Category: Agriculture

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Transitioning to Winter: Changes You Need To Make

The colder months have finally descended upon us!

The transition from Autumn to Winter is one of the most important for us farmers, taking us from the bustling period of harvest, straight through to the down-time of the colder months.

There are a number of risks that are presented to us British farmers during this interesting time and whilst more experienced landholders might consider these tips as rather basic, they might prove to be a life saver to less experienced farmers.

Change those clocks back

Changing the myriad of clocks around your farm back to the right time is a chore but one that is vital to the efficient running of your farm. Leaving just one clock off by one hour could lead to a serious mistake being made by one of your farmers and animals could be hurt as a result.

Task one of your workers with changing all of the clocks on the farm and make sure they’re adjusted to an electronic device that is connected to the internet so that the time is as accurate as possible.

Dig out the thermals

Forgetting to wrap up can make the difference between a productive day out in the fields and one spent shivering in the cabin of your Massey. When our mornings are as early as they are, it’s vital that you and your employees are well wrapped up.

Make sure that your men are aware of the changing seasons and ensure that every one is sufficiently insulated from the cold weather – cold workers don’t work well! If the weather’s really cold then ensure that you have hot drinks on standby to keep morale up.

See to your buildings

Responsible farmers should be aware of the state of their buildings, but it can often be easy to overlook the cracks that start to form over the years. Before Winter properly sets in, you should make sure that you’re aware of any developing maintenance issues with your building.

It’s vital that you get any essential maintenance jobs done to your farm buildings before the true Winter freezes set in, the cold weather is guaranteed to make any of these much worse.

Have a stock of food at the ready

Winter brings with it more than just chilly temperatures. Cold snaps, fog, heavy rain and winds also rear their ugly heads during the Winter months which can easily cut off isolated or rural locations. If you’re looking after livestock then it’s a good idea to always have a stock of emergency supplies on hand, in case you’re cut off from your supplier.

Rotate your emergency stock into your general feed, so that you always have a week’s supply in hand and none of it goes to waste.

Attend to your fences and posts

One of the most vital checks you need to make before the Winter truly hits is a perimeter check of all your fences, posts and gates. The upcoming freezes will always find a way of shaking loose any vulnerable sections, so it’s best to get these things fixed sooner rather than later.

Latches, locks and hinges all deteriorate over time, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for any suspect components – before you’re made to rue any gaps!…

Winter Activities For Spring!

Apart from dead-heading, composting and mulching – there’s not much to do in Winter.

However, there are a few preparatory actions that you can take to ensure that your garden is in good stead for Spring to come.

Buy a Greenhouse

Greenhouses are especially cheap at this time of year, with many Home & Garden retailers attempting to get rid of stock, in a bid to make room for new models. If you don’t have one already, then you could significantly increase the variety and longevity of your veg harvest.

greenhouses

They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes so, even if you haven’t got a huge amount of space to be working with – you should be able to find a product that can fit your specifications.

Start Your Spring Planting Early

Sprouts, celeriac, leeks and peas may flourish in spring but that doesn’t mean you can’t jump the gun a little. Planted early, in the safety of your greenhouse, these hardy plants will be able to survive the meanest of winters and can be transplanted to your flower bed, come spring time.

leeks

There’s nothing better than being prepared for Spring. Whilst you wait patiently for these little green beggars to do their magic, you can always consider planting some hardier plants that you can start eating within a fortnight.

Plant Some Hardy Herbs

These fragrant potted plants will be able to survive throughout the whole of the winter, outside. Gorgeously fragrant herbs like coriander, thyme and rosemary will even keep the smells of your garden space alive – especially when the rain pours down.

herbs

If you’re looking for something that you can chomp down on cabbage, lettuce, onions or rocket will grow fine during the winter months and give you a healthy harvest every fortnight. Rotate your crops, so you’re not overwhelmed with one type of veg at a time!

Invest In Some New Windows

It may seem like an out there idea, but by investing in brand new PVC windows, you can save money on your energy bills and save your indoor potted plants and herbs from a cold, mouldy death.

windoes-fitting

There’s nothing worse than drafty windows during the winter. Grab a new set from a reliable fitter (like Allerton Windows) and you can keep your house warmer and even invest in some new tropical plants!

Harvest The Last Of The Summer Spoils

Don’t let all the not-quite ripe plants and fruits go to waste! Tomatoes, rescued squashes and other fruits can finish ripening in a cardboard box in the warmth of your toasty home.

green-tomates

Try not to despair if these little veggies fail to reach their full fruition – if all else fails, you can always cook them down to make a delicious chutney or even a pickle. If the worse comes to the worst, then you’ll just have a some more material for your growing compost heap!

If you’ve got any handy tips for Winter gardening activities or home improvement projects, then shoot us an email or a message over on the contacts page!

Biomass Fuels – A Viable Option?

What is Biomass and should I be using it?

If you’ve ever been to a bonfire night or mulched down some manure – chances are you’ve already used Biomass fuels.

Put simply – Biomass is any form of organic matter, whether it be animal waste products, wood or even wheat. One of the oldest forms of energy known to man (except the Sun, of course) – we’ve been using it since the dawn of civilisation to heat our homes, cook our food and illuminate the dark.

manure_fireAll biomass energy is derived from the Sun – without it, we would have nothing. The sunlight activates the chlorphyll inside the leaves of plants – creating the chemical reaction that converts water and carbon dioxide into the oxygen and sugar that they need to grow.

