ANOTHER week has passed, with a mixture of weather. Temperatures have remained in double figures, so it has felt quite mild with plenty of cloud cover, spells of sunshine and some rain. Over a 24 hour period mid-week almost an inch of rain fell here on Manor Farm, which was added to on a few occasions over the remaining days to give us a total of 29 mm.

The recent conditions have meant our recently planted winter cereals have germinated well and have grown on to become well established, healthy plants. However, as we all know this could change very quickly, which was pointed out by our agronomist when he walked the crops during the week. There was very little evidence of slug damage but we must be on the lookout for a possible aphid attack. There are two aphid species in the UK that are responsible for transmitting a disease to winter cereals . The disease is called Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus, known by the acronym BYDV. BYDV is caused by a virus that is transmitted to the young plants via the saliva of the aphids, causing the plants to turn yellow and very much affects their growth. This can lead to considerable economic damage. In mild autumn/winter seasons the winged aphids can migrate into newly established winter cereal crops, with very low populations sometimes going unnoticed. These little creatures can be green, red or brown in colour. To help control aphid populations we can make sure stubble left after the previous crop is cleaned properly, leaving several weeks between ploughing and sowing, even delaying planting for a week will help. In addition to this farmers can choose to plant resistant varieties.

Ian has recently ploughed a field of permanent pasture, which was not looking very special, being overwhelmed with weeds and unproductive grasses. This field will be sown with a spring crop next year, before being returned to permanent grass the following year. Another field which has been left as stubble has a small area used to pile up manure ready for when it will be spread before it is ploughed into half the field. The other half will remain as overwintered stubble. The ploughed areas will not be cultivated further until the spring, which will allow the colder winter weather to break up the turned over ridges of soil.

There have been a few other jobs to do, one of which was to clear out a ditch where water was causing a flood across a minor road. Ian is now arranging for someone to come and have a look as he thinks the drains beneath the road are not functioning properly to enable them to carry the water to a stream. While on the subject of water I discovered that our older Angus beef cattle had managed to get into the chamber housing for a water tank and knock the ball cock, disconnecting it, allowing the tank to overflow. Unfortunately it was in a field they were shut out of for a while so the overflowing tank was not discovered for a few days. Another job was to hitch the hedge-cutter to a tractor again to finish some hedge trimming.

Kevin sold another group of finished lambs during the week and Ian found that some of our beef cattle are ready for sale.

The countryside is beginning to look colourful as leaves begin to show off their autumn colours. I have also noticed an abundance of what I call Old Man's Beard, but is also known as Traveller's Joy. Its Latin name is Clematis Vitalba, but it belongs to a group of plants which include wood anemones , buttercups and celandines. Old Man's Beard is a woody climbing plant with leaf stalks, which twine around other plants and trees. It can reach lengths up to 30 metres, often with stems hanging down in a tangled mess. The flowers are whitish-green sepals that are sweetly scented. Old Man's Beard is a name it has been given as the fluffy seed heads resemble a white beard and the name Travellers Joy coming from the way it decorates long lengths of hedges at this time of year. In the past the stems have been used for weaving into onion baskets and binding sheaves of grain. It is also the food of a number of moth larvae, such as the Small Emerald and Haworth's Pug.