Early winter time is now with us. The hedgerows show 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 months, thrushes, blackbirds and fieldfares. Lapwings or pewits, whilst still a feature of our arable fields, no longer appear in vast flocks. Some remain with us the year round, but most flocks migrate from Scandinavian countries to winter with us. No doubt you will be feeding the garden birds but remember to 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 old nest boxes. Remove the debris and pour boiling water over the interior to destroy blood sucking parasites that will otherwise feed on the young in next season’s broods.
As with all gardening years, it has been a mixture of successes and failures. My particular downfall this year has been twofold, namely moles and cabbage white butterflies. I was mentioning this to an acquaintance the other day whilst chatting in Earl Soham Post Office. “Don’t tell me” she exclaimed, “anything you have had I have had ten times worse!” I confess to taking just a little comfort from the misfortune of another. Some gardeners have had poor crops of runner beans this year, with the flowers not “setting.” Spraying them with a solution of sugar and water might have helped. This would have attracted insect pollinators including bees and maybe a better fertilization of the flower would have occurred.
On the land most autumn drilled crops will be in and some showing through by now. The undrilled fields are either destined for spring sown crops like sugar beet, spring barley or peas. Maybe also the field was left to provide for the 15% “set aside” requirement. A variation of this is to leave a wide strip of land around the perimeter of the field which would qualify towards the 15% requirement of the EC agricultural policy of taking land out of production.
Finally try and persuade someone to buy for you, as a Christmas present, Hugh Barrett’s book “Early To Rise”. It recalls, superbly well, life on a Suffolk farm 60 years ago.