In common, I suspect, with the whole country, Eaton has been subject to one deluge after another this season, the summer brooks rising and falling more often than is usual. Normally, and thankfully, my wellingtons are strangers to my feet in July and August. This year however is the exception and a little respite would be welcome for the crops, most wildlife and not least me.
Grass is growing well but the hay that is to be made from some of it is nowhere near being cut. The sweet grasses are ready, in amongst the remnants of cuckoo flowers, trefoils and knapweeds, but to leave it on the ground would seem to be asking for trouble. You need sun to make hay.
Likewise, consistent sunshine is the so far missing ingredient for the wheat. It has grown well, but now, as the last of last year’s grain is sold and moved off the farm, we begin to think of the restocking of the barns. The crops however are behind schedule. Ear diseases are starting to become troublesome and the ground is virtually untravellable. The suspicion is that grain quality will suffer and harvest will be late.
However, on a more positive note, it does mean the wheat is not suffering from an aphid infestation as it was in last year’s heat. The ducks seem untroubled, goslings are about and trout can still be heard plopping in the pools at the bends of the brooks, occasionally stalked by the heron. I am sure too that I caught a quick glimpse of the electric blue kingfisher darting along Harton Brook, a friend I haven’t seen for a while. Small frogs are relatively easily found in the long grass by the brook and these too are on the diet of heron, though I think not the toad that was lurking beneath an old log in a dry hollow.
I do think though that the birds are suffering the most in this unseasonable weather. There is simply not the same chatter of young and constant flicking of families in and out of bushes, trying inexpertly to confuse our gaze. Tits, finches and leaf warblers are I think having a hard time. On the other hand the family of swallows crammed into the nest in the barn above the farm office is so full of fat young you might wonder how they all manage to fit there and not drop out. The green woodpecker is still on the old railway, drilling away at the anthills for a meal and I spotted a silent female cuckoo lurking in a tree by the grain store.