I suspect that if most of us had been told in February that March would have proven largely dry and sunny, we would have puffed out our cheeks and said ‘phew, 2020 wasn’t as bad as we were fearing.’
But then if hindsight had also told us this benign weather that got us back on the land had brought little joy because something much, much worse had unravelled, we would have scratched our heads as to exactly what it could be. It might be 2020 but no one had that precise vision to see what it might entail when the year started. Many of us were thinking that so many of the horsemen of the apocalypse had galloped through the yard that the grim cavalcade was done. Little did we know the main man was waiting down the road.
COVID-19 is so dispiriting it is tempting not to mention it in this column. But to pretend to be oblivious to it seems like a child pulling the sheets over their head in the hope it will go away. Suffice to say I wish you and your loved ones good health and peace of mind. We must count our blessings that we live and work in rural areas.
What’s more, concerns about food supplies gives an extra sense of purpose in these troubled times but let’s not lose perspective. It’s not the farmers who are the heroes in this crisis, it’s the medics. We might be supplying the frontline, but we aren’t really on it. And let’s all remember that for many reasons this is not the time to end up in A&E or in the back of an ambulance so let’s be super careful out there and get our accident stats down.
On that note, I’m keen to give anyone reading this a COVID break by not mentioning it anymore. There’s no shortage of COVID comment out there so there’s no need to add endlessly to it. Let’s talk farming.
So the old adage is that a peck of dust in March is worth a king’s ransom. I was mulling over this old piece of lore when drilling last autumn’s winter bean seed in mid-March as the dust was rising behind the drill. Call me an old curmudgeon but if those beans earn me a king’s ransom then I can only assume that by September some cut-price kidnappers must have found some very cheap kings.
Bizarrely enough in this topsy-turvy year, we’re now in need of a little rain to soak some fertiliser in and chit some seed. I realise that such a statement will attract the wrath of the Hellfire club whose motto is ‘Be careful what you wish for’ but I emphasise at the moment we only need 10mm not multiples thereof.
Pub yield problem
I appreciate the current crisis is not a matter to be made light of but one curious angle did cross my mind. If the pubs are shut until September then what is going to happen to pub yields at harvest? Are we in for one of the most sober combine seasons we’ve known with some teetotal yield reportIng? Maybe at the end of the day we’ll have to sit in our cabs in stationary isolation for an extra half hour and video link our neighbours on the iPad while enjoying a bottle of something of an amber hue.
Guy Smith grows 500ha of combinable crops on the north east Essex coast. @EssexPeasant