A Busy Time Of Year
It’s harvest time here on the farm, one of our busiest times of the year. Around this time of year our barley, wheat, oilseed rape and beans are ready to be harvested and brought safely into our sheds.
It’s A Crazy World
It’s been a hard year for everyone this year and farming hasn’t been immune. Prices of everything have sky rocketed for us, in some cases as much as 600%. Fuel is a major concern with diesel prices still at an eye watering price. On top of that all of our inputs such a fertiliser and nitrogen have increased significantly.
It’s years like this that we are eternally glad of the practices dad started. Around ten years ago dad bought a Claydon Drill. This drill can go straight into a field after harvesting and sows next years crop with minimal disturbance of the top soil. Direct drilling is not only much better for soil health, it also reduces the amount of times we have a tractor in the field. Just one machine does the same job that two or even three machines did before. We are reducing diesel usage, wear and tear on our machines, man hours, emissions and soil compaction. It ticks so many boxes both environmentally and economically.
Nourishing the Soil
We’ve always had a traditional five year rotation on our farm. This means each crop is only grown once every five years in the same spot to stop depleting the nutrients in the soil. Animals have also always been key, with their dung being put back on the land. However, with the increasing cost of nitrogen we need to do more and will be adding green manures over winter to try and increase the soil fertility.
We talk about a lot of environmental things we do on the farm. We care deeply about the land and our impact on it. However, when it makes economical sense to do practices that are better for the environment, that’s when you get a big shift throughout an industry. It will be interesting to see what happens in the wider farming community this year. So many people already doing inspiring things.
Anyway, back to harvest time. It’s been an incredibly dry year almost all over Scotland. In the East Neuk we have managed to miss almost all of the rain in our little microclimate. Now the weather has changed it’s too late for the cereal crops to get any benefit (but not our veg!). We’re hoping this doesn’t effect yield too much, although inevitable the dry much have some impact.
If it stays dry we have about 20 or so (long) days work. It never does stay dry though, and we also have animals to take care of, so harvest will be a feature in our lives for the next couple of months.
Scott drives the combine and Claire is on the grain drier, everyone else ferries grain back to the farm in various shifts while tending sheep, cattle, cutting veg, baling and other daily tasks. It’s an exciting time. We’ve worked all year for this harvest. Before the shop we only got paid once a year, once the harvest was in and loaded on lorries. Can you imagine only being paid once a year? It’s slightly different now we sell so much direct to customers, nevertheless it’s still an incredibly important time for us.
The Learning Curve
The first year dad took over the farm after grandpa passed away was in 1984. It rained so much during harvest that they bought floatation tyres for the combine and hauled it through the mud. After all that, the grain was so wet it set hard into a solid lump in the shed and went mouldy. Mum remembers taking a shovel to the pile to try and break it up into something that resembled grain. Since dad has died we’ve had two years of covid and now the driest year since 1976, we’re hoping for a let up at some point. Fingers crossed that the weather stays relatively settled (we could still do with some rain for our grass!) and we get the harvest in safely.
Look out for the combines in the fields and give the guys a toot as you pass by!