There is not much that happens on the farm over Christmas – mostly because we don’t keep any animals at the moment. Just before Christmas we had our first field of sugar beet harvested, which performed quite a lot better than we thought it would, although it still did not reach full potential. That was really all down to mistakes we made in the spring when it was planted. The rye we have put into the field after the beet is looking nice, I’m feeling optimistic that this will turn out to be a good crop for us, although there is still a long, long way to go until harvest. Our second field of sugar beet is still in the ground, and will not be lifted until the end of January. We are really hoping that the weather dries out a bit before then, as otherwise it is easy to cause a lot of soil damage in sodden fields.
One of the main jobs over winter is trying to maintain some of the woodlands around here, although these days with so few people working on the farm that is really difficult. When Thriplow Farms used to employ 70 people, then a whole team of them would spend two months over winter working in the woods, clearing deadwood and brush. Now it is more of a firefighting operation, as we only have time to remove what is an immediate problem – particularly after storms like at the start of January, when five separate trees fell on to Cambridge Road overnight, and we had to spend a couple of hours with the police that morning getting the road open again.
Looking forward to work that is coming up, we are now planning our spring crops, and when they will be planted. There will be a bit of a change for 2018, and instead of delaying our barley drilling to April, we will try the opposite and put it in the ground in late February or early March. That means the cover crops have to be disposed of now, so that the nutrients are available for the barley at the right time. Even sooner than this job will be to start fertilising the oilseed rape, probably at the start of February – all the while trying to keep the pigeons from eating it all up. It’s still a quiet time on the farm really, but a busy couple of months are lurking just around the corner.