For those of us on Weald clay this is the perfect spring

British summertime to now add to the wonderful spring weather; yes we need rain, but there’s nothing we can do about that, so let’s enjoy the amazing March weather while it lasts, and its going to last all this week; March going out like a lamb.

We have growth despite the cold nights and our grass is beginning to move, responding well to the early fertilizer applications and warm weather.

The woodland and road verges are bursting into flower, with hedgerows trimmed with snow like blossom. Every spring seems to be better than the last, and this one is set to be a cracker!

Our magnolia trees in the garden are superb, and so far undamaged by frost, the plum blossom is finished as we await the apple blossom. I have started planting in the garden, as I dig the last few parsnips and start harvesting this spring’s rhubarb.

Our heifers are now all out grazing, saving a lot of work, feed and machinery costs. We have not turned any cows out yet, although we are tempted to start grazing during the day, to start the grazing paddock rotation going. Although this weather is not ideal for most farmers, for those of us on weald clay, it’s the perfect spring. We are never short of moisture at this time of year on our soil; the problem is getting it dry enough to warm up and to travel on. There are no such problems this year.

I am looking at some extra maize land this week, as I am concerned about potential yield, given the dry conditions on the sandy soil. We could easily drill at Tillington, but I have learnt how damaging frost can be to young maize seedlings, and I am therefore waiting for another fortnight. It could be the wrong decision this year, as I would certainly be drilling into good moisture this week, but I am too nervous! Seed bed preparation has gone well, and the hard frosts in February certainly did the trick on the heavier soils, breaking them up nicely. We should certainly get the maize off too a good start in these fine seed beds, and the soil is certainly warm enough already.

Last week’s farming press was full of articles on bovine TB in Wales and how the Labour party has let down Welsh farmers. In a nutshell, the last administration (a coalition - prior to the last election) had orchestrated a full management programme, including a wildlife cull. Farmers were saddled with extra restrictions on animal movements, and extra testing; the whole Welsh herd of cattle (beef and dairy) were tested to tease out any reactors and pockets of infection the government authorities did not know about, and then of course the case was lost in court.

The plan was to appeal the decision, and get the programme back on track, but an election took place, the Labour party won a narrow majority, and has now introduced a badger vaccine programme. It is well understood that a badger vaccine policy on its own is a complete waste of time, and that it will not tackle the disease problem in the heavily infected areas; but could play a small part around the edge of such an area if a wildlife cull took place. Welsh farmers feel that they have been taken on a ride, the extra measures they are having to carry out have done nothing on their own to combat the disease (as we all knew), and now, instead of a programme that will help them combat the disease, money is being thrown away on a measure which will yield absolutely nothing.

A breath of fresh air recently in the food and diet columns, have been written by Joanna Blythman (investigative food journalist, and author of ‘What to Eat’); her articles have been very sound, and are extremely sensible. She is correct in her analysis and common sense approach, resisting stupid food scares by those who are looking for a headline, government money to fund research, or just poor scientists... In a nutshell, Joanna tells us to use our common sense, stay faithful to unprocessed traditional foods which have been the cornerstone of our diets for centuries.

For example, red meat is very good for you, eat two eggs a day, buy butter and not margarine, eat full fat yoghurt, cheese, and full fat milk, not skimmed. She describes milk quite rightly as the classic food package that nature put together; a good source of protein, minerals and vitamins, all of which are only available in full fat milk.

Cheese is of course a concentrated form of milk, and the low fat ones will not only taste inferior, but do not have the nutrition of full fat cheese. The same goes for yoghurt, a really good food and like everything else, best eaten full fat, and there is no need to pay extra for ‘special bacteria’. Potatoes only once a week, very little bread, and pasta only as a part of the meal (which is how the Italians eat it) might be tough going, avoiding breakfast cereals due to their ‘confectionary’ high sugar and processed state (eggs, fish and meat are better for breakfast), and whilst talking of sugar, it might not be good for you, but artificial sweeteners are a whole lot worse.

Two very important points are made in her deliberations. The first is that ‘Tofu can be toxic’. Joanna states that it is only recently that people have started consuming large quantities of soya, which she believes is a large ‘experiment’ in human health. The soya bean contains natural occurring toxins, such as phytic acid and trypsin inhibitors, which can reduce the body’s ability to assimilate essential minerals and the ability to digest protein. The parting shot is left to last; ‘Don’t buy bottles water; you might as well take out another mortgage; tap water is of the highest standard in this country, sometimes higher than the bottled water’.

I visited the ‘Ideal Home Exhibition’ last Friday for the first time at London’s Earls Court; what an event! I bought all sorts of gadgets which on the day I desperately needed, and even if I did not, they would make my life a lot easier.

For example, I bought a car wash and polish that needs no water; just the job when we have a hose-pipe ban! A sucker for good quality knives and sharpening devices, BBQ utensils, I even bought some trick coat-hangers which make your wardrobe half as big again.

Apparently I am not allowed to go again.

Gwyn Jones