After occasional outbreaks of good weather this has turned into a miserable summer.
So much so that radio and TV weather forecasts could be truncated to ‘Today’s weather – rubbish. Tomorrow’s – equally rubbish, with every chance that the day after that will also be rubbish. For updates on more rubbish days ahead, check online.’
I know we’ve had rain in July before, lots of it. Satistically, on average it’s one of the wettest months. But it’s still miserable, especially when it’s much colder than expected. Animals feel the same way as a glance at any herd of cattle or flock of sheep huddling and looking for the least exposed part of a field will confirm.
There were reports of a couple of combines out towards the end of last week, but given that grain crops in north Northumberland and the Borders are up to a fortnight behind in ripening this year I can’t imagine they got much done. If and when crops ripen and if and when the rain stops winter barley crops I’ve seen look reasonably promising. I’ve also seen two outstanding fields of oilseed rape. It’s spring barley that might be disappointing, given the up and down spring and summer we’ve had since most of it was sown.
As if weather, dubious harvest prospects, low lamb prices and complying with common agricultural policy (CAP) rules weren’t enough, a campaign called Rewilding Britain has started. The campaign’s intentions suggest: ‘We could have beaver, boar, lynx, wolf and bluefin tuna all at home in Britain. Where they belong. Living with us. And that is just the start.’
Phew. The alert will have noted that bluefin tuna are fish, but the others mentioned are four-legged, live on land, two at least are predatory and that wild boar are already a rampant, at times dangerous, nuisance in areas such as the New Forest. Lynx and wolves don’t fit easily into any sheep management system.
Apart from wild boar, farmers have pointed out that the establishment of beavers in some areas have already caused problems with drainage systems and waterways. In short, it seems a misguided attempt to re-create a landscape that ever existed only in Rewilding Britain’s collective imagination.
I have frequently said that there should be more recognition for women in farming. Top marks then to Farmers Guardian columnist Peter Chapman in his final column about his large scale business when he wrote: ‘Most importantly, thanks to my long-suffering wife of 20 years, Grace, who has given me three fantastic children and who puts up with my fluctuating emotions during the busy times. She turns her hand to any job and is always a great sounding board for new ideas. Love you, Grace, I could not do it without you.’
There should be more acknowledgements like that in the buttoned-up, male dominated, still too often chauvinistic world of farming.