Despite plenty of sunshine over the past week, it has often felt chilly with a cold breeze coming from the north and east and although I was never up early enough to see a few sharp frosts. We did have just a few spots of rain one day, but not enough to make the ground damp. However, we are able to enjoy the countryside in all its beauty. Birdsong continues to fill the air and this year we have plenty of noisy starlings, an abundance of blue tits and skylarks hovering in the sky above the fields as they sing to mark their territory. Whilst we were picking up our grass for silage kestrels, buzzards, red kites and gulls were never far away, looking for rodents that may have been exposed. In my garden I have my large flock of house sparrows making quite a din at the moment. They sit along the edge of my roof, where they have nests under the tiles .

I am having great fun seeing how many different insects I can spot . It is quite surprising what you find if you take the time to look at the flowers and hedges and I am building up quite a selection of photographs as I wander around the farm and neighbouring wood. On my latest walks I have found common scorpion flies which have biting mouth parts and feed on dead or dying insects. I also found a robber, otherwise known as an assassin fly. Assassin flies are aerial or ambush hunters and I spotted one on a leaf sucking the internal juices from a hover fly which it had caught and injected with a protein dissolving saliva.

I have also found two large cocoons full of caterpillars. In one the hairy caterpillars had bright blue faces with what looked like two large black eyes, the other was filled with creamy coloured caterpillars with rows of black spots, but I have yet to find out which butterfly or moth they will develop into.

On Manor Farm the winter barley is well in ear, which means the flowering heads that will bear the grain are showing above the leaves. Ian has recently sprayed the the winter barley with a fungicide on the advice of our agronomist.

Cereals are susceptible to a number of fungal infections, often determined by the weather. Fungal infections will damage the leaves, leading to a reduction in yield of grain at harvest.

Ian has also sprayed our spring barley with a herbicide, as there were quite a number of weeds germinating .

Kevin has been spraying his winter barley with a fungicide, also his peas with a pesticide to try and control the pea and bean weevil, which is about 5mm long and feeds on the leaves of peas and beans. He has been spraying a herbicide on some large patches of nettles, docks and thistles in some of his grass fields. Kevin's father Francis has been doing some spot spraying, using a knapsack spray, to be more selective, where the problem was not so bad.

Sheep work has also taken up time during the week. There is always the daily checking of all the sheep , now grazing fields in many different places .

Recently, Francis spotted two sheep with fly -strike, which were both caught and treated promptly. Fly-strike is caused by blow flies which emerged in the recent warm weather. They lay their eggs in damp fleece, after which the hatched maggots will burrow their way into the flesh of the sheep.

It is hoped that the shearers will soon manage to get here from Australia, but two weeks either end of their journey will be taken up with quarantine. It was therefore decided to treat all the sheep with a fly repellent , quite a task. At the same time some lambs born earlier this spring were given their 2nd vaccination to protect them from a number of clostridial diseases and the lambs were given a wormer. Lambs between 6 and 12 weeks are very susceptible to disease from parasites, so it is essential to have be vigilant and have an up to date flock health plan.

Finally, our Angus cattle have been moved to a fresh field and look very happy .