Hall.

Tuesday 12th March  - 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council meeting with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects. 

Sunday 17th March  – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Holy Communion with hymns

Sunday 31st  March  - 11.00 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak.  Mothering Sunday service for the whole benefice in Broadoak Church.  Do please come and enjoy this special service in Broadoak.

 

Friday 5th April – 6.00 p.m. Broadoak Village Hall.   A special Easter Bingo, with prizes for all ages.  More details to follow.

 

Farmer Georges Diary March 2019 

February 2018                                                                                                   February 2019  

                                               

It is an amazing early year.  You can drive on almost any field without marking it; Denhay has been out with the ‘pepper-pot’ fertilizing the grassland, so we remain hopeful for an early turn-out to grass for the cows.  This may offset to some extent the lack of silage form last year’s dry summer.

One has to say, if this is global warming – bring it on!  What a pleasant climate of the last 2 weeks.  However, I do not really mean it!  So much for “February fill-dyke” - the lack of rain means the ground is at a moisture deficit whereas at this time of year it is normally at soil capacity.  Unless we get a lot of rain in March, we are bound to struggle with grass crops this year again.  At least we have time to think and prepare; I am sure we will drill more maize after our first cut of grass in early May as it does well in a dry time.

William has been writing a monthly dairy report looking at the price of milk and all the factors that affect it.  His predicts a 36pence per litre price for milk if there is no Brexit deal and a 30p one if there is.  Makes me think!  That sort of price differential makes any sensible planning almost impossible.  Our maxim remains the same as my father had 50 years ago “get into the top 25% of efficient producers and 75% will bellyache on our behalf!

 

What is particularly interesting in his latest report is that milk production for the first half of winter has been strong, despite the dry summer and lack of forage.   The interesting part is that the increase has come from high yield per cow rather than more cows.   The thinking is that farmers have been trying to offset a lack of home-grown forage with bought in feed which will have caused this higher yield per cow.   That comes at a cost, so if we have a Brexit deal which results in lower milk prices, we could see quite a number of dairy farmers giving up.

 

Returning to farming; this dry period also means we are able to roll the grass fields.  This is particularly important on our stonier areas, such as Beaminster Down.  If the stone sit on the ground they ruin the mower and blunt forage harvester knives.  I remember one year when we were able to roll early only to have late frosts which lifted all the stones up again and we had to re-roll! There is plenty of time yet for that to happen again.

 

Now is the time to get muck onto the old maize grounds and plough it in ready for the next crop of maize.  Our cover crops of beans and radish have not been so successful this year.  They will have done some good but not as much as the year before.  However, we sowed more grass last autumn than ever and that is looking very good (except the stripes where the drill kept blocking – that is the story the farm guys are telling me!)

 

March could be an eventful month both on and off the farm.  There is a lore which says “If March comes in like a Lion, it will go out like a lamb” does this refer to the weather or politics?

 

George

 
 

Tuesday 12th February  - 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council meeting with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects. 

Thursday 14th February 9.30 a.m. – 12.30 p.m. Literary and Scientific Institute.    Social Media for Beginners – probably not relevant to the savvy group on our mailing list, but just in case – come and try the excellent coffee in the Alembic Canteen, then feel free to ask all those questions about social media that you were afraid to ask.  Available from LSi Alembic Canteen or via Eventbrite (Click Here).

Sunday 17th February  – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Holy Communion with hymns

Sunday 24th February – 11.00 a.m. St. John’s Symondsbury – United Benefice Service with launch of the Benefice Choir.

A little quiet this month, but I will send updates if they come in.

Best wishes

Amanda

 

Farmer George’s Diary – February 2019

 

“Oh I do like to be beside the seaside, oh I do like to be beside the sea …..”  We had about half an inch of snow last week but you did not need to go very far inland to get stuck.  During the ‘beast from the east’ last year we lost about 2000 litres of milk a day for the two weeks.  Last week our milk output continued to climb.  I am pleased to say that the cows are milking really well which reflects upon the guys looking after them as well as the quality of forage that the tractor team made last year.

 

Let us hope that we have done winter and spring is around the corner.  I keep nervously checking the long range forecast, not that it does me any good.  With winter feed stocks low from last summer’s dry time, an early spring would be a God-send.  The mild weather so far has meant that the record number of acres sown to grass last autumn have grown really well; can we get the cows out to graze in March?   There is no doubt that the soil is still very dry; it makes life very easy getting muck out or even hedge trimming but we do need a month of steady drizzle to return it to water capacity.  Without that water, we are in for an interesting summer.  We will need to review our cropping programme in the spring; perhaps plant more maize after taking a cut of silage.

 

Thinking of maize, I heard last week that Messurol  has been banned.  It is a seed dressing against wire worms (they cause holes in the garden spuds) but it also discourages rooks from eating the maize seed as it germinates.  When we first grew maize in the 1970s, we had real problems and used to string a web of black Barbour thread across the fields to stop the birds landing; that was with 30 acres and we now grow 600!

 

One of the joys of farming is that you plan, you read the signs, you look at all the options but you never know what is around the corner (could be Brexit!

George

 

Wishing you a Happy New Year!

Tuesday 8th January - 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council meeting with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects. 

Friday 18th January – 7.30 p.m.  Broadoak Hall: Cabaret and Canapes – a fund raising cabaret evening in the village hall for the village hall featuring the best of village talent.  Full details to follow, but this is an event not to be missed; I will circulate details early next week, but please do put it in your diaries.

Sunday 20th January - 11.00 a.m. Powerstock Hut – Plough Sunday service – full details to follow.

Sunday 20th January – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Holy Communion with hymns

Saturday 2nd February7.30 p.m. Broadoak Hall   ‘The Banned Played On’ – ArtsReach         Hot Fingers and Emily Campbell present an eclectic mix of tunes from the 1920's to 1940's which were deemed unsuitable for the publics ears by the various authorities and governments of the time.    Whether the censorship was due to political or social reasons or, just plain bad taste, Hot Fingers share all the background stories. From Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald, to Fats Waller and George Formby, all will be played in the inimitable Hot Fingers styles of hot jazz, low down blues and popular song.

This is another great opportunity to have live entertainment right in the heart of our village – do come and enjoy.  Tickets from Georgina on 01308 424922

Amanda

 

Farmer George’s Diary – January 2019

I start the year with some trepidation; the end of March is rapidly approaching and yet we have not a jot of an idea of our nation’s future. Will ….

  • ·         we be in the EU?
  • ·         we be on the periphery and have access to the EU markets?
  • ·         we be out in the cold trading under WTO rules?
  • ·         the rest of EU try to shaft us at every turn?

As a dairy farmer, the short term question is over the strength of the pound.  A weak pound will help us in the immediate future but will ultimately cost us as so much of our life is dollar and oil dominated.

A weak pound will make importing food more expensive, which will give us a comparative advantage.  But will the consumer be prepared to switch diets to one which is based upon what this country produces in order to keep their weekly housekeeping budget low?

There are so many questions to be answered.  Meanwhile life on the farm continues with the cows milking well and dry weather meaning that we can continue to get slurry out onto the fields.  We are having lots of cows calve in which helps the production.

The very mild spell of weather has helped our young grass crops.  Even the ones sown late are doing well and thickening up nicely.  They should enable us to turn out early in the spring; this is essential as our stocks of silage are low compared to other years thanks to the dry summer.  Let us hope we have a ‘wus* from the west’ rather than a ‘beast from the east’!

A very Happy and Enlightening New Year to everyone.

George

*wus is an old west Dorset term for mild and innocuous weather!

 

This is a bit early this month, so I may have missed some events coming up – let me know if there are, and I will send out an update mid-November.

Sunday 4th November – No service at St. Paul’s this week.

Thursday 8th November – 7.30 p.m. Broadoak Hall – ArtsReach event : Meet Tommy Atkins  Journey through Tommy's war, and follow his life back home in Britain post war. Learn of his experiences in the trenches, fighting on the Somme, at Passchendaele and Loos; and also of the boredom, the loss and indeed the comradeship.  “Compelling, moving, insightful and believable…beautifully written and performed”.  Tickets from Georgina 01308 424922.  We are lucky to have been able to book this event for Broadoak, and it is a chance to really think about the 100th anniversary of WW1 and what it meant.

Sunday 11th November –10.50 a.m.  St. John the Baptist, Symondsbury. Remembrance Ceremony followed by a service in the Church;  Colmers Hill will have a river of poppies whilst being lit by red lighting for all to see.

Tuesday 13th November - 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council meeting with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects. 

Sunday 18th November – 10.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. Highlands End.  Eype Makers’ Market – that chance to find something special for your Christmas list.

Sunday 18th November – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Holy Communion with hymns

Friday 23rd November – 7.30 p.m. Symondsbury Tithe Barn – Gin and Jazz – fundraising event for Symondsbury School.  A jazz evening with Rachael Roberts with excellent food and drink.  Tickets £15 – phone Cat on 07974 910697, or call at the school.

Sunday 25th November – 4.00 – 5.30 p.m.  Marine Theatre Lyme Regis.  Cabaret and Cake – an event highlighting the work of the West Dorset Women’s Refuge and raising funds to support those living there.  We are so pleased that Hermione Norris (Spooks, Cold Feet, etc.) will be coming to do some of the readings for us.  Please come and support the work the Friends do.

Friday 7th December – time tbc  Broadoak Hall:  Curtain Raiser (possible name!) – a fund raising cabaret evening in the village hall for the village hall (our new curtain fund) featuring the best of village talent.  Full details to follow, but this is an event not to be missed.

Lots of events going on in the LSi building – in particular Sylvia Creed Castle’s presentation of ‘The Whitchurch men who went to War’ on 2nd and 3rd November and a talk on Vampires on 1st November.  All free.   www.lsibridport.co.uk

Farmer George’s Diary November 2018

 

What an amazing autumn.  The dry weather continues with just 41mm of rain in October (so far but none on the horizon just yet).   Unlike earlier months, when we were crying out for rain, this dry period has been a huge bonus for us; the maize harvest came off early with not a rut in a field, or mud on the road!  This may sound easy but it also implies less damage to the soil structure and less compaction; soil health is becoming a hot topic in farming and about time too.  Looking after the soil is a prerequisite to good farming and good crops.   The result is that we have sown more new grass leys than ever before – I believe we have put in 700 acres.  To help this we have invested in a “furrow press”.  This clever roller fits to the plough so that as the furrow turns over it is broken up as the first stage in making a good seedbed.

 

 

Those sharp eyed amongst you will have noticed it being pulled by a ‘green tractor’.  It is the first time we have had a John Deere.  They are great machines but up until now so were the Ford New Hollands.  Buglers have given us excellent service over the years with them too.  However the newer Fords with their GPS navigation systems are forever breaking down.  There is nothing more frustrating that wanting to get on with the job and technology stops you.  So, time for a change.

 

Assessing the our silage stocks for the winter is now critical; the maize turned out slightly better than anticipated in quantity and really good quality.  We think we will have sufficient feed for the winter but will need to monitor it all the time.  The excellent quality means that the cows are starting to milk quite well.  Just as well because we have lost over 30 cows to TB in the last month.   To help the stocks we are still making a few grass silage bales; by the end of October we should have made another 100 large bales – every bit helps!

 

This dry weather is brilliant for us but not so good for the sheep farmers.  Normally at this time of year we get sheep to graze down the grass so that it starts the next year with fresh growth.  The dry autumn means that we are able to do this with the youngstock.  That also saves us from feeding them silage if they were inside – a double bonus.

 

And finally …. every maize field not sown to grass is sown to beans, oats and mustard to give the winter cover which I wax lyrical about every year; this has huge environmental benefit as well as helping the soil structure.

 

 

 

Do let me know by the 20th October if there is anything you would like included in the November diary.  I am always happy to include things of local interest.

