AFTER the rain the sun, as the saying goes. We did have a rather damp 24 hours, during which time 10mm of rain fell on Manor Farm, but the weather now seems to be drier, warmer and sunnier, with temperatures in the upper 20s over the latter part of the week. However a chilly breeze was sometimes felt in more exposed locations.

As the forecast improved we decided it was a good time to ensile some more grass for silage. Our contractor was called and able to harvest the 50 acres of second cut grass as soon as we were ready. Our mower was hitched on to one of the tractors and the grass was cut. It was then left to wilt for 24 hours before being rowed up ready to be picked up and chopped by the forage harvester. As the grass passed through the forage harvester a bacterial silage inoculant was added. This lactic acid producing bacteria, Lactobacilli, will help the naturally occurring bacteria produce the correct fermentation of the crop. The fermentation process will stop once the acidity has reduced to between 3.7 % and 4.7 %. It is essential to keep air out of the crop during this time, as the correct fermentation only takes place in anaerobic conditions. Even after fermentation of the grass is complete the silage clamp must be kept airtight or the crop will spoil. By the end of the day all the grass had been gathered, taken to the clamp and covered with a thick plastic sheet.

Kevin also decided that the weather was settled enough to do some hay- making, as he had 40 acres of permanent pasture that were ready to cut. Hay is usually made during mid-summer, as this is when the greatest opportunity for successful drying occurs, the sun is at its highest and the days long. Grass is ready to cut for hay when it starts to head and for 4 to 6 weeks after this time. In sunny, breezy weather it will usually take about 3 or 4 days for the crop to dry, but this will depend on the thickness and maturity of the crop. When making large bales of hay the grass needs to have a moisture content of less than 18 % to keep moulding and heating to a minimum. Towards the end of the week Kevin cut his grass, spending the next few days moving the crop by turning and spreading it to help it dry. So far the sun has kept shining and hopefully some good quality hay will be made.

The cereal crops on Manor and Chiverlins Farm continue to ripen, the winter barley rapidly becoming more golden in colour as the grain swells in the ears. As they mature the ears will start to bend downwards, eventually ending at an angle of 180 degrees from their original position.

Richard has been doing some final checks on the combine harvester, just to make sure everything is in working order. A slight fuel leak was soon fixed before he attached the reel to the front of the combine. On the lower part of the reel is the knife which cuts the crop before an auger guides it into the main body of the combine, where it is threshed, separating the grain (seeds) from the stalks and husks.

Recently on Manor Farm Richard saw a slow worm. Although slow worms look like snakes, they are actually limbless lizards. They have a smooth shiny appearance, the females brown or copper-coloured with dark sides and a thin line down the back. The males are grey-brown. Slow worms can easily drop their tails if attacked. The tail continues to wriggle distracting the predator, but a new tail soon grows. They can live over 50 years.