The global warming about which we are cautioned did not have much effect hereabouts during the last few days of the old year and neither the early days of the new one. Up on the high (relatively speaking) ground above Earl Soham it felt much more like “global freezing”. How those NE winds sliced across the fields from the Saxtead direction! The fine snow billowed through every gap in the hedgerows and gateways causing mini drifts. Glancing upwards into the boughs of an ash tree a cock pheasant was perched. He was in silhouette against the darkening early evening sky. I thought the night temperatures would be a severe test for the insulation that his feathers would provide. In the hedgerow a group of biennial teasels looked rather grand in their winter tan coloured prickly heads leaning away from the wind. Every few yards my four legged companion was obliged to stop and de-ice her feet. How welcoming it was to get down into the comparative windless shelter of Earl Soham village, well away from our own version of Siberia! As I passed by the chestnut trees which edge Earl Soham green, what I took to be a tawny owl slipped away from its perch. It flew towards the old oak tree in the centre of the meadow. For several mornings recently, when I have braced myself to go outside to feed my pony, hens and garden birds, the temperature reads on my outside thermometer 22 degrees F (or -7 C). Spare a thought for the farmers who, in some cases, are obliged to resort to a pick axe to smash the thick ice on the water troughs which quickly froze over again. At times like this I console myself with the thought that the countryside would benefit from a good hard frost, but now we have had it I hope it knows when to stop!
Well, February is here again and with it the need for some action in the garden and on the farm. Now is the time to sow some early cauliflower and cabbage seed in a small propagator or place in a seed tray in some warm part of the house. These will then have a head start when the weather allows them to be transplanted outside. June should see some nice cauliflowers to add to your dinner. Seed potatoes will be available to buy now. I am going to purchase a few of the new variety Saxon. By all accounts their flavour is good and they can be dug quite early. One of the earliest varieties is Rocket. for which I will find some space for a few rows. On the land the first activity you will notice is the spreading of nitrogen on the oil seed rape. This crop, like grass, requires a lot of nitrogenous fertilizer to feed it. Probably three or four small applications will be spread between now and April. Also, if the weather permits, comes the working of the land to make a seed bed for the spring sown crops. These will include peas, barley and sugar beet. Once again the time honoured “Countryside About Us” be it in the garden or on the farm slips into that seasonal routine so beloved by the countryman.