Spring planting will go on for weeks here, with carrots, onion sets, radishes and many other vegetables going in. We are slightly all over the place because we're also busy planting the apples at the moment and need to clear the ground ready for them. It is full steam ahead, planting as much as we can of everything while it's fine. The most exciting bit for us is the harvesting of the spring greens which I feel are really emblematic of the start of spring, marking its official arrival and signifying new growth. I think we almost crave them by this time of the year and they taste absolutely delicious.
More stories on Crops
Apr '09 22
Apr '09 7
We are in the throes of spreading well-composted farmyard manure on to the potato grounds. This muck has been regularly turned over the past few months to maximise aeration and to ensure the best quality compost. Our Jack-of-all-trades here, Andrew Baker (who coincidently has the same name as Duchy Originals' CEO), is our Head Tractor Driver but he's also our relief milker and looks after one of our beef cattle herds. He has been helping with the muck spreading and will incorporate it into the top few inches with one pass of the cultivator to mix it in with the soil. While he was doing this the other day no less than 14 buzzards hovered overhead. They seem so much more commonplace these days, yet I well remember when my boys were younger pointing out an occasional buzzard to them when they were such a rare sight. Shortly after the muck has been spread, Andrew will plough it quite deep and then leave it and hope for a bit of weathering (wet, dry, frost), and then we'll probably start on planting the potatoes in about a month's time. The general rule of thumb for us is that if we can get all of our spuds in by Easter that's a good thing.
Mar '09 25
There is an awful lot going on at the farm at the moment now that the days are lengthening. The last few days have been absolutely glorious, with warm sunshine and not too cold nights. It really does feel that spring is well and truly on its way now, which is fantastic for us, although there will always be a whiff of winter around the corner for at least the next six weeks or so. We are working long days to make the most of the almost perfect conditions when they do present themselves and I suppose the most important operation to begin with is spring drilling. We are very busy planting spring oats at the moment which will be used for the Duchy Originals biscuits, as well as barley for the Duchy Originals ale and plenty of vegetables. As soon as Nick, the Assistant Farm Manager, has finished planting one field, we roll the seed bed down to conserve the moisture and make sure that there is good soil to seed contact. The rooks appear to recognise a seed drill instantly and within the first few minutes they are desperately trying to pitch into the crop, determined to eat as much as they can before we are on to them.
Feb '09 24
Rabbits are the bain of any farm's life and Home Farm is no exception. There are certain areas we have to make 100% rabbit-proof using netting dug 9 inches into the ground and 3 foot above. If we don't, the rabbits can destroy tender young salad crops - they never seem content with eating 1 or 2 plants preferring to nibble and damage a large number. It is important to keep a close eye on the fence for any damage because rabbits are persistent little creatures capable of exploiting the smallest of holes! There are times here when we can strongly identify with Mr McGregor in Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit!
Sep '08 15
Looking ahead to sunnier days, we'll start harvesting as soon as the dew is off the crops and the combine has had its daily service, which involves cleaning air filters, checking oil and greasing all the bearings. Then we'll continue harvesting until at least 10 pm, sometimes working into the early hours.
Aug '08 29
This year we've had the latest harvest since I started working at Home Farm in 1985. Normally by the August Bank Holiday Monday we've either finished or are close to finishing harvest and looking forward to a day off but due to all the rain this year this has not been the case. So far we've only completed about a third of the harvest. There are 750 acres of crops to harvest on Home Farm. These include 160 acres of oats which go into Duchy Originals Biscuits, 100 acres of malting barley which go into Duchy Originals Ale, 200 acres of wheat, most of which goes into the Duchy Originals Biscuits, 25 acres of mustard, which goes into the Duchy Originals Wholegrain Mustard and 63 acres of rye.
Jul '08 23
(Left to right: Catherine, Hannah, Ames, Emily) My name is Catherine and I run the Organic Vegetable Box Scheme at Home Farm. We distribute about 250 boxes a week within a ten to twelve mile radius of Home Farm. People don't know what they're getting in the box so it's a surprise for them which they tell us they love!
Jul '08 22
I do a few guided farm walks throughout the summer. Recently the Soil Association and a group which included people from different walks of life ranging from policy makers to food writers, authors and farmers joined me. I took them around the farm and we had some interesting discussions about the amount of energy used in the present food system.
Jul '08 11
We've had a lot of rain in the last week which was needed, but now we've had enough! So far in July we've had three inches which is quite a lot for this time of year (but not last year which we prefer to forget!). Because of the rain we can't make hay which is annoying as we've still got another 60 acres to make.
Jul '08 9
The other day Guy Tullberg and some members of his family and staff came and had a picnic on the edge of our mustard crop. Guy is the MD of Tracklements, the company which produces the Duchy Originals Wholegrain Mustard. Not surprisingly, they brought along a selection of their delicious mustards to accompany the cold snacks. It was rather nice to have a picnic all together and it's always interesting to taste some of Guy's new mustards. Tracklements are always coming up with some great tastes and it's nice as a farmer to see the end product.