Early winter time is now with us. The hedgerows show just the remnants of the most prolific harvest of blackberries seen for many an autumn. Sloes, hips and haws are still in evidence to support through the early winter weeks thrushes, blackbirds and fieldfares. Lapwings, or peewits, are still a feature of our arable fields but no longer appear in large flocks. Some remain with us the year round, but flocks migrate from Scandinavian countries to winter here. No doubt you will be feeding the garden birds but remember to also cater for those that require seeds and fruit, as well as the more familiar tit tribes whose appetite for peanuts is insatiable. This is a good time for cleaning out nest boxes. Remove the debris of the old nests and pour in boiling water which is as good a method as any for destroying mites etc. which would be there and waiting to harm next years chicks.
As with all gardening years, it has been a mixture of success and some failure. My particular downfall this year has been two fold - moles and cabbage white butterflies. These have, in their own effective way, given me some problems. I was mentioning this to an acquaintance in out post office sometime ago when destruction and mayhem was at its worse. “Don’t tell me “she exclaimed. “Anything you have I have ten time worse!” I confess to taking a little comfort from that! Some gardeners have had poor crops of runner beans this year with the flowers not setting. Spraying them with a sugar and water solution might have helped. This will attract insect pollinators.
On the land most autumn drilled crops will have germinated by now. The undrilled fields are either destined for spring sown crops like sugarbeet, spring barley or even peas or part of the 15% of the farm allocated for “set aside”. A variation of this EEC policy is to set aside a wide strip of land around the perimeter of a field to comply with taking part of the field out of production.
Finally, try and persuade someone to buy for you as a Christmas gift Hugh Barrett’s book “Early To Rise”. It recalls, superbly well, life on a Suffolk farm 60 years ago.