Sunday 30th September – 11.00 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – United Benefice Eucharist.  On the fifth Sunday of the month there is a United Benefice service in the smaller churches of the Eggardon and Colmer’s Benefice, and this month it is our turn in Broadoak.   As part of the service, we are having a talk from Janet Eardley – ‘Through the Roof – Living with Disability’.  This charity promotes British churches’ awareness of disability.  It would be lovely to have a good attendance at the service.

Sunday 30th September – 10.00 a.m. – 3.00 p.m. Urless Farm, Corscombe – the Melplash Show Hedging and Ploughing Match.  Bring a Scarecrow along for the competition.  All details on www.melplashshow.co.uk/category/hedging-a-ploughing.   Come on up after the service – refreshments available.

Monday 1st October – 6.30 p.m. Broadoak Village Hall – Annual General Meeting.  Do come along and join in the planning for the coming year – refreshments available.  We always welcome new members for our committee.

Tuesday 9th October - 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council meeting with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects. 

Thursday 18th October – 6.30 p.m. for 7.00 p.m. -  Groves Nurseries.  A fascinating talk on Orchids, their history and care.  This is in aid of the Bridport Area Development Trust – the organisation which has established the Literary and Scientific Institute and the West Bay Discover Centre at the Methodist Church.  Tickets from the LSi, Groves and the TIC.  Do come along and learn about these wonderful plants and support the organisation.

Friday 19th October – 6.00 p.m. – the Literary and Scientific Institute.  The AGM for Bridport Area Development Trust.  An opportunity to learn more about its work, and it will be followed by an entertaining talk on the local net and ropemaking industry, crucial to the creation of the LSi, by Bruce Upton, legendary local historian.   There will be refreshments before the start of the meeting.

Sunday 21st October – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Harvest Festival.   The celebration of the harvest home in our lovely rural church.  This is followed by a Harvest Supper in the Village Hall – tickets £6.50.  Please let me know if you’d like to come as it does help with the catering arrangements by the Village Hall Committee.

Best wishes

Amanda

Farmer George’s Diary October 2018

 

This extra ordinary year continues with just 33mm rain in September – and most of that was in 2 days.  It is so dry; so far this year we have had 422mm or 16 inches of which over half fell in February and March.   Luckily the rain we have had was sufficient to allow newly sown grass to germinate. 

We were able to make a cut of silage 2 weeks ago which will help our depleted stocks; we remain hopeful of a further cut towards the middle of October as well.

Maize harvesting is in full swing and we hope to finish by the middle of this week.  Yields are down on previous years but, given all things, are not too bad.  It will be interesting to get an idea of the quality; we will be very disappointed if it is not really good because the cobs are large and well grained.   As soon as the maize is off, we will be sowing either early growing grass or our usual cover crops.  With low silage stocks, if we getting grass ready to be cut or grazed in March could be our salvation.

Most of our lagoons and muck pits are empty but those that still have contents will be cleared onto the fields in the next 3 weeks.  The weather must turn soon, so we will be pressing on as much as we can. 

We are still letting the cows graze by day where we can; there is some grass growth but its feed value is limited. So our focus is on feeding them well whilst they are indoors but still letting them out as much as possible.  Milk yields are picking up helped by quite a number of cows calving. 

 

 

Sunday 2nd September  -  9.30 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – a short service for all – there will be all ages there, so see if you can spare 45 minutes of your Sunday for this.

 Friday 7th September – This is the closing day for the comments for the Neighbourhood Plan – please do fill in some sort of response if you are a resident of Bridport or Symondsbury Parish.  https://www.vision-2030.co.uk/app/download/5812326756/180_Q_180625_Pre-Submission-Plan_FINAL_print.pdf  

Saturday 8th September – Ride and Stride for Dorset Historic Churches.  Sadly no-one has ‘stepped up’ to take this on for our parish, but there will be people all over Dorset walking, cycling and riding in aid of our historic churches, so do look out for the opportunities to support those who are taking the time to do this. 

Tuesday 11th September  - 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council meeting with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.  The Council will be discussing the Neighbourhood Plan pre-submission document. 

Sunday 16th September - 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak - Holy Communion 

Thursday 20th September – 5.30 p.m. Bridport Museum - Annual General Meeting.  Everyone most welcome. 

Sunday 30th September – 11.00 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – United Benefice Eucharist.  On the fifth Sunday of the month there is a United Benefice service in the smaller churches of the Eggardon and Colmer’s Benefice, and this month it is our turn in Broadoak.   As part of the service, we are having a talk from Janet Eardley – ‘Through the Roof – Living with Disability’.  This charity promotes British churches’ awareness of disability.  It would be lovely to have a good attendance at the service. 

 

Farmer George’s Diary 

I hope you all enjoyed the Melplash Show – for those of you that did not make it, you missed a wonderful day: we were packed all day in the Discover Farming area.   I am so grateful to the large band of volunteers who help us and without whom we could not have put on such a great event for so many young people. 

Now we turn to autumn work; the weather looks much more benign that usual. We have had a couple of inches of rain and the temperature has dropped so grass is starting to grow again thank goodness.  It was only last week that I saw our cows out grazing a proper sward rather than chasing odd seed heads!   To give an idea of how the dry summer has affected us, we have exactly half the amount of grass silage that we had this time last year.  With growth under way we are hopeful for another cut in 2 or 3 weeks’ time which will help.  With careful management we think we will then have enough to see us through the winter.  Much will depend on the size of the maize crop; in places it is looking really good (12 feet tall) but in others it is awful, so what will be the average??  We have budgeted fairly cautiously.

 

There are upsides to the summer weather; the maize is maturing about a month earlier than usual.  This means we plan to start our harvest in about 10 days’ time.  The knock-on effect is that we will be able to establish either a new grass crop or a successful cover crop before the weather breaks and it gets too cold.  Much depends on the next month, but the forecast is optimistic – we shall see!

Meanwhile before then, we need to plough and reseed some of our grazing fields.  This year demonstrated the benefit of this reseeding - those fields with young pastures in them seriously outperformed the older leys – they just kept growing.  It gives us an opportunity to empty any muck pits and start the winter with empty lagoons and pits.

 Over the summer we fed the cows as well as we were able (without much grass); the result is that the milk volume held up quite well.  Now they are able to go out grazing properly again and many cows are calving down and we are seeing volumes recover.

 The swallows are massing on our phone lines, the schools go back this week, and the farming year starts all over again.   What is it in the Lion King – the circle of life!

 George

 

 

August 2018

I will start with the sad news that Anthea Bay has died, very suddenly, shortly after moving back near her daughter’s home in Kent.  There will be a service of thanksgiving in Whitchurch on Tuesday 14th August at 11.00.  Anthea was a real stalwart of both the church and the Village Hall and our thoughts are with her family.

Sunday 5th August  -  9.30 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Family Service

Thursday 9th August – 6.30 p.m. Broadoak Hall – Summer Supper and Quiz to raise funds for the hall and have a very amusing night out! Tickets £6.50.   Please do come along and support us and do let me know if you’d like to come to help us with the catering.

Sunday 12th August – 2.00 p.m. The Ilchester Arms – Symondsbury Flower and Produce Fair.   Schedules, Ilchester Arms, Balsons and the Church.  Cream Teas, Bric-a-brac, tombola and more.

Tuesday 14th August – 6.00 p.m. Symondsbury School – Bridport Area Neighbourhood Plan Pre-submission Consultation open evening. Time to Decide.  Do come along if you have questions to ask or comments to make. There will also be more information on the Neighbourhood Plan, for those in Bridport, Allington, Bradpole, Bothenhampton and Symondsbury Parishes.   https://www.vision-2030.co.uk/app/download/5812326756/180_Q_180625_Pre-Submission-Plan_FINAL_print.pdf   This is a massive document, but please do spend a little time looking through it if you can – it will affect the future of all those living in these parishes and you all have a chance to make a contribution towards it.

Tuesday 14th August  – 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council meeting with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.  The Council will be discussing the Neighbourhood Plan pre-submission document.

Sunday 19th August – 3.00 p.m. Higher Moorbath Farm, Broadoak.  Cream tea and optional walk in aid of Motor Neurone Disease research.  Call Jane or Jerry on 01308 425717 for more information if needed.

Sunday 19th August – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak Evening Prayer with Hymns

Thursday 23rd August – THE MELPLASH SHOW – don’t forget!   www.melplashshow.co.uk

Farmer George’s Diary

 

For those of you who might be sad enough to compare last year’s diary with this year, you will see that we are a complete opposite - in July last year we had 4 inches of rain, this year there was 1 inch.  I said “for dairy cows this is brilliant; summer rainfall is the most important thing for good grass growth both for moisture and to keep the soil temperatures down.  When the ground gets too warm, grass growth stops almost regardless of how much moisture it in it.”  Well this year proved my point.  We have no grass to graze and are feeding a full winter ration. 

Over the last 4 days we have had just less than 1 inch of rain and the ambient temperature is a great deal cooler.  This should be enough to stimulate some growth.  Before the rain we cut and baled about 279 bales off 300 acres.  In a ‘normal’ year we would have had about 1500.  However by cutting and removing the ‘bennets’ (grass stalks with seed heads) we should stimulate vegetative growth helped by the rain and cooler conditions.  Hopefully we will get a half sensible cut in early September.

Most of our maize looks acceptable given the year.  A few fields will be very poor but none are a write-off.  We have 2 months growing yet so we are ever hopeful for good quality with one large cob per plant.

 This is the year to make the most of our slurry pits – using all that dirty water collected over the winter in our lagoons to good effect on the silage fields.  We do have to be really careful though because the ground is so cracked, the slurry can go straight down into the water course.

Now is also the time to make sure our buildings and drains are ready for the winter.  At Purcombe we had a large amount of rainwater and ground water get into the slurry system.  With help from Grant Brooks and his digger, we are installing a ‘French drain’ (pipe with stone above it to the surface) above the buildings to put it into the fresh water system before getting to the buildings.  At the same time, we are finding old drains blocked and collapsed and gutters that leak which we are repairing. 

The good thing about the year is the ground cracking: over the autumn we will ‘sub-soil’ the fields that we plough up.  That is pulling a tine through the ground 12inches down.  With  cracks from the dry weather and the really hard dry ground we are able to shatter the clay lumps and break up any compaction caused in the wet times.  This helps water drainage and improves deep root growth.

Last year I also said “The huge joy and delight of farming is that no two seasons are ever the same (it also means we moan about the weather).”  You have to admit, we all look really healthy and it is lovely having supper outside every night.   We sit on the lawn and listen to the mewing of a family of buzzards.

We are in the run up to the Melplash Show on Thursday 23rd August.  If you would like to help us in the Discover Farming tent we would be glad of your company; it is always great fun and really rewarding seeing young people totally immersed in learning from where their food comes and how it is grown, harvested and prepared to eat.  You will get a free ticket to the show and an excellent lunch!

 

George

 

 

 

 

We are delighted to have two new families in Broadoak – at Postbox Cottage and Lower Denhay.  We hope they enjoy life in the village. 

Sunday 1st July  -  9.30 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Morning service is cancelled this week.  

Sunday 1st July – Broadoak Pony Show – from 10.00 a.m.  An old-fashioned pony show for younger people with refreshments provided by the Broadoak Hall committee.  Come and cheer them along and enjoy our barbecue. 

Tuesday 10th July  – 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council meeting with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.  The Council will be discussing the proposed Bridport Town Council boundary review, which will affect our parish quite dramatically, so do come along.  We have distributed to our parishioners information about this to gauge reaction, so do look out for leaflets or notices.    

There will also be more information on the Neighbourhood Plan, for those in Bridport, Allington, Bradpole, Bothenhampton and Symondsbury Parishes.   https://www.vision-2030.co.uk/app/download/5812326756/180_Q_180625_Pre-Submission-Plan_FINAL_print.pdf   This is a massive document, but please do spend a little time looking through it if you can – it will affect the future of all those living in these parishes and you all have a chance to make a contribution towards it.

