The month of February is surely close enough to springtime to justify thoughts of shiver free days. Our countryside will soon be changing its coat of many shades of brown to welcome many shades of green as a prelude to nature’s own New Year.
Gardener and farmer alike are itching to make a start. Probably the arable farmer will beat the gardener to it. If the land is firm enough to stand the weight of a tractor without it leaving deep ruts in the ground, first applications of nitrogen will be applied to oil seed rape crops and maybe winter wheat . It is usually only a “bag an acre”. The arithmetic of that is just over 5 ozs per square yard! Such is the potency of the nitrogen that providing subsequent weather is “kind”, the boost to the crop is quite marked. There will be much less drilling of spring barley this year as conditions were so favourable last autumn that much of the available land was drilled with the preferred winter wheat. Our local seedsmen in Framlingham do not expect to be particularly rushed this springtime to meet a big demand for seed, but of course the fields allocated to sugar beet and peas will feature in the heavy work load that is characteristic of this part of the farming year, It is too soon for the farmer with beef cattle to hope for less work about the yards. The daily routine of strawing down and feeding the cattle comes with great regularity. Even if we are favoured with a very early and kind season April is likely to be the earliest that the bovine’s eager anticipation of grass will be satisfied. It is quite amazing how much FYM (muck) accumulates from cattle bedded on straw throughout the winter months. It becomes trodden down very firmly. Feed mangers have to be constantly raised to keep above the rising “tide”. Gateways into the yards require cleaning out often to ensure less of a struggle to gain access to the yard. Before the advent of hydraulic powered fore loaders on tractors, “mucking out” cattle yards with a four-tined fork and filling horse drawn carts was guaranteed to have your jacket off in a very short time, however cold the day. Whichever way the task is performed it is still generally accepted that FYM improves the fertility and structure of the soil more than anything else.
Straw has many uses. I was interested to learn that in days long gone, it was customary, when a person lay ill in bed, to spread straw on the road surface to quieten the passage of noisy horse drawn carts with iron shod wheels, as they rattled and rumbled by. We still have something of a noisy traffic problem in Earl Soham Street, and straw is in very good supply !