Down on the Farm 3 - Leanne Pitman

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Over these last couple of weeks, we have seen the weather go through a few extremes.  From glorious warm sunshine, to heavy showers of rain, to temperatures plummeting overnight.  I have gone from dressing for summer and wearing shorts one day, to dressing for winter and wearing a woolly hat the next!

Having said that, the range in weather has been perfect for us on the farm and given us a bit of everything to keep the crops growing.

We have just completed our first cut of silage. Silaging can happen between two and five times over a 12-month period, depending on how much the grass is grazed but most farmers cut grass for silage three or four times a year.   Some farmers intensely fertilize the grass and would do little grazing to get as many cuts from it as possible, whereas others need the grass for summer grazing and therefore do not silage as much.

Although growing grass and creating silage may seem like a fairly easy process, in reality it takes time, is weather dependant, and consists of five steps.

Firstly, the grass is cut and then left to wilt in the sun. Once wilted, it is raked into manageable rows for the forager to pick up, chop up and blow into a trailer.  As the grass goes through the forager an additive is added to preserve the grass while it is in the clamp.   Big trailers are then used to haul the silage back to a silage clamp, which is usually on or near the farm or cattle sheds.  At this point it is important to pack the silage in as tightly as possible to make sure it is airtight.  Removing all the air helps to keep the silage fresh, with little waste, ready for the cows in the winter.

The potatoes have begun to sprout above the ridges in which they were planted. It is now important that they are kept moist to encourage growth and have a clean skin finish. Therefore, the irrigation system has been laid out this week, ready to provide water for when it is needed.

Everything else has been ticking along nicely on the farm.  The fields are getting fenced, ready for when we move the cattle and we have been completing general jobs to ensure everything is ready for harvest in a couple of months.

It is Mental Health Awareness Week and although a lot of our work is carried out in isolation, I am extremely lucky to be able to return home after a busy day on the farm to my partner. Having someone to talk to about how my day has been is something I am truly grateful for, especially in times like these. 

However, I imagine this is a particularly challenging time for those in the farming community who do not have someone to talk to face to face.  Over the past few days on social media, I have seen various charities raising awareness of mental health and the importance of staying connected.  Below are a few links to support those who may be feeling lonely or just want to talk to someone about farming:

Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I)

Farming Community Network

National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs

Mental Health Foundation