Tuesday 17th July – 7.00 p.m. Bridport Arts Centre.   Bridport Undressed – This talk will explore the changing fabrics, silhouettes and styles of ladies dress, this is linked to the politics and economics of world history. This is part of the wonderful Bridport Museum exhibition of textiles from their collection,  open at the Arts Centre until 18th July.  Do call in and see the amazing collection of clothing and textiles from the Museum collection – there are some real surprises there.

Sunday 29th July – 1.00 p.m.  Lammas Service on Eggardon (Askerswell Village Hall if wet).Come and bring a picnic to share and join our short service, bread making competition and kite flying.  For more details, contact me on 01308 422770.  The festival of Lammas celebrates the first harvest and gives thanksgiving for the coming harvest and is the first harvest festival of the year.

Monday 31st July – 10.30 a.m. Broadoak Hall.  Arts events for 5-7 year olds and 8-12 year olds.   Tickets available from the TIC and details from Nikki Northover 07765 971357

 

FARMER GEORGE’S DIARY – July 2018

Well, who’d a thought it!  The last rain on my chart was 31st May.  In the whole of that month we only had 28mm – we had that in one day on 10th April!  This brings back memories of 1976 – my first year in farming when all the fields turned brown and Denhay imported carrots from East Anglia to feed the cows.

I see that last month I said “Now all we need is an inch of rain!!”.  We still need it only more so as it is really dry – when the cows go out to graze, it is almost more for exercise than anything else.    We are feeding the cows a full winter ration which will make for a very long winter.  Luckily our feed stocks are good, but they will not last forever.

We had a reasonable first cut of silage and quite a good second cut a week ago.  But now growth has stalled.  It is not just lack of water; grass growth also declines rapidly if ground temperature rises too much.  So however much water you put on (if you had it, which we don’t) it will only make the grass turn green.

However we are using our slurry lagoons, which were full of dirty rainwater, to good effect and applying it to the maize fields to help them.  Most of our crops are not looking too bad, but where the seed bed was knobbly, there is very poor germination.  The ‘dirty’ water might help these poorer crops.  We are in a better place than some: I heard of 40 acres which has not germinated at all.  Driving around central Dorset I saw some horrid sights.  The heavy and wet Marshwood Vale is coming into its own this year.   So will our maize be “knee high by 4th July” – some of it is there already, so we should not be far off that simple target. 

As regards the cows themselves – they do not like the heat.  My son William tells me their perfect temperature is 8 degrees.   It is better to keep them inside during the day and turn out at night when it is a little cooler.  Our milk is holding up quite well which shows the importance of feeding them well.

With some trepidation I went up the hill yesterday to look at the trees we planted back in early April. It was a pleasant surprise as I only found 2 dead trees and most of the hedging plants were doing well also.  There must be some moisture still in the ground.

Despite all the problems, it is lovely eating supper outside every evening and just enjoying glorious sunshine.  Make the most of it; the rain is due to start on July 26th, when the schools break up!

 

George Streatfeild

 

JUNE 2018

A little earlier than usual this month due to our Bath & West involvement – see below.   Thanks to all those who replied to my GDPR note, along with the hundreds of others you will have received over the past month.  I have taken the liberty of including a few of you from whom I have not heard, in the hope that you are still interested.   I will leave you on for another month or two.

 Sunday 3rd June  -  9.30 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – our every age worship – short service, but plenty of chat afterwards and of course cakes.

 Sunday 26th May –  Sunday 3rd June – 10.00 a.m. – 3.00 p.m.  Dorset Art Weeks at New House Farm.  Visit the pottery, wood working studio and Lupin Designs and many other wonderful exhibitions all around the county.   www.dorsetartweeks.co.uk  

 Wednesday 6th June – 8.00 – 9.00 p.m. – Pint and a Ponder at the Ilchester Arms.  Join Rev Chris Grasske for an informal discussion with a glass of something.   cgrasske@outlook.com for more information.

 Friday 8th June – 9.30 a.m. – 12.00 p.m. – 150th Anniversary of Symondsbury School.  If you have had any connection with the School over the past 150 years (!), do join in the celebrations and pass the invitation on to those you know you might like to come.   Contact office@symondsbury.dorset. sch.uk

 Tuesday 12th June  – 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council meeting with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.  This will be our Annual General Meeting at which we elect our chairman and allocate responsibilities for various jobs within the parish, such as Lengthsman responsibility and footpaths.  I am delighted that Bob Driscoll, our Chairman, agreed to stay on for a further year.   The Council will be discussing the proposed Bridport Town Council boundary review, which will affect our parish quite dramatically, so do come along.  We hope to be distributing to our parishioners information about this to gauge reaction, so do look out for leaflets or notices.

 Sunday 17th June – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Evening Prayer with hymns.   You can chose one if you get there early enough!

 Monday 11th – Saturday 16th June – Bridport Food Festival   www.bridportfoodfestival.co.uk

 Sunday 1st July – Broadoak Pony Show – from 10.00 a.m.

 FARMER GEORGE’S DIARY – JUNE 2018

 A week may be a long time in politics but three weeks is even longer on a dairy farm in the spring!  We have been blessed with the most glorious weather and that long list of work to be done has been done.  Our guys have done an amazing job helped by Bartletts the contractors. 

 As I said last month, the success of a dairy farm depends on 2 weeks in May.  This year those two weeks were perfect – warm and dry.  We cut, spread out to dry, rowed up picked up and clamped all without a hitch.  In fact we finished by 17th May which is the earliest we have ever completed first cut silage.  The yields were poor, but that was to be expected after the late winter weather.  But the quality should be good as it was made with sunshine and was well wilted.  To make good silage we need to wilt it by spreading it out: ideally we achieve about 30% dry matter (fresh is about 18%).  Then we cut it ½ long and ‘clamp’ it – that is putting into airtight bunkers to ensure an anaerobic fermentation rather similar to making picked onions.  The secondary benefit from a good wilt is one gets no silage effluent leaving the clamp and finding its way into the water course; this is a highly polluting substance and can cause terrible trouble by using up the oxygen in the water and thus suffocating aquatic life.

 Once the grass was cut, our energies turned to getting the rest of the muck spread, the ground ploughed and seedbeds prepared for maize.  All that was achieved by May 25th – admittedly 2 weeks later than ideal, but all in really good, moist and warm seedbeds.  The next ‘target’ is that it should be ‘knee high by 4th July’.

 Now all we need is an inch of rain!!

 Meanwhile our cows are loving grazing fresh grass in fields that are no longer bogs and clearly enjoying the sun. All our cows get out to grass every day; apart from the benefit to the cows, it takes some pressure off our teams looking after them which is always appreciated.   It is also good to see the hill fields being grazed well by the heifers.  I hate it when they ski down the slopes in the wet tearing up all the grass and leaving the way for thistles and nettles to establish themselves.

 Amanda and I are off to The Royal Bath and West Show this week.  We have been involved for more years than I care to remember (and at least 27 in my case – Amanda!).  Amanda used to run the Cheese Show, one of the UK’s premier cheese competitions and I run the Food Hall area; we both feel that it is a brilliant way to demonstrate the best of British Food and Drink to consumers.   85% of the show’s visitors have no connection to agriculture. We need to enable people to reconnect the food they eat to the land we farm, the environment we care for and the animals we look after.  Why not come along!!   www.bathandwest.com

 

 

Thanks to all those who acknowledged my email asking for confirmation that you are happy to keep receiving ‘Farmer George’ and the local diary.  This will be the last one for those who haven’t let me know, but thank you for looking at it over the past year or so, and hope you will keep in touch another way. 

Sunday 6th May  -  9.30 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – our every age worship – short service, but plenty of chat afterwards and of course cakes.  

Tuesday 8th May  –7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council Annual Parish Meeting – a little complicated as we have to have both an Annual Parish Meeting, and an Annual General Meeting.  This first one is the chance to review the previous year and to give suggestions as to what we might need in the parish for the coming year.  This year, we are lucky to have Jacqui Andrews attending our meeting.  Jacqui is Corporate Manager, Democratic Services and Elections,  and will be talking about the forthcoming review we might have to amend the boundaries of the parish, particularly in connection with the proposed development at Vearse Farm.  There will be refreshments! 

Tuesday 15th May  – 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council meeting with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.  This will be our Annual General Meeting at which we elect our chairman and allocate responsibilities for various jobs within the parish, such as Lengthsman responsibility and footpaths.   Bob Driscoll, our Chairman for the past year, is stepping down, and it is a chance to thank him for all his hard work, and to select a new chairman from the elected or nominated councillors. 

Sunday 20th May – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Holy Communion with hymns.   You can chose one if you get there early enough! 

Tuesday 22nd May – 7.30 p.m. St John the Baptist, Symondsbury.  This is a special meeting of the Parochial Church Council to explain the possible plans for the reordering of the church – repairing the roof, installing toilet facilities and other exciting plans.   This really is an opportunity for anyone who cares about our parish church to come along and contribute to the discussion. 

Amanda 

FARMER GEORGE’S DIARY – MAY 2018 

I find there is a huge temptation to just cut and paste last month’s diary.  Over April we have had 92mm of rain – not as much as March, but getting on that way.  Luckily most of it fell at the start of the month.  Things are slowly drying out and we have been able to do an amount of field work. 

Most of the fields have now been fertilized, we have spread most of the heaps of muck and some of the ploughing has been done.  The really good news is that on some of the lighter land we have been able to prepare the soil and drill (sow) the maize. 

We were finally able to get the cows out to graze towards the end of April, although they have had to come in for a couple of days since due to more rain.  We are on a Waitrose contract which requires us to graze every cow for at least 120 days in the year.  Normally that is not an issue, but this year, grazing has hardly started!  The grass is growing but with such wet soil, if we turn the cows out onto it, they not only ruin the grass, but also cause deep hoof prints which leads to soil compaction and water logged ground.

The heifers were turned out on the hill fields which are slightly drier; this reduces the team’s workload so that they can get on with the field work.

We are very keen to get on with some silage for several reasons; fields which would have been grazed earlier but have now grown ahead of the cows need to be cut to allow them to return to the grazing rotation and other fields need to be cut before they are ploughed and drilled with maize. 

Our biggest worry with the silage making is the level of nitrogen in the plant material.  A late application, as we have this year, results in a ‘luxury’ uptake of the nitrogen by the grass. This in turn can result in a poor fermentation and butyric (rancid) silage which the cows will not eat with relish. Ideally there is a 6 week gap between fertilizer application and cutting; this year it will be less than a month; one cannot delay cutting date because the feed value falls dramatically once the grass starts to produce seed heads – and that is controlled by day length, not warmth or wet. To overcome this we need lots of sunshine and a dry period to wilt the grass and make silage that is about 30% Dry Matter (DM)as opposed to fresh cut grass which is about 20%DM. It is ‘all to play for’! 

I have always said that the profitability of dairy farming depends on 2 weeks in May; it will be never truer than this year. Let us hope for a warm dry spell in the next 2 weeks. Not only will this help the cows and silage making but it will also allow us the get the rest of the maize drilled in good time.

Last month I said we were going to do some tree planting – which we did.  The Dorset Wildlife Trust also joined in by planting trees in some of our hedgerows; this is under a scheme paid for by the electricity boards – most of their money will go to burying the cables in key areas, such as Winterbourne Abbas.  However some money was put aside for other areas to offset the sight of the pylon lines.   I have also planted the wild flower mixes: we just have to wait to see if anything grows – they have the moisture!

 

 

April, 2018 A bit late this month I am afraid, and I may need to update during the month. 

GDPR – General Data Protection Legislation.  In order to ensure that you are happy that I have your email details held on my system, please could you confirm that you would like to continue receiving this newsletter.  I suspect there are bigger issues out there than me sending out the Broadoak Diary, but I would feel happier that you could confirm that you would like to continue receiving this.

Thanks Amanda

 

Tuesday 3rd April – 6.30 p.m. St. John the Baptist – Symondsbury – the church’s Annual General Meeting – a chance to hear about the plans for re-ordering the church – putting in a servery and loos, and making the church much more accessible.  Please do come.

