The Farm Gate


All Flails Flying!

It’s been a long hot summer!

With a shortage of rain and extremes of temperature, expectations for harvest yields were not great this year. However, we must have done something right or conditions favoured this farm because the winter sown wheat and barley performed well above average and produced some high-quality crops. This was somewhat modified by poor results from the spring wheat, but despite this our overall total farm output was up by some 10% which is very lucky.

In total contrast, grass essential for our sheep flock has dried up and died, meaning a substantial slowing of growth rates from the fattening lambs. Indeed, many livestock farmers throughout the country have needed to sell animals because of the fodder and grass shortage. The net results of many more animals being marketed earlier has been a substantial drop in prices!

It’s that time of year again! The rams are now running with the ewes and all being well, lambing should start in early February 2019. Hopefully, the woeful lack of grass will not reduce the eventual lambing percentage or viability of the flock.

Within the next few days we hope to start grazing the forage crops which were planted after harvest to provide additional fodder for the sheep. In a perfect world this crop should be streaks ahead of its current growth rate, but beggars cannot be choosers and every little helps!

Looking ahead to harvest 2019 the fields have all had their initial cultivation to stimulate germination of weeds and shed grain. After another cultivation everything will be planted in mid-October. The wheat and barley will all be sold in a post-Brexit situation, and it is extremely difficult to gauge how the markets might perform at this stage. In a global market, my hunch is that currency values will be paramount in dictating end-point prices, and these values could be very volatile if economic stability is suspect even for a short period after we leave the EU.

The uncertainty and posturing over Brexit negotiations is a cause for major concern. With our Prime Minister holding her line in a desperate battle to succeed despite the odds being stacked against success by in-fighting within the Conservative party, which is shameful and inept, intransigence from the EU and a totally unhelpful press which aims to undermine just about everything that is being done!

Come on everyone, get behind Teresa May and bolster her fortitude for the final push. At least we now seem to have a Brexit Secretary capable of straightforward talking and sensible communication which bodes well. If the usual political shenanigans and fudge come to pass, expect a deal at the last minute of the final negotiating hour on the last day!

It’s been a very social year on the farm. With tea and cake for many after a Rogation Sunday Service held here in May, followed by a large family gathering in June and culminating in a ‘Harvest Lunch’ in our garden for over 50 friends on a beautiful sunny day in September. Rosemary has been flat out working with her normal expertise organising, cooking and catering for the masses!

It was a shame our dishwasher died just before the last event, but our son and son-in-law rescued the situation flogging away with a never-ending pile of washing up all day!

Just to round things off, it was our turn to host a wine tasting and meal for our usual gang of imbibers!

Time for a holiday methinks!






























Highlands Farm, Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, OX10 0QX

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