October '07

Having failed to get our ‘nature reserve’ fields cut in summer, it is strange to be able to get a tractor and topper through the wettest field, which provides access to the haymeadow, and cut back the vegetation so late in the season. I managed to cut a swathe across the rushy rhos pasture, and knock back over an acre of rushes. Snipe are increasing in numbers now in this field. On every visit two or three snipe break cover, drawing attention to themselves with sharp alarm calls and zigzag flight. Then, flying high, they circle and land not very far distant.

Stuck Tractors
The scrape which I opened up in the wonderful dry summer of 2006 is closing up as rushes rush in. The speed at which succession takes place no longer surprises me, and I am relaxed about engineering a bit more disturbance. Last year, the digger must have uncovered square-stalked St John’s wort seed; this flowered for the first time this year in disturbed ground. I hope to create some more open water habitat next year. The fine weather and continually-growing grass encouraged me to leave the cattle out and not to start feeding them our haylage. Tragically this probably cost us the life of our best cow, which died suddenly at the end of the month from the magnesium deficiency called ‘staggers’. One cow died here about ten years ago from this. To combat the problem, we have sourced a high magnesium lick; a black, sugary gunge in a big tub, which is acceptable to the Soil Association. Losing animals is a harsh blow, and you can always blame yourself, but it is a fact of livestock farming, and you have to put it behind you. I can write this because the sun is shining, the calves have just run helter skelter past my window, and optimism is slowly returning.