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August: harvest, cold mornings and turkeys

The light subtly changes from white to golden yellow. Individual leaves are picked out in the hedgerows and on the trees. Towards the end of the month there is the faintest glimmer of autumn in the old trees in the parkland.

Mornings are becoming colder with mist hanging in the lowland fields by the river, covering it like a damp, downy blanket. As the days progress the nights come sooner, hailing the onset of the dew which puts a halt to the combine harvester. The dew sits heavy on the ears of corn, enough to make them too wet for the harvester to cut and thresh.


August is a funny month on the farm. Harvest is still well underway but it’s not clear how long it will take to gather all the crops into the barn. Rain comes and goes, oblivious of the forecast, keeping the tractors and harvester inside waiting for a dry spell. Once the crops are ripe and ready, we’re desperate to get them indoors. The longer they remain outside, the more battering of wind and rain they’ll receive, the more their quality will decline and the more will be eaten by pigeons, our sworn enemies during summer.

That said, Barley fields yielded a bumper harvest this year, an encouraging start before we started harvesting the wheat and oat fields, which were very variable. There is very little rhyme or reason to how our crops performed this year so we must take it in our stride. It is said that the best thing about arable farming is that every year we get the chance to erase our mistakes and start again. We have already started planting next year’s crops. Little plants of oilseed rape are already sticking their heads through the soil in the fields in the valley bottom.

Closer to home we received our turkey poults that we're rearing for Christmas. They’re six weeks old when they arrive, and after a fortnight spell in a barn they’ll be moved into the fruit orchard until Christmas.

They were delivered by a farmer named John Aitkinson from Lancashire with hands the size of dustbin lids. Barn space was prepared for them next to the dog kennels in former cow stables. Old wooden slats divide the stable places and provide some lovely roosting and perching opportunities, which the turkeys have taken full advantage of from the outset.

It was only on their second day that they found a small hole to squeeze through high up leading to Finn’s kennel. I came in one morning to collect Finn to find him holding an audience with 20 turkeys surrounding him like in an amphitheatre.

Lambs are continuing to grow at a pleasing rate, especially on the new herbal leys that have been planted. It took a while for them to find the chicory attractive but they are now feasting on the stuff. You only have to walk into the field to see herbs hanging from their mouths.

In the parkland, ewes have been split into two groups based on their condition. We’re aiming to get them all in the same body condition for when we put the rams in, to help them have healthy pregnancies and so we can allocate the same amount of grazing each day to the whole mob over winter.


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