Sunday, 11 October 2009

Farming a few weeks ago!

Work and decorating means this has turned into a bimonthly blog! Not the original idea but hey ho it happens and for this posting it means Steve Gale has beaten me to it!!!

The past few weeks has seen a lot of agricultural activity on the fields south of Banstead (Canons Farm) referred to here earlier in the year. Back then after spraying, most of the fields were sown with Flax which is always promising because to my uninformed mind that means less herbicide use and hence the possibility of some arable weeds. Sure enough there were plenty but unfortunately nothing remotely unusual or unexpected and apart from Field Pansy nothing of any real beauty. The Flax duly grew but to me seemed rather less vigorous than when planted in previous years (perhaps less fertizer was used!) and was a white-flowered variety that was less attactive than the blue and never seemed to put on a decent display.

In one of the fields however some strange goings on. In a number of separate patches the crop seemed to be overcome by almost monocultures of a number of weed species. A large patch of Charlock (see below, taken in June) here and a large patch of fumitory there, and several others too, rather peculiar. It almost looked as if they had been planted, the other fields did not show this.
Yes, this is a crop of flax!
Normal service resumed however in September when the whole crop was sprayed with a herbicide to "ripen" it prior to havesting and so wiping out all the weeds as well, a desert again! The crop was duly harvested and in my simple mind I thought Flax would have a double return, seeds for oil and the stems for fibre, sure enough the "straw" was baled but a couple of days later, the bales were burnt (not by vandals but intentionally) so there I assume there is no demand for fibre. Must buy some more linen shirts!!

Now the extra interest in this crop has been mentioned by Steve, the last time it was grown on these fields two years we had massive winter flocks of finches. However there are two big differences this year compared to then: firstly two years ago the crop was harvested very late when most of it had been beaten down with rain and large amounts of seed spilled; and secondly as far as I recall the fields were left untouched through the winter before being sown with the next crop (a spring cereal), this year it has already been cultivated and I suspect will be sown very soon. As Steve says a lot of birds are already on the fields but whether the bonanza will be as big and last as long only time will tell.


  1. Thanks for this educated assessment of what is going on at Canons Farm, John. Maybe we've only got a few more days of good bird numbers rather than the spectacular winter that I was hoping for.

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