 

Sunday 8th April  - 11.00 The Broadoak Hall Spring Walk – our regular walk through the Vale – different each year, followed by a wonderful hot lunch in the Village Hall.  Tickets £8.00 – come for lunch even if you don’t do the walk.   Please let me know if you’d like to come;  the weather will be perfect then!

 

Tuesday 10th April – 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council meeting with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.

 

Wednesday 11th – Sunday 15th April – the wonderful Page to Screen Festival, one of Bridport’s highlights of the year   www.bridport-arts.com/from-page-to-screen

 

Thursday 12th April – 6.00 for 6.30 p.m. – Bridport Town Hall.  The Bridport Local Area Partnership Annual Assembly.   Stephen Hill and Cllr Anthony Alford will be outlining the future for our local community under the new unitary authority – this will be such an interesting evening.

 

Sunday 15th April  - 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak.  A Rogation themed evensong Service –

 

FARMER GEORGE’S DIARY – APRIL 2018

 

This should be renamed Farmer George’s aquaculture!  In March we had 134mm rain (5.3 inches) and last night we had a further 25mm (1 inch).  Amanda and I went for a short walk yesterday before the rain started and some fields look as if they are coved in pond weed.

 

This is a really frustrating start to the year.  After a wet autumn last year when we had to get the cows inside two weeks before we wanted, we now will not get them out to graze until May!   Our muck pits and lagoons are full, the grass is not growing, the fields are waterlogged and the garden birds are still eating me out of house and home!

 

Within a month we should have:

  1. 1.       Fertilized all the grass and corn land
  2. 2.       Ploughed, worked and sown the maize
  3. 3.       Cut and harvested first cut silage
  4. 4.       Turned the cows out to graze
  5. 5.       Turned the heifers onto the hill for the summer
  6. 6.       Repaired the grazing field fences
  7. 7.       ……………….!

 

Well, we will be busy!

 

One thing we can do whilst waiting is plant some trees.  We plan to plant a small ‘clump’ at the top of the hill overlooking Purcombe and Beerlands; this will become quite a landmark across the vale in time.  We also plan to do some small replanting of trees, hedge plants and shrubs around areas which we have laid hedges and removed brambles this winter.  I am going to try some wild flower mixes on some verges as well – this is notoriously hard to achieve but worth a go – I will report back in time.

 

Happy Easter!

 

 

A quiet month, as far as I can tell.  Do let me have any very local events you want publicised. 

Sunday 4th March  -  9.30 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – our every age worship – short service, but plenty of chat afterwards and of course cakes. – sorry you all missed that! 

Tuesday 13th March – 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council meeting with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects. 

Sunday 18th March  - 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak.   Holy Communion with hymns. 

24th/25th March – 10 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. at Whitchurch Village Hall to commemorate the local men who died in the First World War.

Sunday 25th March – 4.30 p.m. St. Peter’s Eype – Palm Sunday service with the Bishop of Sherborne. 

Saturday 31st March – 7.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak –

Easter Eve service followed by a chance to break your Lenten fast!

 

Farmer George’s Diary March 2018

 

Well, the last few days have been very interesting!  I think in the Vale we missed the worst of the weather which hit either side of us.  Nevertheless, there were 48 hours of hard work for the farm: getting water to the cows and getting milk away were the greatest challenges.  The milk hauliers were pretty good and we only had to throw away one day’s milk from the Denhay dairy; all the other dairies were collected.

The bigger worry was the water; cows drink about 130 litres a day.  If they get short, unsurprisingly their milk declines.  It is really hard to claw back yield once it drops.  It does not help if your feed is being covered in snow and shared with lots of wildlife.

I was going to talk about Mr Gove’s environmental policies and the effect on farm incomes. I accept that farmers should be paid for ‘public good’, but I am concerned that the pendulum may swing too far towards environmental benefit and forget what farming is primarily about: produce food for the nation.  I am being most careful to avoid politics, but would make the observation that if the consumer wants agriculture to have high animal welfare, environmental and production standards they will have to support farmers if other food is imported to the UK with lesser standards yet sold at the same price. 

Back to the farm; now that the weather is returning to more normal (wet) conditions we will be starting to prepare for the spring.  Already the winter wheat has had its first dressing of nitrogen.  As soon as the ground is firm enough, we will be doing the same on the grass fields before preparing those for silage by rolling stones and mole hills.  This year’s frost will push stones up out of the ground in an amazing fashion; they then ruin the blades of the mower if not pushed back into the ground.

Periods of good weather are easily forgotten, but before the snow we have had two glorious weeks when we were able to get muck onto the land, lower the lagoons, which were all quite full, and tidy up all the hedge trimmings where we have been laying hedges and cleaning ditches.  Grant Brooks, with his Hymac digger, has had some glorious fires which he luckily finished just before the snow came.

Finally an old Vale saying “If March comes in like a Lion, it will go out like a lamb” – some hope!

 

George

 

 

Good morning all 

A day late, but working on my computer now takes even longer as George has set up what looks like a scientific research station outside the window with six different kinds of bird feeders to attract every kind of bird around here.  George’s brother and sister walked the farm on Sunday and saw 36 different varieties.  Please let me know if this goes into your junk mail section, and you’d like to come off the mailing list.  If not, I’ll continue to keep you up to date with local activities, and with the farming calendar, and do let me know if you need anything advertised.

 

Friday 5th January  6.30 p.m. Broadoak Hall -  Quiz night and sausage supper.  Start at 6.30 with Lesley’s epic quiz (not your standard pub quiz) and a sausage supper at half time.  Tickets £6.50/head (children half price).  Please could you let me know if you’d like to come to help us with catering arrangements.  We still have some more improvements we would like to do for the hall, so please come along and join us and help us raise the funds, as well as enjoy yourselves!

 

Sunday 7th January  - 9.30 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Epiphany Service.  A short service with time for a chat afterwards over tea and coffee.

  

Tuesday 9th January  –7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.

 

Sunday 14th January – 12.00 p.m.Askerswell Village Hall.  12.00 p.m.  Plough Sunday.  A short service followed by Ploughman’s Lunch (what else on Plough Sunday!). This started last year in our Benefice and is part of the traditional farming calendar celebrated by the church going back to the 19th century.  Do please come along, though it will be helpful to have some numbers.

 

Sunday 21st January – 6.30 p.m. – St. Paul’s Broadoak - Holy Communion.  Not such an ordeal with our heating system now!

 

So a quiet month, but gear yourselves up for February, when we will be having Village Hall Breakfast on 11th February. 

 

 

Farmer George’s Diary

 

As a traditional farmer, I will start this year discussing the rain! The chart below shows the rolling average rainfall since December 2015 in inches.

 

( Sorry no graph available Ed. )

From this graph you can see that our ‘normal rainfall is around 33 inches.  However this last year has been something of a roller coaster.  Since August 2016 there has continually been less rain than average which has pushed the rolling average down – 25 inches is really dry as an annual average rainfall.  However you can see that since June 2017 each month except October has had more rain than usual pushing our rolling average back to more normal levels; the wet December with 4.3 inches was the wettest month this year and has pushed us back to about the rolling average.  It is no surprise that our lagoons are now full.  We need a dry January – please!

 

As in other years, we have had sheep grazing the old sward (grass) to allow for new lush growth for the cows to graze in spring or be made into top quality silage in May.  The wet September meant that some fields which should have been cut for silage were not, so the sheep have been essential to remove that old material.  Now we are into the new year, they need to go to allow the fresh growth which is coming as the days get longer.  It will soon be time to get out onto the fields with the pepper pot (fertilizer spinner) to help the grass.

 

In the dairies the daily routine of milking, bedding and cleaning the cows continues.  Many cows calve at this time of year and it is a joy to see the young ones suckling their mothers in the pen next to the road at the Denhay dairy.

 

We are again celebrating the start of the farming year with a Plough Sunday service in Askerswell Village Hall on Sunday 14th January.  This is the traditional occasion when we bless the plough prior to a new year’s work on the farm. Do come and join us at midday for mulled cider, a service of blessing the plough and then a Ploughman’s lunch – everyone will be extremely welcome.  Numbers please to amanda@higherdenhay.co.uk

 

A very Happy and Prosperous New Year to everyone.

 

George

 

 

Sorry – a couple of days late, but hope you have a chance to read it all through, and see what is going on locally. 

Happy Christmas - Amanda

Friday 1st December – 4.00 p.m. – 8.00 p.m.Washingpool Farm Shop – Festive late night opening with carols from the Broadoak Choir at 6.30 p.m.

Sunday 3rd December - 9.30 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Christingle Service – we’d love to see, in particular, anyone with children at this service – a great start to Christmas at this first Sunday in Advent.   It’s just half an hour, so please try and come and all are welcome.

Saturday 9th December – 7.30 p.m. Broadoak Village Hall – Artsreach:  A Christmas Carol (see below) Tickets, ASAP please, from Georgina Burnham (herbagefarm@btinternet.com) on 01308 424922

Tuesday 12th December –7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects. WE are delighted to have enlisted one new councillor, Sylvia Ainley, but still have a vacancy for one more.  We live in interesting times, so come and play your part.

Wednesday 13th December – 9.00 p.m. Shave Cross Inn – if you haven’t been already, come along this evening for a swift half (or whatever), see the revamped pub and join in some well-loved carols.

Wednesday 20th December – 6.30 p.m. St Paul’s Broadoak – our traditional carol service with a twist.  Mulled wine and mince pies afterwards, if the carol singing is not enough of an attraction.   The best way to get in the Christmas mood.  Please come along and fill the church the way you always do.

Monday 25th December - 9.30 a.m. St. John’s Symondsbury – Crib Service – the Christmas Service for the communities of Symondsbury, Broadoak and Eype.  There will still be time to cook your turkey.

Farmer George’s Diary – December 2017

 

Wow!  I have just added up the rainfall so far this year; we have had 24.72 inches with one month to go.  20% of that rain fell in September causing the problems we had with maize harvest.   Our ‘average’ annual rainfall is about 32 inches; will we get a wet December – unlikely at this stage!

So what are the implications for farmers?   If you dig down, it is quite dry underneath which means driving tractors on the land will not do huge damage to the soil and we will be able to spread muck.  However I hear that the south east is already talking of water rationing – let us wait and see.

The wet September and then the comparatively dry and mild weather since has resulted in a huge amount of grass in the fields.  Normally much of it would have been cut for silagetwo months ago, but that was not possible.  We now have several local sheep farmers’ flocks chewing it down.  This is really important because the old grass needs to be removed as it will have no feed value by the spring.  This will allow the fresh growth in order to make the best quality silage next year.  The wet September also resulted in the heifers ‘poaching’ our hill land (leaving deep footprints).  Sheep at this time of year, besides removing the old grass, will tread the soil and help repair earlier damage.  Historically they were always referred to as ‘the golden hoof’ for that reason.

December sees us settling down into the winter routine; it is all about looking after the cows and heifers well and focusing on both the milk and fertility.  It is no good just milking a cow; you have to get it back in calf again for the next lactation.  Much of this depends on getting the feed right – energy, protein and minerals.  At the moment we clearly have it right as our conception rate is looking really good – well done to Nigel who does the inseminations and sorry to those of you who assumed we had lots of bulls as well as cows!

TB and badgers are never far away from our thinking.  I am sure that the ‘solution’ will be action taken on a number of fronts.  One area is ‘bio-security’ in other words fencing the cow sheds so that badgers cannot get in and feed on the cow food – which results in their saliva getting onto that which the cows eat.  The other action is raising water troughs so that the badgers cannot drink from them for the same reason (there are plenty of streams for them).

Denhay is a Waitrose milk supplier; they do pay a price based on the cost of production, which is an enormous help but with that comes a number of requirements with which we are pleased to adhere; these are mostly about animal welfare and the environment.  Recently we had a wildlife audit on their behalf to see how we manage the farm and the richness of our wildlife on it. Our oats, beans and radish which we plant into the maize stubbles are certainly well approved both by the auditor and the birds – they become a real haven especially on the cold mornings.   Unknown to us they monitor the birds and our ‘count’ has increased from last year – we must be doing something right!

