Monday, 25 January 2016

One cold snap does not a winter make

I cannot believe that we are already in the last week of January. I consulted my all-knowing spreadsheet, on which I have intricately mapped out every conceivable job and when it needs doing through the year, and it is time to start sowing seeds! Aubergines and lettuces to start inside, carrots and turnips in the polytunnel beds.

But outside, the soil won't be ready for a good while yet. I've been itching to work on it but waterlogged clay soil is no fun and to trample all over it would just do more harm than good.
But with our first (and hopefully not last) spell of cold weather last week, I was up early cranking up Mr Rotavator. When the soil is frozen solid, I have an hour or so to turn as much as possible. After this, once the temperature reaches thawing point, the clay sticks to the tines until they become one solid lump.
I need about half a dozen cold mornings to make a significant difference. I can let the cold in, incorporate some air and, most importantly, expose the slugs and other creepy crawlies to the chickens.
Every slug unearthed and devoured at this time of year is a small army of baby slimy munching monsters which won't be around when my crops go in.

The chickens move in
My two best digging machnes!
Unfortunately two of the three sharp frosts last week came on work days for me so I have only had one chance to turn the soil, but I was pleased with what I did manage to do. I could really do with another freezing spell. Without it, turning the soil will be hard work and the chickens won't have long on it before the seeds and young plants go in. Hopefully February will deliver the goods.

The cold weather reminds me of the need to keep the bird feeders stocked up too. We've had up to 50 Reed Buntings and half a dozen Yellowhammers on the farm of late, by far the most we've ever had. I must be doing something right. But if the buntings feel the need to come in from the fields then the other birds, the more familiar visitors to the feeders, will most definitely need feeding to stay alive.

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