Our planned bund along the farm boundary to restrict flood water egress was effectively completed before Christmas while the land remained very dry, although it would now be a good test to have four or five inches of rain to see how the plan works.

We had two one in a hundred year floods within three years of purchasing the farm five years ago so. If one believed Environment Agency predictions, you could be forgiven for thinking we will remain largely flood free for many years to come. Despite this, my faith in experts is not good, so it’s a relief to have the job done.

The farm has now been put to sleep for the winter, apart from the remaining hedge trimming, while Jack Frost is already doing a sterling job of getting next year’s seedbeds ready. We’ve had more frosts than we had last year already.

A lot of the ground will again be designated for potatoes but the contractor seems to want to leave ploughing until March. But my traditional instincts tell me it would be much better ploughed by now, to take advantage of conditions. It’s their choice though.

The rest will we hope be into maize come early May, either for the herd or for the anaerobic digestion (AD) systems springing up around us. Although grain prices have risen a little, mainly due to the weak pound, we have little enthusiasm for bolstering the chemical companies’ profits. So it seems infinitely more sensible to grow this crop, conserve what we want for the animals, then send the rest off to one of these AD plants.

The rest of the land is down to stubble turnips to feed a large number of sheep. The crop went in late. But, wonderful late autumn growing conditions should produce very strong growth which has happened over the last four years. That was apart from one where the flood waters took most of the roots down to the English Channel via Littlehampton, rendering the feed value of the crop negligible. The effects of the turnips grazed off has significantly improved the results of subsequent crops.

Another aid to productivity has been the introduction of a cluster of beehives from Paynes Bee Farms of Hassocks to encourage pollination. We have had a very successful arrangement with the company since my father invited them on to the hill farm soon after the second world war which – since we get a nice annual “rent” in honey from the family business has – I’m sure proved beneficial to both parties. With the general plight of bee numbers in the country generally, it can only help and they are excellent and energetic little workers.

It was excellent news to receive our Brexit enhanced cheque from the Rural Payments Agency on 1 December. As much as I have always disliked the whole principle of grant aid it will actually help a lot this year if only to balance out the still abysmal milk price we have had foisted on us for almost two years now. Still the price we receive is not sufficient to even pay for the cost of producing this excellent product, let alone paying for all the other dairy costs which rise inexorably month after month.

We were getting the same price, within a whisker, from the old Milk Marketing Board back in the early 1990s some 25 years ago, yet costs have risen out of all proportion. If there was any equity we should be getting the fair, sustainable, value for our milk, and not have to rely in any way on grant money, or whatever it’s called as it only continues to make an element of the press and public think of us as free loaders on society. The old saying, a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work almost covers it. This situation is far from fair.

It amuses me the responses one gets to articles about wildlife and conservation. A couple of months ago I wrote of the list of such killers which I thought, from me, was quite a balanced article. But no, a gentleman from Oxfordshire, submits a long letter to the editor accusing me of bias and ignoring the facts (as seen by the RSPB and its brainwashed clones) as published in the society’s absolutely unbiased and truthful state of nature report.
The writer seems to suffer from very selective perspectives, ignoring what it suits him to ignore. He is obviously a paragon of natural virtue, only seeing what he chooses to see, whereas most true farmers know, without any need to read their RSPB propaganda, the real facts. Nature needs help at times.

I have been a lifelong, ornithologically leaning, countryman. I notice every bird movement around me and am well aware of trends and problems among our feathered community. I have an unbiased understanding and respect for every feathered creature in the chain. Yet despite that respect I would have no hesitation in taking out a strong predator causing local problems to vulnerable smaller birds. No names mentioned.

This gentleman noted the state of our maize and in some respects he was right: it was an excellent clean crop. But that is surely not a fault since farmers don’t grow their main crops to be deliberately dirty, second rate and low yielding, though it does sometimes happen. Some may grow wildlife strips like this, but not main crops. Where he is quite wrong is in implying that “it’s so clean there’s no value for wildlife.” It is often quite amazing to stand at the end of rows the harvester is clearing and see the sheer numbers of small birds flying out where they have been eating seeds and insects.

Keep writing, sir: I’m glad you are reading these notes!