Happy Christmas to one and all

Farmer George

 Joy to all mankind... Bah! 

Spend an evening in the company of a mean, tight-fisted, squeezing, grasping, clutching old miser. Bah! 

Celebrate the festive season with a mesmerising one-man performance of Charles Dickens’ timeless, transformative story: A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Bah! And Bah! 

Suitable for adults and older children (8+) 

 

 

Sunday 5th November - 9.30 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – our ‘relaxed’ service with tea and coffee afterwards.

 Sunday 12th November – 10.50 a.m. St. John’s, Symondsbury.  A Service of Remembrance.  Just come to the laying of the wreaths and reading of names if you’d like to; it is always a moving occasion, with so many village families named.

 Monday 13th November – 7.00 p.m. Broadoak Village Hall – Our Annual General Meeting – not usually the dry occasion (in every sense!) AGMs can be.   We’d love to have ideas for events and improvements, so do come along.

 Tuesday 14th November –7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.  We are looking for a new councillor, so come along and see what we do if you are at all interested.

 Friday 17th November – 6.30 p.m. Broadoak Village Hall - Beetle Drive and Supper.  No better way of raising your heart rate than bringing a team or just yourself to play some Beetle sessions.  An excellent opportunity to join the fund raising for Symondsbury Church.   Let me know if you’d like to come, or contact Sue Poppitt on 425332.  Tickets are £7.50 each – drinks available

 Sunday 19th November – 10.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m.  Highlands End, Eype DT6 6AR – Eype Makers’ Market – all your Christmas present problems sorted in one place.  Do come along and support the charities.  eypemakersmarket@gmail.com for more information.

 Sunday 19th November – 6.00 – 7.30 p.m. The Arts Centre, Bridport – the launch of the Friends of the West Dorset Family Crisis and Information Centre.  This is a support group for the local Refuge, established to give financial aid for residents and to provide extra items to make life for the women and children easier, amongst other things.   If you’d like to know more about this, or would like to attend, please contact me or email friendsofwestdorsetrefuge@gmail.com.  There will be a chance to learn more about the Refuge and how it supports people, with light refreshments and some live entertainment.

 Sunday 19th November – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Evening Prayer with Hymns.

 Friday 24th November – 7.30 p.m. Broadoak Hall – The Bare Bulb Theatre Company is presenting ‘Two’, a comedy by successful playwright, Jim Cartwright.  A raft of characters appear, propped up against the bar of a northern pub, but it could so easily be your local.   Another wonderful opportunity for live theatre in your own village hall.  The contact and tickets for TWO are on the door, or  contact  juliepwood@aol.com or fraserwilson99@hotmail.co.uk   There is a Facebook page if interested.

 

 Monday 27th November – 7.30 p.m.  Symondsbury School – AGM of Symene Community Land Trust.  With various developments happening around the area, this is another opportunity to hear about plans for the Trust to possibly provide some housing for local people.   Please come along if you are at all interested. 

 The Living Tree cancer support group has been chosen by Aviva to be entered in their "competition" for funding towards their Stepping Out cancer rehab programme at Bridport Leisure Centre.  This is a brilliant exercise programme which has made a huge difference to sufferers’ health and fitness.  The projects which get the most votes will receive £5000 each towards their work.

 If you feel you could support this, please go to the Aviva website to register and choose Living Tree Stepping Out to give all 10 of your votes to:  https://community-fund.aviva.co.uk/voting/project/view/17-6023.   When registered, go to Get Involved and then put in Stepping out.  The public vote closes on 21st November. 

  

Farmer George’s Diary – November 2017

 Amanda and I were really pleased to be away for the two weeks of October when maize harvest took place.  What a nightmare it turned out to be; a good reminder that one must always respect the Marshwood Vale soil.

 We eventually completed the job last Friday with two late sown maize fields at Denhay.    We have had some respite since then as it has remained dry and mild.  The result is that we have been able to sort out any damage (ruts) and have sown a cover crop of oats, beans and radish.  You may remember we did that last year with great success.  We have made a small change by adding radish which is frost resistant and grows a deep tap root which will improve soil structure and grow down through any ‘plough pan’ that has been created.

 Plough pan is mainly an issue on clay soils (ours).  It is caused by the bottom of the plough smearing the subsoil 7 inches down as it passes through the ground.  The result is that water will not pass through the smeared clay and the ground becomes waterlogged.  Also, new plant roots find it very hard to penetrate it, thus restricting growth.  It can be ‘cured’ by pulling a deep tines implement through the soil but that take energy and time

 At Loders we have done something different; we have sown a fast growing grass called Italian Ryegrass.  This will grow through the winter and give us a cut of silage in early May before we plough the ground and put it back into maize – double cropping!

 November sees us getting well and truly into our winter routine – feeding and bedding cows and youngstock, getting slurry out while it is still dry.  It is an excellent time of year to get the muck out, apart from the need to create storage capacity for the rest of the winter, because it has the next 4 months in which to rot into the ground and stimulate fresh growth in the spring. 

 This month is also one of the peak calving periods – milk volumes should increase which is good because around Christmas there is always an increased demand for milk and particularly cream.    It is also good to see new birth – the Denhay herd calving pen is on the side of the road, so every time one drives past, you have that wonderful view of young calves.

 Then if time allows we should start fencing.  Wooden posts never seem to last as long as they used to!  Many fences need repair and quite a few will have to be replaced.  It is rather like the Forth road bridge – when you finish one end, it is time to start again.  The difference is painting the bridge does not require clearing out the brambles first!  We need a good frost or two to help.

 

 

 

 

Good morning all on another damp morning

Sunday 1st October - 9.30 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – our Harvest Festival and the chance to welcome Chris Grasske to our village.  Please do come if you can.  Followed by:

Sunday 1st October – 10.30 a.m. – 12 noon   Broadoak Hall – our traditional breakfast.  Tickets £6.50 / children £3.00.  We are much in need of funds for our hall kitchen refurbishment, so we would appreciate your support.  If anyone could help, we could do with a hand to ensure the slick service after the service!

Tuesday 10th October–7.00 p.m.  7.00 p.m.  Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.  We are looking for a new councillor, so come along and see what we do if you are at all interested.

Sunday 15th October – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Holy Communion with Hymns.

Friday 20th October – 7.30 p.m. Broadoak Hall – Arts Reach event The Bingcows – genre defying music!  The two musicians play on a range of different instruments and music  from medieval European dances and improvisation, to Appalachian traditions and those of the Balkans, and Irish harp music to hot-club swing! We are so lucky to have the opportunity for live performances almost on our doorstep, so do try and come if you can.   https://artsreach.co.uk/event/the-bingcows#instances

Sunday 22nd October – St. John’s Symondsbury.  11.00 a.m. If you’ve not managed to make it to a Harvest Festival in the Benefice, then this is your last chance.

 

Farmer George’s Diary – October  2017

Are you ready?   We are just about to start the maize harvest.  If we are about to start,  so will all the other farmers in the Vale – so look forward to the next 3 weeks of extra tractors on the roads as we all try to harvest our crops before the weather closes in the for the winter. We will do our level best to keep the roads clean.

This has not been an easy autumn; we all long for those warm, hazy days of an Indian summer.  It was not to be this year, with one dry day followed by a wet one.  This has made life hard for the corn farmers to get their combining complete (there are still some unharvested fields in Devon I am told), hard for our reseeding programme, and now hard for the maize harvest.

The fantastic thing about maize is that however dry the crop looks, it still dries out the soil in the field after an inch of rain.  The issues are usually in the headland (field edge) which gets so much trailer use.  Once one starts to cut a field, it is imperative to complete the job.  Let us hope that the weather eases up slightly to allow us to get on with it.

Meanwhile, this is the time of year when many cows are calving.  Our herd at Wootton Fitzpaine is basically autumn calving; this means all 200 cows calve in a 10 week period.  That makes for a very hectic time on the farm with calves appearing constantly.  For those of us on the outside, it means seeing the weekly production (and therefore milk cheque) climbing like Mount Everest. 

Having spent two years complaining about the milk price, I can at last report that it is coming up.  Although not quite there yet, we are getting towards the magic 30p per litre – it was about 22p a year ago.  Let us hope that it holds good for a while to let us consolidate our position.  

Despite the fact that we will clearly not have completed our maize harvest, we in Broadoak have decided to have our Harvest Festival at our morning service at 9.30 a.m. on this Sunday, October 1st.  Please join us in the Broadoak Church at that time to celebrate our harvest home and then join us in the Village Hall afterwards for a Harvest Breakfast.

 

Thanks so much to all of you who so generously donated to my Skydive for the Bridport Area Development Trust – LSI restoration.  We will have raised nearly £4,000 which helps enormously towards our community fundraising target for the project.

Sunday 3rd September -  9.30 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – our family worship – short service, but plenty of chat afterwards and of course the excellent cakes. 

Friday 8th September - open studios at New House Farm 6.00pm

Saturday 9th September – 10.00 a.m.  – 4.00 p.m.  Dorset Historic Churches Ride and Stride.  Sadly no-one from our parish seems to be doing it this year to raise funds for Symondsbury, Broadoak and Eype churches, but if anyone would like sponsorship forms, please contact George.

Tuesday 12th September –7.00 p.m.  7.00 p.m.  Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.

Sunday 17th September – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Evening Prayer with Hymns.

Wednesday 20th September – 7.00 p.m. St Mary’s Powerstock – the installation of the Reverend Chris Grasske, our new rector for the Eggardon and Colmers Benefice.  Everyone welcome, though it will be a crush!

Sunday 24th September – 9.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. North Chideock – the Melplash Agricultural Society Ploughing and Hedging Match.  This is a very traditional agricultural occasion with opportunities to learn a bit about these skills.

Sunday 1st October – 9.30 a.m. St Paul’s Broadoak – a short but sweet Harvest Festival, and a chance to welcome the Reverend Chris Grasske to Broadoak.  This will be followed by our traditional autumn Hall Breakfast – a special Harvest Breakfast at 10.30 until 12.00.  I will send more details during the month.

Farmer George’s Diary September 2017

Having just watched Countryfile, I was told that July and August were wetter than average!  I did not need to be told that – as I write this we have just had another half inch or more of rain.   However, the last two weeks have not been too bad weather wise; as usual the Melplash Show had a glorious day – not too warm to send people to the beach but plenty of sun to make it a glorious day.  We had record crowds enjoying every part of the event.  Discover Farming, our education programme was packed all day with children learning from where their food comes and its relationship with growing crops and livestock; it is a very hands on affair.  They could juice an apple, make a pizza, handle a day old chick or drive a drone simulator (with a £100 prize for the fastest flier).

But back to farming proper; we are entering one of the busiest times of our year: some old leys need to be reseeded, it is the time to make sure all muck pits and lagoons are empty before winter, the maize harvest is about to start and lots of cows are calving in.

Why reseed what looks like a good field of grass?  To us, grass is a crop, just as much as wheat or maize.  As I reported in July, we have been using plate meters to measure that crop in each field or paddock.  From our records it becomes really obvious that the ‘old leys’ become full of unproductive grasses such as couch and Yorkshire fog which choke out the newer sweeter but tender rye grasses and have half the growth of the newly sown fields.  It is the latter which benefit milk production, cow health and growth.  So every 5 or 6 years we must plough in the old pasture and reseed with fresh seed.

Reseeding is also an opportunity to ‘break the pan’.  If you fly over grass fields (or use a drone camera to do it) you can see where tractors are continually driving or where cows are always congregating.  In these areas, growth is always poorest and the ground often becomes waterlogged.  Therefore, after the field is ploughed and before it is sown, we ‘flat lift’ it.  This is a deep tyned implement which goes down 12 to 18 inches and breaks the compacted soil up allowing water to drain away and encouraging good root development of the new crop.