The sugars and carbohydrates that are contained in these plants are excellent sources of energy for animals and people – they also happen to burn very well – giving us the heat and light that were paramount to our early successes as human beings.

The sunNow, we have developed more efficient, streamlined methods of processing and burning Biomass – allowing us to gain greater control over this quickly developing form of renewable energy.

Here are the 4 main categories of Biomass Fuels, so you can work out what’s best for you:

Solid Waste

rubbishesAlthough it might not seem like the most environmentally friendly way of supplying energy to your home or farm, there are literally tons of usable fuel trapped within the trash that is thrown away from both the domestic and commercial sectors each year.

On average 2,000 pounds of your average garbage can produce the equivalent heat energy of 500 pounds of coal. However, it’s important to remember that using waste product as a fuel is not completely renewable, as certain elements of rubbish (plastics or petroleum) are not classed as biomass.

Landfill Gas & Biogas

big-ol-landfillThe decomposition of any biological matter is a chemical process. Fungi and bacteria eat away at dead matter, animals and food waste – converting the cellulose to sugar which feeds the hungry cells.

The by-product of this lovely process? Methane gas! It may be colourless and odourless, but it is certainly not harmless – it can easily be ignited causing explosions and fires. That’s why this gas is collected by landfills and then sold on to produce electricity that can light a house or cook a meal.

Wood and Agricultural Waste

One of the oldest forms of Biofuel known to man, burning wood for fire and light is a no-brainer – but over the centuries we’ve figured out smarter, more efficient ways of doing it. From straight-up wood logs to premium wood pellets, there are plenty of options.

The waste from wood-based industries can now be effectively processed into small, uniform piece, perfect for burning in custom made wood pellet burners that blast energy back into the industries that have caused the waste in the first place.

Ethanol & Biodiesel

ethanol_gasTwo forms of Biofuel that are growing increasingly popular over the water in the States, both ethanol and biodiesel involve the fostering of chemical reactions using alcohol to obtain energy. Creating ethanol requires the fermentation then distillation of sugars and starches, mostly found in corn.

Ethanol only makes up a fraction of the final fuel product (around 15%) whereas Biodiesel (America’s fastest growing transportation fuel) can be blended with petroleum diesel up to 20% and can even be used in it’s ‘neat’ form using modified engines.

For more information and ideas on how best to utilise Biofuels – 

One-page infographic style print out from need.org

Government sourced collection of statistics on Biofuels

Government funded information centre on Biofuel sources…

The Rich Get Richer – Subsidies: How Much Is Too Much?

Since the introduction of EU farming subsidies, that greatly help smaller producers like me out, there have been an increasing amount of rich investors buying up large swathes of farm land allowing them to benefit from huge breaks at the tax payers expense.

satire-agrio

The rich and powerful benefiting from rules and regulations ushered in by their bosom buddies – I know this isn’t exactly news, but in taking this corruption for granted have we let the fat cats take one step too far?

Is it too late to fight back against the High Society power house?

frankie-boyHave you heard of a farmer called Frank Smart? If you’re a large-scale industrial farmer, with thousands of acres in your possession – chances are you would have heard of him at some point.

Back in 2013, writer and researcher Andy Wightman, in the course of adding to his data information site whooownsscotland.org.uk, discovered that Mr. Smart was in the possession of over 80,000 acres of land – making him one of the largest private owners of land in the UK.

scotThanks to his expedient purchasing of unusable land, that could not be farmed, he was able to buy ‘entitlements’ to farm subsidies, claiming back £5 for every acre of land. This crafty method of ‘slipper farming’ allowed him to rake in £3,226,492 from the Scottish Government, which lead to the profits of his company exceeding half a million pounds by the end of September 2012.

That such an underhanded technique should be utilised by someone in great power is not so much a surprise. After all, those with the biggest resources naturally have access to the best legal and financial aid available, allowing them to make the most prudent, albeit morally questionable, decisions.

Would it surprise you then, to discover that the practice of ‘slipper farming’, despite being outed years ago, is still being practiced – and by leading members of our society?

In 2016 the Taxpayers’ Alliance released a statement: “Farmers should be put on notice. Taxpayers shouldn’t be handing out what are effectively land subsidies, often to extremely wealthy individuals.”

The target of this flagrant statement? Members of Her Royal Majesty’s Parliament.

richard-drax_6_2026323aMP for South Dorset, Richard Drax, having already created headlines in 2014 for claiming the second most amount of expenses amongst all MPs, was amongst the top 100 recipients of EU farming subsidies. The farm which he jointly-owns received over £350,000, it was recently revealed.

Drax wasn’t the only MP benefiting from these sizeable breaks.

iain-duncanIain Duncan Smith, not content with taking money out of the hands of the poorest in our country, has cashed in consistently over the last ten years. His primary residence, a farm on his wife’s estate, has brought in over £1,300,000 in subsidies over the course of a decade.

With the countdown to Brexit now officially underway, we’ll no doubt be seeing a last-minute rush of overseas and domestic investors piling in the requests for their subsidies. However, with recent news that E.U. Law will not be rolled back when we leave, it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see this loop hole remain – as long as it continues to benefit those in power.

For more information and guidance on this issue, take a look at the resources below:

Government Guidelines on Receiving Grants & Payments 

The BBC’s coverage of the Recent Recipients of Aforementioned Subsidies

George Monbiot’s damning 2013 piece for The Guardian

Reuter’s 2013 article on the EU’s stance on increased payments

Researcher Andy Wightman’s Blog filled with great exposes and info…