The Countryside About Us: January 1992

posted 31 Dec 2011, 08:42 by James Mansell
We are sure to have in January a few cold and bright sunny days. We need them to remind us that what can be a cold and cheerless period in the countryside is only temporary. It is, nevertheless, important for winter wheat drilled in the Autumn to have a period of low soil temperatures to ensure the seed will flower in due course. This is referred to as “vernalisation”.

In this modern age farming practice does not require the same sort of skills the old farm workers had. There was a day when it was necessary for the wheat to be drilled in perfectly straight lines, no mean accomplishment to control two horses pulling the drill and steering it at the same time.  Horse hoeing between the rows was thus made possible without cutting up the crop. With the advent of spray chemicals soon after WWII to kill weeds, ie herbicides, priorities changed. Acres drilled in a day was the main concern, providing the machine didn’t block, and no ground was left undrilled. Curves and swerves could be ignored. All the same it was still pleasing to the eye and satisfying for the man on the job to “line it up” nicely.  Such skilled work can still be seen by taking a stroll along Church Lane, Earl Soham. Looking to the left you will see a good example of that old drilling skill.

Many bird lovers are conscientiously providing food for our winter residents. The reward in entertainment is great, especially by the tit family. A net of peanuts seems to last them no time at all. If you begin to feel they seem to be living more extravagantly than you, why not try offering them dripping instead of nuts. It is a much cheaper and equally attractive alternative. Water of course should always be available for them too. When you watch them drinking you may care to reflect, that unlike ourselves, birds cannot “swallow”. It is gravity, not an epiglottis, that gets the liquid to the right place.  

Roger Sykes