Seeds of Cha(y)nge

A selection of seeds - stubble turnip, stubble radish and thousand head kale.

I was born and brought up on a lowland farm overlooking the Solway, so you’d think that I’d know something about agriculture. Sadly, that area of the world is a total mystery to me, and arable farming is a subject about which I am wholly ignorant. I spent my entire childhood shooting pigeons and rabbits, and thanks to my indulgent parents, I was only enlisted to help in the running of the farm when gates needed to be opened. Given that my duties could have been ably performed by a partially trained monkey (which probably wouldn’t have complained as much as I did), I never really engaged with what was happening, and find myself at the age of 26 being unable to tell the difference between a potato and a stone – (provided there’s ample quantities of grated cheese, I’d probably eat both). However, since deciding to devote my time to amateur gamekeeping, I’ve been thrown in at the deep end on a variety of subjects, and planting crops is just the latest in a long list of things that I’m going to have to master if I’m going to improve the Chayne and get it back up on its feet again.

Having requisitioned a field near the farmhouse, the time has now arrived to put it to good use under a game crop, which hopefully should be helpful to a number of different birds and mammals. Taking advice from a number of knowledgeable people, I’m going to assault the field with a variety of different plant species in the hope that at least some of them will work. Rather than buy a pre-blended mix of seeds, I’m making my own game mix with the hope of providing cover and feeding over two years. I’ve found stubble turnips, stubble radish and thousand head kale, and I’m also going to mix in some oats, some quinoa and some mustard in the hope that variety will provide a reasonable chance of success in at least one area.

A tractor is coming to disk the field next week, before it is limed, seeded and rolled. I have no idea what this summer will produce, but if nothing else, having stock-free control of just one five acre field will give me some space to play around and learn what works and what doesn’t. I also have a plan to rear some grey partridges in the game crop, and the whole project will be yet another great opportunity to learn more about wildlife and the hills. Watch this space…

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