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On December 6 2013 our marshes succumbed to the great tidal surge which was similar but not quite as deep as the 1953 floods. After buying a digger and carrying out some sea wall repairs we are happy to report that the landscape has come out of it relatively unscathed but the hawthorn and brambles have been hit hard by the salt. An ecologist reported in August that Sticklebacks are back in the dykes and was amazed at the amount of insect life on our marshes. The grass on our marshes has made an amazing recovery.
Marsh harriers nested again in 2014 in the dykes - there may have been one fledged.
Tawny owls and Little owls are evident with occasional sightings of barn owls. Kestrels are resident and have bred on the farm again this year and we have regular sightings of sparrow hawks and buzzards and have noticed hobbys more often this year. Swallows have continued to use the farmyard and at least 2 nests have been successful (one over Cygnet bedroom) and one in the corner between Cygnet and Primrose (with the ensuing faecal evidence) a nightmare for our cleaning brigade! There is a colony of house martins on our own house and we have had breeding pairs of corn buntings, yellow hammers and linnets in several places on the farm. this year due to a combination of allowing our hedges to become thicker and wider and grass and fallow margins round fields giving extra cover and feeding area.
We have identified 3 new butterflies on the farm this year - Common Blue, Clouded Yellow and Brown Argus . It has been a good summer for dragon/damsel flies on hedges near Orwell View Barns.
We have noticed 2 new wild flowers for this farm - Lady's Bedstraw and Musk Mallow
Bats are using the farmyard - both pipistrelle and long eared brown have been identified. Grass snakes and frogs are seen around the farmyard.
This is our second year growing parsley to be made into dried herbs and for M & S ready meals. So successful was our first trial field last year that this year we decided to grow 4 fields. Slow to establish as some of you gardeners will know! we are hoping to get 3 cuts out of our parsley in this growing season. We have grown our own potatoes this year for the first time for 11 years - salad varieties 'Charlotte' and a French variety called 'Galante'. Our son has been helping us with the agronomy of this crop.
As we write (early Sept 2014) we still have some field edges left to combine. And as we continue into September the days get shorter, the dew at night gets greater, and the combining hours per day become less and less.
We had a great year in 2014 the weather really helped our crops, the early and warm spring, coupled with good doses of rain at frequent intervals and lots of sunshine. The parsley loved the warm early spring however, this year has been the complete opposite.
The spring was cold and late and was followed by cold winds right into May. The parsley hated it. Its slow to germinate at the best of times and likes a warm and comfy seed bed (which it didnt get this year) and never really recovered despite our best endeavours. So it will have lost us money. Farmgate prices are down on last year, and although oil prices are down this doesn't seem to be reflected in the price we have to pay for our sprays and fertilizer. You really would think prices would come down, but I guess its the same with lots of other commodities. So tough times for farmers next year prices are also down almost below the cost of production on crops such as wheat and barley, so we rely on the higher value crops such as potatoes, and parsley to make up for these shortfalls.
So not much to shout about in 2015 - it has been a struggle - the loveliest thing is the wonderful views from our fields looking out across the River Orwell and out to the estuary of the Orwell and beyond to Landguard Point. Its then that you realize that the English countryside looks wonderful coupled with the ever changing skies and water and you realize that you wouldnt want to be anywhere else! So roll on next year, we wait with eager anticipation to see what challenges it will bring!