Luckily we don’t have much of a grain harvest, and what we do have, we cut when moist and before it is fully ripe in order to ensile it for the cows to eat as a fermented high energy food.  But for those trying to harvest wheat it has been a catchy time – getting what they can between the showers.  Our straw supplier also had his problems; he has to bale it dry (we don’t want mouldy straw for the cows to either eat or lie on) so he needs several dry days in a row to achieve that.  His second issue is that in a wet year like this the straw becomes very brittle and when combined, it shatters into dust so that there is much less for the baler to bale meaning he had to use more acres to get the agreed number of bales for us.

My brother Simon and sister Ann are great birders and when they are here they make a count of the different species they see.  On last week’s walk they counted 34 different species including at least 13 spotted flycatchers – that seems a large number in one go!  However, on that occasion they did not see our prime visitors of the summer; we had a pair of Hobbies nesting which successfully reared a chick.  They are delightful summer visitor falcons; one day I saw them in aerial combat with one of the buzzards of which we have many.

Summer is now ended, the schools go back this week, and the farming year starts all over again.  I hope you will join us in celebrating this annual cycle in the Broadoak Harvest Festival which will be at 9.30 a.m. on October 1st followed by a harvest Breakfast in the Village Hall.  Everyone is extremely welcome.

George

 

August.

I am afraid I am shamelessly using this communication for my own benefit.    In a very desperate attempt to raise much needed funds for the Bridport Area Development Trust – Literary and Scientific Institute restoration, of which I am a trustee www.lsibridport.co.uk, I am undertaking a Charity Skydive, along with two others who have kindly volunteered.  I am sure it will be a wonderful experience, but it has not been on my ‘bucket’ list and I am not quite sure why I said I would do it, except my ideas for other fundraising are rather short at the moment.  I am certainly not capable of running a marathon or cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats, which would have been much more of a challenge – so falling out of a plane seems an easy cop-out, possibly.  But any small sum would be much appreciated and if anyone wants to join in, there are a couple of places left.  19th August is the date and Dunkeswell Airfield the place.  I am attempting to set up a MyDonate page, but there will be sponsorship forms around, so every £5.00 or £10.00 will be a help.

Friday 4th August – 10.30 a.m. to 3.,00 p.m. – Broadoak Hall – see below for lots of fun for children from 5 to 12, plus other events during the week. 

Saturday 5th August – 2.00 p.m. Loders Church Fete at Loders Court with proceeds from the Denhay Bacon Butty stand going towards our local churches too. 

Sunday 6th August -  9.30 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – our family worship – short service, but plenty of chat afterwards and of course the excellent cakes.   

Tuesday 8th August –7.00 p.m.  Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council.   No meeting this month, but do please ensure you complete your Neighbourhood Plan forms and take the Village Shop in Symondsbury Estate yard, or complete online. 

Wednesday 9th August – 6.00 – 7.30 p.m. Broadoak Phone Box Open Party.   Do come along for a barbecue and a drink to celebrate the opening of The Broadoak Box.  Guided tours will be available.  This has moved from the previous 5th August suggestion. 

Saturday 19th August – Dunkeswell Airfield – Charity Skydive. 

Sunday 20th August – 2.00 p.m. The Ilchester Arms – Symondsbury Flower and Produce Fair – schedules available from the Ilchester Arms and RJ Balson & Son 

Sunday 20th August – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Holy communion with Hymns. 

Thursday 24th August  – the wonderful Melplash Show!  www.melplashshow.co.uk 

Sunday 27th August – 12.00 – 6.00 at the Sports Field - Symene Fete and Car Boot Sale, in aid of the Sports Club

Best wishes, Amanda

 

Farmer George’s Diary

At the start of the year, who would have said that July would be the wettest month!  Well it is so far with 4 inches of rain.  For dairy cows this is brilliant; summer rainfall is the most important thing for good grass growth both for moisture and to keep the soil temperatures down.  When the ground gets too warm, grass growth stops almost regardless of how much moisture it in it.

We are seeing really good grazing this year.  One of the huge changes from 30 years ago, is that we are able to ‘buffer feed’ the cows.  So as grass growth slows, we feed a mixture of grass and maize silage so that they have full bellies all the time.  With the large cuts of silage we have more stored away for the winter, so our stocks are looking good.

During silage making over the last 2 years we have introduced a new, and very simple, piece of kit.  It looks like a collection of train wheels on an axle which are mounted onto the front of the tractor that rolls the grass as it is being put into the pit.  One of the essentials to good silage making is to remove as much air (oxygen) as possible.  This ‘compactor’ does just that.  However it also means we get much more into our pits; previously one mouthful from the pit by the silage grab would weight 600kg if it was grass or 700kgs if maize.  This year a mouthful of grass silage weighs 800kgs and maize weighs 1000kg.

The dry weather earlier in the year also meant we made quite dry silage; this usually ferments well and makes very palatable food for the cows but also means we get no silage effluent (plant juices) coming out of the pits.  Effluent means loss of feed value and is extremely polluting if it gets into the water courses – so to be avoided at all costs.

Great grass growth can present a few challenges; in order to maintain the quality of grass on our steep hills we have had to make silage on some of the less steep slopes.  The comparatively new big square bales make this possible and safe to do.  I am really pleased that we were able to do this; reseeding those steep fields would be hard to do and very expensive.

Of course muck spreading continues immediately after every cut of silage – now is the time to empty all pits and lagoons.  One gets the best return from the fertilizer value at this time of year as well as getting ready for the wet months ahead.

Our maize is looking fantastic this year.  It started off well, but we did have a slight hiccup in June.  However the rain and warm sun has overcome that and the crop looks huge; I know Steve is worried about where to store it all.  I keep saying to him that with pits with no rooves, the sky is the limit!

The huge joy and delight of farming is that no two seasons are ever the same (it also means we moan about the weather). This year has been amazing; hardly a cabbage white butterfly, but masses of others, no house martins, but huge numbers of successfully fledged swallows and as for goldfinches – we must have a ‘charm’ of 20 around the house.

I cannot end without my annual reminder to everyone to join the farming community at the Melplash Show on Thursday 24th August.  What a wonderful celebration of the farming and countryside way of life.  Especially come and join us in the Discover Farming tent for fun and an introduction to Agriculture.  I am always looking for helpers too – so if you would like to lend a hand for a couple of hours on the day, let me know.  You will get a free ticket to the show!

George

 

Saturday 1st July – 2.00 p.m. Symondsbury School Fete in the school grounds

Sunday 2nd July -  9.30 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – our family worship – short service, but plenty of chat afterwards and of course the excellent cakes. 

Sunday 9th July –2.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m. Symondsbury Church Fete in the churchyard.  We’ve not had a fete for some time, so please do come along and enjoy the wonderful churchyard and support the stalls and teas.  We really need the funds, and coming to this will be a real support to our three churches.

Tuesday 11th July –7.00 p.m.  Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.

Sunday 16th July – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak –Evening Prayer with Hymns.

Sunday 23rd July – 10.00 a.m. – 3.00 p.m.  Broadoak – the Annual Horse and Pony Show.  Come and join this old-fashioned gymkhana.

Sunday 23rd July – 4.00 p.m. St. Michael’s Askerswell.   The third of our Agricultural celebrations is LAMMAS. Please join us for the festival of the first fruits of the year on July 23rd in Askerswell.   Late July is the ancient festival of Lammas Tide, which traditionally is the start of the harvest calendar: a time of giving thanks to Mother Nature for all her fruits and reaping what has been sown. The Celts originally called it ‘Lugnasad’ and the Saxons renamed it ‘hlaf-maesse’ meaning ‘loaf mass’, which later became Lammas. Traditionally it was the day when the first new grain was milled and baked into small loaves of bread, which were offered on the altar as thanksgiving for the first fruits of the harvest.   To make this festival we will have a bread making competition followed by Eucharist with the winning bread as the ‘host’, followed by a communal tea.   It will start at 4.00pm with fruit cup and bread judging. Please keep this date in your diary and more information will follow shortly.

Tuesday 25th July – 6.00 – 7.00 p.m. The Old Pottery, Symondsbury Manor Yard.   A Neighbourhood Plan ‘surgery’.  Hopefully those of you living in Symondsbury Parish will all be receiving shortly a questionnaire with regard to the Neighbourhood Plan.   if there are any queries you have about the plan, do come along and meet some of the steering group who will try to answer your questions.   

Friday 28th July – 7.00 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – our choir summer party to which our friends, family and supporters are most welcome.  A short concert in the church first, then off to the Village Hall for supper and maybe a bit more singing.  Please contact me if you’d like to come to either part.

Friday 4th August – 10.30 a.m. to 3.,00 p.m. – Broadoak Hall – see below for lots of fun for children from 5 to 12, plus other events during the week.

 

Best wishes , Amanda

 

poster

Farmer George’s Diary July 2017

 

I maintain my fixation about the weather; since last month’s diary was written on 1st June and until 3 days ago we had barely had 12 mm rain – it was really dry.  Luckily in the last 3 days we have had 26mm.  It is amazing how quickly the grass picks up.  It is not just the moisture, but also the drop in temperature which makes the difference.  In the heat generated 2 weeks ago, grass will not grow however much moisture is available.

Mid-summer on a dairy farm is often catch up time; second cut silage which is usually 6 weeks after the first cut is never as stressful an occasion.  Lighter yields and (usually) drier weather means it is harvested in the right condition and quickly.  Having taken that off, we are then able to make best use of our slurry – pumping it on to the bare fields as quickly as possible.  That means we are able to save money by not using artificial fertilizer

Turning to the cows themselves, feeding good quality grass at this time of year becomes increasingly difficult.  To help manage what we have, each dairyman has a ‘grass plate meter’ to measure and record growth in every paddock every week.  It is one thing to lean over the gate and guess the growth, it is quite another to measure it.  The plate meter is a simple device of a flat plate on a central shaft.  When the shaft is placed on the ground, the amount the plate slides down will depend on the height and density of the sward (grass crop).  The measurement is sent to a central computer which calculates the growth in kilograms per acre or hectare.  By measuring weekly, it is possible to predict grazing availability several weeks ahead and therefore plan to use more or less fields to graze.  Using this technique has allowed to the Denhay herd to maintain the right amount of grass in front of the cows all summer and milk production to hold up well, even in the dry times.

Amanda and I went up the hill last week to look at our neighbour’s fields which we rent – they have an amazing plant variety including masses of yellow rattle.  When we make it into haylage – a cross between silage (quite wet) and hay (much drier) it will provide the most digestible forage possible for the calves.  Meanwhile the butterfly population is stunning; mostly meadow browns, but thousands of them.  Looking around the rest of Denhay hill, there is a mass of grass to be grazed by the youngstock so we hope they will get on and graze it well

 

Good morning all

 

Sunday 2nd June -  9.30 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – our family worship – short service, but plenty of chat afterwards and of course the excellent cakes.   

Saturday 10th June – 10.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. - United Church, East Street, Bridport.  Musicathon – a chance to hear lots of local musical talent in bite-sized performances.  Broadoak Choir will be on at 11.00 a.m.  Just drop in any time if you are passing.  All to raise money for local charities. 

Sunday 11th June – 10.00 a.m. – 3.00 p.m. Washingpool Farm – Open Farm Sunday.  Tours of the farm and lots of entertainment for all the family. 

Monday 12th  June – 2.30 p.m. Symondsbury Barn.  Ysenda Maxtone Graham will be in conversation with Prue Keely and they will be talking about Ysenda's recently published book, Terms and Conditions: Life in Girls' Boarding-Schools, 1939-1979

Tickets are £12 to include tea and cakes, and they can be obtained from the Bridport Tourist office (the tickets, not the cakes). You can also buy tickets at the door. 

Saturday 17th June – 9.30 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. - Asker Meadows.    Bridport Food Festival with the Beer Festival on both the Friday and Saturday evenings.   www.bridportfoodfestival.co.uk    

Sunday 18th June – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Holy Communion with Hymns 

Tuesday  20th June   – 7.00 p.m.  Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.  PLEASE NOTE THE CHANGE OF DATE. 

