News From The Farm February 2023
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Above: A Curlew visiting the farm.
The farm through SaM's eyes:
Who’d be a worm on an organic farm? It’s one of those odd paradoxes that encouraging more life comes with a commensurate increase in death, a bit of a mixed bag for worms around here. Organic management practices generally give soil life a boost and worms are a good visible sign of that, at least they are if you get the spade out once in a while and have a rummage around. They’re hungry beasts and do seem to respond very rapidly to adding extra organic matter onto the soils. I haven’t gone quite as far as Charles Darwin did in his researches into worms, quite startling me with his descriptions of worms coming up onto the surface of his experimental plant/worm pots at night and pulling all manner of foodstuffs, including meat, back to their burrows. But each time I see some nice green grass being trampled rather than eaten by our cows or sheep I’m happy to think, dinner for the worms. I’ve never done any systematic counts here but my impression is that they have increased over the years, good news for all the benefits they bring to our soil health and good news for the worms. Sort of. Although I haven’t yet heard of worms being added to the lists of alternative protein sources for humans, they surely are popular with plenty of the other beings we share the farm with.
The moles have started their worm munching early this year with the mild weather. They particularly favour the newly established grass fields (after cropping and undersowing in the previous year) which I suspect is a combination of more worms feeding on incorporated organic matter and easier tunnelling; they’re currently romping up and down the fields like steam trains, puffing up soil as they go. For readers of this newsletter who might remember last summers piece on thistles, I’ve been very interested to see that in one 15 acre grass field the only moles hills (around 20 of them) currently visible have been confined exactly to a few square metres of a thistle patch that was killed by aphids last summer. That’s just asking for a spade rummage soon; I’m imagining worms feasting on big fat decaying thistle roots … being feasted on by moles.
While that is intriguing me, making me laugh was watching a pair of buzzards hunt worms at first light a couple of weeks back. Stock still, listening (I presume) intently, they would locate their quarry up to about a meter from where they were standing, then prance sideways like a dressage horse, pull up and suck down a breakfast worm. They seemed to have a pretty good catch rate and certainly amused me, bouncing yellow legs, britches and all, but so far the prize for worm catching has to go to the curlews, which hopefully we will be seeing back here for spring before too long. I was lying watching an early returned group last year through my telescope as they moved between washing and preening on the wetland pools and feeding in the adjacent grass fields. They were feeding hard and of the three that I watched closely for some time, one was managing to pull up a worm every 10-15 seconds and two were pulling one up every 6-8 seconds. That seemed like a lot of worms going down the beak to me and left me feeling variously pleased that the soil was so abundant in life, feeding the birds so well before the rigours of their breeding season and slightly worriedly thinking about how many worms from that field were disappearing! More worms, more life, more dead worms, so it goes. The answer, I suspect to many more questions than just how to feed the curlews, is to keep feeding the worms.
The February order form is now updated and online. Our regular customers already know that it's first come, first serve for our delicious meat cuts that are not only full of flavour due to the breeds we use and their grass/herb diets, but also free of nasties such as pesticides and antibiotics. You can find all the info on the order form, including more info about the specials of the month.
As ever please get in touch if you have any queries.
Laurel & SaMFebruary 2023 Order Form