Four weeks late

I escaped and went for a walk on Saturday. I just made my way along the various back paths to a village about eight miles away. It was a glorious day, the sun shone, and everything looked green and well cared for. The village has a coffee morning come jumble sale so I dropped in. After eight miles I felt I deserved a coffee. Indeed whilst I was there, I picked up a boxed set of eight Tom Sharpe novels for £3, which has to be good. For those who don’t know his work he is exceptionally funny, and can be remarkably cutting about the fads and fashions of the time he wrote. He was also remarkably rude. For those who are too young to remember the Apartheid regime in South Africa, his two books set there, Riotous Assembly and Indecent Exposure, are perhaps required reading.

But as I was walking, I noticed a couple of times that there was white ‘thistle down’ blowing past me. Which was remarkable because there were no thistles. It was next morning I worked out what had been going on. It was willow. I’ve never seen so much of it. Whether this has been the perfect season for it or what, but I saw one ploughed field where parts of it looked as if they’ve been ‘airbrushed’ with willow down.

By any usual way of measuring things, this spring has been four weeks late. Normally we’d silage in the first week of May, weather permitting. Even if the weather had permitted, at the start of May there was so little grass that we’d have had to go round with a dustpan and brush rather than the usual chopper and trailer. As it was we silaged at the end of last week and all around us everybody else is now working furiously to get the grass in.

Whilst spring does drift about, this year we’re back to what would be usual back in the 1960s and 70s. Back then we tended to find ourselves silaging during Whit week. Whitsuntide is one of those moveable feasts (Easter plus 49 days) but it tends to be the end of May, start of June.

The issue with a late spring is feeding cattle. Firstly have you got enough silage left to carry them through the extra month? The problem is that even if there is grass out there, it’s not for them, yet. It’s being grown for silage to get everybody through next winter. Indeed we are already gearing up for next winter before this winter has finished.

It’s one of those instances  where if you get it wrong, the problem comes back to bite you next winter, and can even ricochet into future winters. If you haven’t the silage to get through this winter and turn out early, you eat off some of the grass which should be silage for next winter, which means that next winter, you run out even earlier.

Some years you can ‘catch up’ in that you can make more silage in the next cut. But again that costs money. Either you try putting on more fertiliser to encourage it along (which is cost) or you let the grass grow for longer. This means you get more bulk, but the quality isn’t as good meaning you’ll have to supplement it with more purchased feeds. Again this is extra cost.

This spring we have one bunch of heifers who’re on a field that would normally carry them, but we’ve been feeding them silage as well to make sure they’ve got enough. In another field a small batch of young stirks have been grazing behind an electric fence. Between ourselves I’ve been proud of them. They’ve behaved beautifully. They’ve not had tantrums and run into it, breaking it down or anything silly like that. They’ve just grazed as sensibly as a bunch of elderly dairy cows.

Twice a day I’d go in with a bit of feed just to make sure they were getting enough of everything. Whilst they ate that, Sal and I would quietly move the posts of the electric fence another foot forward. Before I finished the heifers would have joined me, tucking into the fresh grass.

We silaged the majority of the field they hadn’t grazed. We continued to strip graze up to where the mower had been, and then I quietly took the fence down. I rather expected them to kick their heels up and run a bit, but no, they just walked sedately to the hedge and ate the grass the mower hadn’t been able to get. Indeed yesterday when I went in to see how they were, rather than running to me to be the first to get to the feed, they just lay there, soaking up the sun. Finally as Sal arrived to see what was going on they slowly stood up, stretched and quietly ambled across to see me. After the wet misery of earlier this month, they seem to be really appreciating the sun.


There again, there are some out there who know more about grass than I do.
Available in paperback or ebook from Amazon


And to buy it from anybody else

As a reviewer commented, “Jim Webster’s recollections, reflections and comments, about life as a Farmer, are always worth reading, not only for information, but also for entertainment and shrewd comments about UK government agencies (and politicians).
One of the many observations that demonstrate his wryness, is as follows:
There was a comment in the paper the other day. Here in the UK, clowns are starting to complain that politicians are being called clowns. The clowns point out that being a clown is damned hard work, demands considerable fitness, great timing and the ability to work closely with others as part of a well drilled team!”

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24 thoughts on “Four weeks late

  1. rootsandroutes2012 June 2, 2021 at 4:57 am Reply

    “The village has a coffee morning come jumble sale…” Well they’ve kept that a closely guarded secret!

    • jwebster2 June 2, 2021 at 5:03 am Reply

      As far as I know the only advert is a board outside the Rec
      Urswick does it big 🙂

      • rootsandroutes2012 June 2, 2021 at 5:22 am

        Well well – I didn’t realise that was back 🙂

      • jwebster2 June 2, 2021 at 5:46 am

        Ironically to keep numbers down I think they decided to keep it quiet

      • rootsandroutes2012 June 2, 2021 at 5:48 am

        I think significant numbers of virus nervous people will make attendance at such events self-regulating for a while in any case.

      • jwebster2 June 2, 2021 at 6:32 am

        yes I think so as well

  2. Books & Bonsai June 2, 2021 at 7:36 am Reply

    It is good to see the sun again, but as usual, it seems to have lost its thermometer and become far too hot! I know, I know, no pleasing some folk!

    • jwebster2 June 2, 2021 at 7:58 am Reply

      Yes we’re just not used to it, in a more normal spring it would have worked up slowly to it. This year it’s as if it suddenly woke up, glanced at the alarm clock and mutter ‘oooops’ under it’s breath as it dashed out without forgetting to put on a shirt 🙂

      • Books & Bonsai June 2, 2021 at 6:08 pm

        The perfect image, Jim…

      • jwebster2 June 2, 2021 at 6:16 pm

        If I have the audacity to call myself a writer I’ve either got to be able to produce a decent image, or have better hair 😉

      • Books & Bonsai June 3, 2021 at 7:07 am

        My sentiments exactly!

      • jwebster2 June 3, 2021 at 8:19 am


  3. Stevie Turner June 2, 2021 at 11:28 am Reply

    They’re cutting grass for silage here in East Anglia now. Everywhere’s greened up and blossoming. Summer is here at last!

    • jwebster2 June 2, 2021 at 11:51 am Reply

      There’s that smell, mown grass, hot dust, and just a hint of diesel and oil 🙂
      Summer is here

      • Stevie Turner June 2, 2021 at 12:12 pm

        I was in the car going along the A12 yesterday when I saw the grass being cut, so didn’t get any of those aromas as we had the air-con on, lol.

  4. Doug Jacquier June 2, 2021 at 6:28 pm Reply

    Sorry, Jim, you lost me at ‘eight miles’. 😉

    • jwebster2 June 2, 2021 at 6:46 pm Reply

      I left a trail of bread crumbs for you to follow 🙂

    • rootsandroutes2012 June 2, 2021 at 7:28 pm Reply

      About 12.8748 kilometres

      • jwebster2 June 3, 2021 at 4:33 am

        I didn’t measure it to four decimal points 🙂

  5. Jane Sturgeon June 3, 2021 at 8:26 am Reply

    Jim, you are a treat. 🙂

    • jwebster2 June 3, 2021 at 8:29 am Reply

      Bad for you, frowned upon by doctors, banned by your mother, and smuggled into you by your Grandma? 😉

      • Jane Sturgeon June 3, 2021 at 9:02 am

        But ohh so good… 😉

      • jwebster2 June 3, 2021 at 10:20 am


  6. Four weeks late – Like world June 21, 2021 at 4:03 am Reply

    […] Four weeks late […]

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