Best wishes, Amanda

 

Farmer George’s Diary June 2017

 

I knew it!  Once it started to rain, it would forget to stop!  In fact it has been even worse as the forecast rain never really happened.  So far in May we have had 72mm (2.8”).    Did you see the sheet lighting the other night?  I have never seen anything quite like it; what a display!

We still have some silage making to finish which is late; very frustrating after such an early start to the season.  What we have made should be excellent – it was quickly well wilted and ensiled.  We live in hope that it will be completed in the next few days.  The grass seed heads are now showing; this is a bad sign as it indicates that the feeding quality is falling.  One always aims to cut before 50% of them emerge to optimise the balance between the amount of crop and its feed value.

The flip side of the silage delay is the fantastic start to the maize growing.  Most of our maize was drilled just after the rain around the beginning of May – that is up and looking bright green.  The second batch had to wait until the grass was cut.  That is all in and I expect will be up in record time; the moisture and warm soil will really get it going.

Meanwhile, the grass is growing well – and not just on my lawn.  The cows are enjoying good grazing and the milk is holding up well.  This can be a difficult time of the year for cow grazing: many are starting to ‘dry off’ and so total milk produced falls rapidly which can be very depressing!

For those that don’t know these things: cows usually have their first calf when they are around 2 years old.  They will come into milk which will peak about 60 days after calving.  It then falls at 2.5% per week – naturally, there is nothing one can do about it. (On the other hand, if you lose milk through bad feeding or ill health, you will be unable to get back up to previous levels). If all is well, they will get back into calf 3 months after calving, have a gestation period of 9 months and so calve again on the anniversary of the first event.  (We all know life is not quite like that, but that is the theory at least).  If all is to plan, the cows will milk for 305 days and then be ‘dried off’ i.e. they will stop being milked and then have 60 days holiday when, in human terms, they recharge their batteries.

 I am writing this on 29th May because Amanda and I are off to spend the week working at the Royal Bath and West Show.  This is the country’s largest 4 day agricultural show; we get about 150,000 visitors over the 4 days.  For us it is a brilliant showcase of British Farming and Food to the non-farming community; 85% of the visitors have no connection with agriculture.  If we, as farmers, are to continue to have public support and funding, then we need to show what we do, create an understanding of the relationship between the soil, water, crops and animals and the food we eat and the wider environment in which we operate.

 I think many farmers do understand this which is why so many of us get involved in shows like the Bath and West.  This year we will have the full animal displays and competitions on all four days so that whatever day you visit, you will get a complete picture.  In the past, many cattle and sheep would go home on the Friday night.

 See you there – it is a great day out.   www.bathandwest.com

 

 

Tuesday 2nd May  – 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School  - Symondsbury Parish Council Annual Parish Meeting –Nick Neale, manager of the Bridport Leisure Centre will be speaking and it’s a chance to suggest to the PC ideas for the coming year.  There will be refreshments!

Sunday 7th May -  9.30 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – our family worship – short service, but plenty of chat afterwards and of course the excellent cakes. 

Tuesday  9th May   – 7.00 p.m.  Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council Annual General Meeting with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.  It is the time we elect our chairman and other post holders and we will also be saying goodbye to Peter Smith who has represented Watton and also West Cliff for some time.  No need to come to both meetings!

Wednesday 17th May – 7.30 p.m. Broadoak Village Hall – another great Artsreach,  event from Living Spit – the Tortoise and Hare.  Tickets from Georgina – 01308 424922.  The last Artsreach Event was sold out, so book soon.   This is an epic tale of romance, redemption and rural running rivalry; those who participate in the Shave Cross Marathon should take particular note!

Sunday 21st May – 3.00 for 3.30 p.m.  St. Paul’s Broadoak – Rogation Service.  This year it is a little different as we will start at Lower Denhay Farmyard and walk back to the Church as part of the service, and end at the Village Hall for tea and cake.  There will be a lift for those who can’t make the entire walk but do come along for this very traditional country event.

Best wishes

Amanda

Farmer George’s Diary May 2017

It’s been raining!  Yeah – about time too.  So far we have had 35mm but hopefully we will have a little sun now.   The last appreciable rain was on 22nd March – no wonder things are starting to get dry; even the road verges, which normally weep onto the roads all spring, have stopped.

That is the good news but for the not-so-good news; the herds have been shut up because of a TB reactor.  We are in the process of having our second test after which we should be clear and free to move animals again.  Sadly we have another reactor so will be ‘locked up’ until at least October.      I am sure there is no one silver bullet to cure the problem but we must do all we can to remove this scourge from our lives: not only is it extremely costly but it is very morale sapping for those looking after the cows.

Returning to my normal topic – the weather.  It has been a lovely spring; I cannot ever remember the bluebells being so brilliant or even so early.  We have also had a glorious stand of Early Purple Orchids as well.    Over the last month I have been helping with the farm fencing, especially the electric fences – so  many people fail to realise that if an electric fence runs through bushes it will short the fence, lose power and not give as good a kick as it should.  Both Beerlands and Denhay now have brilliant systems so I don’t expect the cows to get out!!  Really though, it has been a wonderful time to be outside and I have loved it.  We are extremely privileged to live in this outstanding part of the world.

The cows started grazing two weeks earlier than last year into abundant grass on firm ground.  However the dry and cold weather has put pay to that and growth has slowed right down.  The soil temperature is around 80 C and it really needs to be over 100 C to grow well. 

This weekend’s rain is well timed.  We are working ground and starting to drill (sow) maize.  In fact we have done about half of our acreage so far; at least the seed is in the right place to take in the moisture, germinate and grow.  Steve delayed starting because of the cold nights but with a forecast for warmer weather we are ever optimistic.  Whilst ploughing last week he had one field with twelve buzzards eating the worms.  As he ploughed, one furrow fell back and buried one bird and he had to jump off the tractor to release it.  Then in the next field there were three Red Kites which proved an ideal way to keep the gulls at bay!

The other key job at this time of year is to take the first cut of grass; early growing varieties are ready – the key is to cut before too many heads appear in the stems.  It is always a balance between waiting to get volume (bulk) and cutting early for quality.  Steve has had the sugar tested and it is over 11% which is really high.  The other thing we test for is nitrates; if we cut too soon after applying fertilizer or manure the nitrates in the crop are too high and there is a danger of making awful silage with a bad fermentation.  I always say that the profitability of dairy farming depends on the weather in the first two weeks of May.  The forecast is good after Monday so we plan to cut about 250 acres which will then be covered in muck, ploughed and put into maize.

Regularly I get asked “what will be the effect of Brexit on farming?”  This is a hard question to answer as there are so many unknowns.  All one can say with any certainty is that we are entering a period of instability, insecurity and change.  When asked what my father’s strategy  was in farming , he used to say “stay in the top 10% of efficiency of production because the other 90% will belly-ache on my behalf”  The same holds true today and that is what our team at Denhay is focused on achieving.  This weekend’s rain will be a huge help by stimulating both grass and maize to get growing.

 

April 2017

Everything seems to wake up in April, so lots of things happening in and around the village this month. 

Sunday 2nd April -  9.30 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – our all-age worship – short service, but plenty of chat afterwards and of course the excellent cakes. 

Tuesday 11th April  – 7.00 p.m.  Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council meeting with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.

Tuesday 11th April – 8.00 p.m. The Ropemakers, West Street Bridport.  Pub Quiz in aid of the Literary and Scientific Institute.  No entry fee but great raffle prizes, so please come along with a team if you can.

Saturday 15th April– 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – our very special Easter Even Eucharist with the Broadoak Choir; we light the Easter Fire to mark the passing of Lent (so you can break your Lenten fast, as there will be a glass of something and some chocolate there!).  Do please come and join us.

Sunday 16th April – 9.30 a.m. St. John the Baptist, Symondsbury – Easter Eucharist

Sunday 23rd April – 11.00 a.m. Broadoak Village Hall – our Annual Spring Walk, set up by Georgina ending in a delicious lunch at the Village Hall.   Do come along for the walk, or just for the lunch (around 1 p.m.).   Tickets £8.00 – please contact Georgina or myself if you’d like a ticket.   We’d really like an idea of numbers before the day, but if you want to come at the last minute, you will be most welcome.

Friday 28th April – 7.00 p.m. Town Hall, Bridport – A talk by Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, President of the Supreme Court, in aid of the LSI.  Do book tickets soon if you’d like to come as it is likely to attract people from all over the county.  Bridport TIC 01308 424901

Sunday 30th April – 11.00 a.m. St. John the Baptist, Symondsbury – Parochial Church Council Annual Meeting

Tuesday 2nd May  – 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School  - Symondsbury Parish Council Annual Parish Meeting –Nick Neale, manager of the Bridport Leisure Centre will be speaking and it’s a chance to suggest to the PC ideas for the coming year

Best wishes Amanda

P.S.  You have now had the full calendar year of ‘Farmer George’s Diary’, but he is still keeping going.   Thanks to those who kindly say they enjoy reading it; it is appreciated!

 

Farmer George’s Diary

The oak is out before the ash – so we’ll get a splash (as opposed to ash before oak, we’d get a soak); so prepare for a dry summer. Ha ha - you can throw that back at me later in the year!

This is the time of year when we start to get really busy with field work.  So, to help out, I have actually been doing some real work – well, fencing.  This means getting the electric fences ready for the cows to go out to grass. I have invested in a tester costing £4 from Brights.  Normally I use a blade of grass which gives a slight tingle to tell that it is working but no idea of the strength of the kick.  Now I know it is not as powerful as it should be and have to spend hours walking the lines looking for places where it ‘shorts’. This coming week will see the herds out grazing so we must be prepared.  The grass is starting to shoot ahead which is exciting.  The cows like to graze grass, the dairymen like not having to clean up so much muck and the management like it because grazing grass is the cheapest way to feed a cow.

 

This year all our herds will be grazing paddocks.  The fields have been divided into approximately four acre plots.  This is sufficient size for one or perhaps two grazings.  The cows will then move onto the next one, leaving the previous paddock to recover and start to grow a fresh sward. In the spring we try to rotate around them every 21 days.  As the year progresses, that will lengthen. Doing this encourages the optimum grass growth and prevents the cows from feeding back over the young shoots which they would if they were to be in the same field for several days.  It also allows greater control of grass quality; if there is too much grass, we just leave a paddock out of the rotation and cut it for silage.

 

I am pleased to say the herds are all starting to milk well.  Our challenge is to produce as much milk from our own grown forage (grass and maize) rather than bought in feed.  There are lots of ways to achieve this but we believe a combination of winter forage and summer grazing helped by ‘buffer’ feeding forage to ensure the cows always have full tummies.

 

Meanwhile, back to the arable side I have been enjoying the oats and beans growing in the maize fields (see previous month’s reports).  Sadly this is ending and today they were all sprayed off before being plastered in muck and then ploughed in ready for this year’s maize.  This cover crop should have improved the soil structure and enable an easy creation of good seedbeds as well as provide nitrogen from the nodules of the bean roots.  It will be exciting to see how this works. So the challenge for the next 3 weeks will be to empty every muck store, cover all the maize fields and them get the ploughed, worked and drilled with maize seed.

 

Sorry, a day late, but hope we see you at some of the events.

Saturday 4th March – 7.30 p.m. Broadoak Village Hall – ArtsReach Event: Petites Annonces – an evening of international cabaret, brought to the Vale!  Tickets from Georgina Burnham 01308 424922

Sunday 5th March - 9.30 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – our all-age worship – short service, but plenty of chat afterwards and the excellent cakes.  This month is Candlemas, so come and feel the warmth of candlelight and our new heaters in the Church.

Sunday 12th March – 9.30 – 11.30 a.m. Broadoak Hall – the Brilliant Broadoak Breakfast.   Tickets £6.50, children £3.00.  Do come along and support the village hall.

