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Looking back at July

July has flown by. In the first half of the month we had lots of visitors coming to walk around our hay meadows and rhos pasture whilst they were in full bloom. The heatwave in the middle of the month drove the animals (and us) to seek shade during the heat of the day (it reached 32.9˚ C!) and most of the flowers started setting seed.

The bog asphodel this year was gorgeous, initially creating a carpet of yellow over the rhos pasture, and in the last week or so, turning a burnt orange as the seed pods develop. The Legendary Dartmoor website has some fascinating page about bog asphodel. Did you know it’s Latin name ossifragum roughly translates as ‘bone breaker’, a term given the plant for the early belief that if sheep grazed on it their bones became brittle? In later years this idea was dismissed as it was considered that the sheep’s brittle bones were caused by a calcium deficiency brought on by grazing on poor, marshland vegetation. However, in Norway it causes sun sensitivity in lambs who eat it, resulting in severe sunburn on their head and ears – an often fatal affliction they call ‘Elf Fire’. Fortunately, our sheep don’t have this problem as we don’t graze this area in the summer (instead it’s briefly grazed by cattle and ponies in the Winter).

Many many thanks to everyone who came along for an afternoon of bracken pulling in our flower rich haymeadow, and special thanks to Robin & Jude who brought along a delicious cream tea. If left, the bracken would steadily take over and suppress the flowers, but pulling it up after its puts lots of energy into growing the fronds but before it can recoup the energy back into its roots / rhyzomes weakens and will eventially eradicate it. This is the second year, we’ve had help pulling the bracken in this field and though ther seemed to be just as many fronds they were noticably shorter this year. Asa you can see from the photos below (the dark green patches in the top photo is the bracken), the group did an amazing job and next year touch wood it will be weaker still.

Looking ahead to August the main farming activity will be cutting our hay. The weather is looking settled next week, so hopefully we will be able to make hay and store most or all of it in our barn for our cattle to eat through the Winter.

We’re also being putting the finishing touches to our application to the new Farming in Protected Landscapes grant scheme. This is a 3 year grant scheme for farmers and land managers in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) that uses the money cut from the Single Farm Payment budget to pay for projects that support the natural environment, mitigate the impacts of climate change, provide public access opportunities or support nature-friendly, sustainable farm businesses – an early step in the transition to ‘paying public money for public goods’. Over the past few years in discussion with and advice from lots of people and support from our landlord, the Duchy of Cornwall we’ve been developing ideas to improve the biodiversity and landscape of the farm, whilst protecting the archaeology and improving public enjoyment, and if our bid is successful it will enable us to deliver these. You can find details of these projects in our previous blog post and we’d be interested to hear your thoughts on them.

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