Spring began showing its kinder face very early around 20 January with the emergence of daffodils in the garden and surroundings as they caught up with the snowdrops and winter jasmine which had been flowering since very early that month.
Then within a couple more days the magnolia soulangeana started showing its bursts of pale purple – just in time, said she who knows, for the frosts to brown the whole lot off. Inevitably she was right, although the sad looking flowers struggled on into late March.
Untidy grass doesn’t appeal and so I had been mowing all lawns right up until Christmas, with hardly a week’s break, until seven inches of rain in January totally messed up everything. Then in my eagerness to get on top of the new growth I managed to get an old triple mower well stuck in the middle of the back lawn, needing a hawser and a tractor to avoid it staying there for weeks.
The same happened too with another mower used for the bowling green. I always send it away on its holiday to Steve Ayres workshops over at Myrtlegrove up above Worthing for its service. Because of the extended growth period it went off in late January and, to Steve’s credit, he had it back at the end of the first week of February. Just in time, as a couple of days rare frost steadied up the wet surface and, against better judgement, I spent a morning cutting grass and scarifying moss from the playing area ready for the new season, due to start on 1 May. My, how the seasons come round, and even faster when they are so unseasonal.
Sorry but avoiding this referendum issue is harder by the day. The trouble is, politicians in their default mode simply cannot be honest and are intent on embellishing stories/ threats to scare the public. They are working along the lines of if you tell the same old lies often enough, people will eventually believe them. So, at this rate, with some ten weeks to go everyone will surely be totally numbed by referendum day!
Indecision rules with me at present, although the more I read, see and hear from David Cameron, his chancellor and his pals in places of power, the more I swing towards the “out” side. And, yes, “out” might well be painful short term but isn’t what most of us in farming are suffering now quite painful? If we don’t take a stand this time I am inclined to think our chance may be lost.
As the European federal state threatens – unless delayed by an apparently failing European Union – there will be more funny money and yet more legislation cobbled together by EU politicians, some of whose own, more recently liberated, long suppressed states, hardly understand even what law, honesty and standards are. All the while the Russian dictator capitalises on Europe’s problems. Gives you a good feeling eh?
So, as I say, I am uncertain and still teetering. The “stay” side will have to start treating us as adults, stop crying wolf and tell the truth, or I will very likely swing to “out.” Constant threats and psychological pressure simply won’t work with us English and many people are still pretty sore at being taken for a ride back in 1975 and have a point to make, rightly or wrongly.
This really has been a difficult few months, with more to come, as dairy farming struggles to survive seriously negative returns on milk income. One feels it’s likely to get worse for some time yet, unlike times past, with arable struggling as much as cattle. I do find it quite difficult to see how the milk buyers can live with themselves. They may not have much goodwill left when things do get better.
Are they simply hoping they can squeeze out the smaller herds and leave themselves just with large ones, who, once the small ones have gone, will then be in the sights of Tesco, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s et al? They certainly have had no compunction in screwing big vegetable and pig men, so why stop there? Is the next step to start returning milk to producers for dumping?
Free trade is ideal but when you get ruthless mega companies, hell bent on screwing good honest smaller traders out of a fair, very hard earned livelihood, with toothless government ombudsmen unwilling to upset their big retail pals, it is going to be hard to see the structure of our agricultural industry surviving much longer. I have said before, for a free market to work everyone, all links in a production chain, have to be able to make some profit, or the chain snaps. Its creaking now.
We are hoping the mild spring continues now and allows the herd to be put out before the end of March. They are tired of being cooped up on straw beds, although probably preferable to sawdust or sand in cubicles and herdsman Simon will be equally delighted to see them grazing free. Milk yields will be going up a bit although we will be doing our best to constrain output from the usual turnout highs. The plan is to reduce concentrate feeding through the robots by around 25% to save producing cheap milk from relatively expensive inputs. Instead, we will produce our milk from our home grown forage, grass and maize silage.
It won’t be very satisfying but it just might make the difference until things pick up again.