Tuesday 14th March – 7.00 p.m.  Symondsbury School - Symondsbury Parish Council Meeting with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects

Sunday 19th March – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak –Holy Communion with hymns

Sunday 26th March - 11.00 a.m. St. John’s Symondsbury - Family Service for Mothering Sunday and Annual Parish Meeting.

Friday 31st March – 7.30 p.m. Broadoak Hall – the inaugural Broadoak Quiz.  Tea/coffee/cake; raffle prizes; and cash prizes for teams (4-6); BYOB. £4.00/ticket.

 

Farmer George’s Diary

My cup is always half full, not half empty: we start the growing season full of optimism.  March is a great month – wild daffodils in full bloom, young grass growth blowing in the wind and the ground starting to dry out.  We now need to get onto it: first the fertilizer to stimulate that initial burst of growth, then to roll the cutting fields in order to squash down the stones and mole hills.  Stones are not an issue in the Vale, but our fields on Beaminster Down are horrendous for stones which blunt the mowers, so must be avoided if at all possible.

The key question though is “when can we turn the cows out to grass”?  It is not just the cows that like it, the dairymen look for the new routine when they become less the glorified loo attendant and can focus their attentions on the animals in their care. For years, while I was actively managing the herds, I tried to get the cows out in March, but it was always too wet – until my last year when we managed it.  In those day (not so very long ago either to those of you saying ‘here he goes again!’), we had few feeing options – the cows were either in on self-feed silage full time or out at grass.  Things are slightly easier to handle with feed being given to the cows out of feed- wagons; if the weather is poor they can stay in or if it is better, they can go out to graze.

I usually try to avoid politics when writing this, but I must admit Brexit is causing us some real business problems: the weaker pound making inputs more expensive, the fear of being subject to world markets which do not have our level of production restrictions, be they environment, welfare or employment and finally the knowledge that we will lose a huge chunk of our financial support.  Given that many farmers voted to leave the EU, we really were turkeys voting for Christmas.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Good morning everyone

Thank you all for staying on board – do remember to let me know if you want something local passed on.

Sunday 5th February - 9.30 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – our all-age worship – short service, but plenty of chat afterwards and the excellent cakes.  This month is Candlemas, so come and feel the warmth of candlelight and our new heaters in the Church.

Sunday 5th February – 3.00 p.m. United Church, East Street, Bridport – Young Persons Concert  featuring young musicians from West Dorset in aid of the Richard Ely Trust for Young Musicians.

Tuesday 7th February – 7.00 for 7.30 p.m. The Town Hall – Face: Shape and Angle – an illustrated talk by Jessica Sutcliffe about her mother, Helen Muspratt – the pioneering photographer.  In aid of the LSI Restoration – www.lsibridport.org.uk

Tickets from me or the wonderful revamped Bridport Tourist Information Centre.  This will be a classic event.

Tuesday 14th February – 7.00 p.m.  Symondsbury School - Symondsbury Parish Council Meeting with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects

Sunday 19th February– 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Evening Prayer with hymns

Sunday 26th February – 11.00 a.m. St. Mary Magdalene Loders – Farewell Service for Jan Delaney, our rector.  All will be most welcome to attend, and it will be a chance to thank Jan and David for all their work for our benefice in the last six years.

Saturday 4th March – 7.30 p.m. Broadoak Village Hall – ArtsReach Event: Petites Annonces – an evening of international cabaret, brought to the Vale!  Tickets from Georgina Burnham 01308 424922

Farmer George’s Diary

‘February Fill-dyke’ is an old expression which shows the importance of a wet February in filling the aquafers.  Autumn rain either runs off or just takes the soil to capacity; it is the rain in the new year which does the job.  We have made a good start; after a very dry January, the last 5 days have seen 3 inches of rain with more promised.

This time of year is a chance for farmers to take a deep breath and start to plan the season ahead; budgets, machinery replacement and a good look at what is already growing.  At Denhay, our grass is looking better than I have seen for years.  The autumn reseeds got off to an excellent start and the sheep grazing in the early winter firmed the roots and nibbled the young plans to make them ‘tiller’ out (produce more than one growing stem).  The result is a dense mat of lush green grass ready to produce the 2017 silage crop in May.   It will not be long before we start to apply the first fertilizer!

When I first started farming we used to record the average daily temperature above zero, add them up and when we got to T (total) 200 it was the optimum time to apply nitrogen to the grass.  Despite the chilly January, we are already at T133, so it won’t be long now before you see the ‘pepper pots’ out on the land (so long as we can drive on the fields without marking them!).

Back under cover I am really pleased to report that our cows are milking really well.  Last year we struggled somewhat after we ran out of maize silage.  Although the grass silage was mostly quite good it lacked that extra oomph that maize gives.  Once the new crop was harvested and had been in the pit for six weeks to ferment the cows started to respond well; the fresh calved cows are giving over 40 litres each a day.  This will make quite a difference to the profitability of the farm.

Last November I talked about the oats and beans we had sown after maize as a green winter cover.  These will be ploughed in April for a new maize crop.  A huge side benefit has appeared; normally maize stubbles are barren lands over winter but these oat and bean fields are feeding a mass of small birds: redwings, starlings and thrushes to name a few.  Environmentally this is an enormous success; not only do we hold the soil from washing off down the rivers or onto the roads and fix nitrogen, phosphate and potash in the soil but also we feed the birds.  What a great start to the year.

 

 

JANUARY 2017 

Tuesday 10th January – 7.00 p.m.  Symondsbury School - Symondsbury Parish Council Meeting with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects

Saturday 14th January -  7.30 p.m. the Tithe Barn, Symondsbury – Fund raising evening with music and dancing to Jess Upton and Guilty Pleasures. Tickets cost £10 and are on sale now from Creeds. Contact the office on 01308 423411 or email office@creedsuk.com to get your hands on some.

Sunday 15th January – 12.00 p.m. Loders Village Hall – Plough Sunday.  This is the first time we have celebrated this in the Benefice and is a traditional marker in the agricultural calendar when the plough is blessed before cultivation work starts in the spring.   There will be a service, followed by a lunch

and a chance to meet up and chat.  Anyone wanting to stay for the lunch after the service can let us know, but all will be welcome anyway.

Sunday 15th January – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Holy Communion with hymns.

Sunday 22nd January – 9.00 – 12.00 – St. Mary’s Church Hall, Bridport - Bridport’s inaugural “Best Breakfast”.  On offer will be a delicious selection of breakfast goodies all sourced locally and lovingly prepared and served by members of the Bridport Local Food Group. Tickets:  £5 in advance from Bridport TIC and £6 on the door.  Children £3

 

Farmer George’s Diary – January 2017

For some of us, our cup is half full, for others it is half empty.  For me – my cup is always half full; I am an incorrigible optimist.  The turn of the year fills me with hope that things can only improve.  Those of you who have read my jottings over the last year will appreciate that milk price has dominated my thinking.  You might be pleased to know we are seeing an uplift.  Milk price is affected by both global and local issues.  Nationally, McDonalds now use some milk constituents rather than imported oils in their burgers and globally the Chinese are back in the market place buying dairy products. Allied to that, globally, milk production is down. So it is with some optimism that we start the New Year looking to at least achieve a price which matches are cost of production (by July).

Back in the real world of farming I am pleased to say that all years toil of growing and conserving good fodder is starting to pay off, with the winter calving cows starting to milk really well.  Getting dairy cows to perform is a long term business.  You cannot just turn a tap on or off; changes in cow feed or management can have a 2 year turn implication and it is the small little attentions to detail which make such a difference.

We had one huge negative just before Christmas; we have one doubtful reactor to TB in the herd at Wootton Fitzpaine.  The immediate result is that our entire herd is ‘locked up’.  Whilst we can move cows, youngstock and calves around between our herds, we cannot sell any unless to slaughter; the next few weeks will be quite trying whilst we wait to retest.

A new year means I add up last year’s rainfall – by my calculations we had 30 inches of which almost 7 were last January and nearly 4 in November in 2 days.  This compares to 33 inches in 2015 and 44 in 2014 (no wonder our slurry pits were all full then!)  The ground is quite dry, once you get past the top slime so we will need a ‘February fill-dyke’.  However the mainly mild weather does mean that our grass fields, especially the reseeded ones, look better than I have ever seen them (even from when I was in charge!) and the oats and beans sown into the maize stubbles are fantastic and will ensure good soils structure and fertility for this year’s maize crops– what a great start to the year.  We just need the ‘white slugs’ (sheep) off the farm; they have done a good job but need to be away as the grass starts to grow again.

Amanda and I continue to buy lottery tickets (without any great personal success!) not to win but to recognise the huge effect the lottery has on our lives.  Locally in supporting the LSI and Bridport Museum, but nationally in our sporting endeavours.  The concept of marginal gains has revolutionised some sports; what can we learn on the farm?

Meanwhile, let us start the year in good fettle: join us at the our Plough Sunday service in Loders Village Hall on Sunday 15th  January .  This is the traditional occasion when we bless the plough prior to a new year’s work on the farm.  

 

A very Happy and Prosperous New Year to everyone.

 

 

I am sorry that this is late this month, and sadly there are a couple of things you might have missed.   However, I hope you will all have a wonderful December and we hope to see you at one event or another.  Welcome to new Broadoak inhabitants, Graham and Jenny Sutton.  We hope they will be very happy here in our small corner of West Dorset! 

Friday 2nd December – 6.00 – 8.00 p.m. Washingpool Farm Shop – Christmas Shopping and carols from the Broadoak Choir 

Sunday 4th December – 9.30 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Christingle Service 

Monday 5th December – 8.30 p.m. BBC1 –“ Lawful Killing” – producer – Simon Ford – catch-up if you haven’t seen it. 

Sunday 11th December – 12.00 – 4.00 p.m. New House Pottery – it's an open afternoon with the Pottery and Made in the Vale workshops full of beautiful crafts and serving festive mulled cider and wine and carols from the Broadoak Choir 

Sunday 11th December – 6.30 p.m. St. John’s Symondsbury – Carol Service 

Tuesday 13th December – 7.00 p.m.  Symondsbury School - Symondsbury Parish Council Meeting with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects 

Sunday 18th December – 11.00 a.m. Powerstock Church – United Benefice Service  - a chance to meet our new bishop, the Bishop of Sherborne, the Rt. Rev Karen Gorham 

Wednesday 21st December – 6.30 p.m. – St. Paul’s Broadoak – Carol Service with the Broadoak Choir – mince pies and refreshments afterwards in the church 

Sunday 25th December – 9.30 a.m. – St. John’s Symondsbury – a short service for all the family – come and sing all your favourite carols and work up an appetite for Christmas dinner! 

 

Farmer George’s Diary – December  2016 

Well, with two dramatic exceptional days, the dry weather continues.  It is so nice to walk out in frosty weather to enjoy the countryside.  I like to think the colder weather kills off unwanted bugs – but that is wishful thinking. 

We have sheep all over the farm at present eating out the ‘old spine’ and leaving the fields eaten down tight so that the new growth comes on for the cows in the spring.  After all, we might be turning the cows out in 8 weeks! 

It has been quite a struggle to get the cows to milk well over the summer and early autumn but I am pleased to report that with plenty of excellent quality maize silage, the more recent calved cows are really starting to milk well. Getting the feed right for the cows just before they calve is also critical; the fact we have few milk fevers (see November’s diary) is testimony to that.  The next three months are when all the focus is on keeping the milk flowing; we don’t need distractions of snow, heavy rain/floods or even it being so cold all the pipes freeze up.  Let us pray of a good winter.

Out on the farm the beans and oats I reported about last month are doing well – unlike the beans in my garden; I had 4 beautiful rows and the mice have eaten the lot!  Apart from holding the soil, providing green manure in the spring, it is good to look out over green fields rather than brown ones.

You would not expect me to end this without referring to the milk price – well, it hasn’t moved yet.  It must do soon as I know other dairy farmers have had increases. Let’s hope for a good Christmas present!

 

Happy Christmas to everyone.

 

 

 

For futhur information,contact us on 01308 424 922
or email us at enquiries@broadoakhall.org.uk