Until early September the countryside, in many cases, is being forced into submission! No rain for many weeks has left the fields rock hard. The oil seed rape crop needs to be drilled after the cereals have been combined and the straw removed. How to get a fine seed bed under 1995 conditions is a problem. The horse power of modern tractors provides the answer, where the horse power of horses would have failed. Heavy cultivators dug in and pulled up rock hard clods as big as your head! Equally heavy discs bounced over them in an effort to reduce their size. Rumbling flat rollers tried to flatten them into submission. As a farmer friend remarked to me, “The extra returns from a good harvest would be gobbled up in the extra cost of the diesel needed to secure the start of the next!”
A nice soaking of rain did arrive soon after September had begun, which helped the roaring giants in their task, but several days more will be needed before our Suffolk boulder clays become more amenable. Long hot periods of dry weather with no rain at all will cause many problems for farmers and livestock owners when pastures become more like coconut matting. Hay, silage and straw reserved for winter use are needed to supplement what the grass should provide. Come February silent hopes will be for an early springtime to ease the concern of rapidly dwindling winter stocks of feed.
In many ways it is sad to lose the lovely blue skies and hot days of July and August, and how hot is really was. Even the birds were sunbathing in quiet spots in the garden with wings outstretched.
Swallows, renowned for their superb flying skills, also seem adept at balancing acts. I noticed on a particularly hot morning, a swallow on a thin telephone wire, wings outspread with just one foot clutching the wire! Soon they will be winging their way to North and West Africa. The chance of two young swallows to actually succeed in this journey having just started to fly from their nest situated in my pony’s stable, must be remote. If past mild winters are to be repeated, they might well remain here and save themselves the journey. In fact, occasionally, it has been reported that swallows and house martins have over-wintered here, but I have never seen them. The number of hedgehogs about garden and fields suggest they have managed to cope with a scorching summer, even if they seem less able to avoid the hazards of crossing a road! Generally speaking there is little excuse for a vehicle to squash a hedgehog, and suggests to me an uncaring attitude by the driver. We can compensate a little for this by ensuring that during periods when their natural food is scarce, as recently during the drought, a little tinned cat or dog food is offered at dusk. This will help them to go into their winter hibernation with enough body weight to endure a long winter.
No, your ears did not deceive you. If you imagined you heard the baying of bloodhounds rising up from the fields of our parishes one evening in September, you were correct. A pack was indeed hot on the heels of a human quarry but happily it was in the name of exercise and entertainment and not in the name of the law.