The Hodge Feb 21: Signs of What’s to Come

Country Matters

By The Hodge

‘The early bird gets the worm. The early worm gets eaten.’


Norman Augustine

What will 2021 bring? It is obviously a very difficult time still with so many uncertainties surrounding Covid-19 let alone Brexit but notwithstanding both those, we have the prospect of several more months of unpredictable weather to come. Both wildlife and farm animals can struggle in these dark, cold or wet days and farmers have a tough time just looking after their stock and managing the maintenance of buildings and equipment when pipes are frozen, access to waterlogged fields is denied and a whole other plague of misfortunes is heaped upon their heads. They may not suffer a plague of locusts or frogs but there are enough other challenges to make an office job with a steady salary and a warm, comfortable environment seem irresistibly attractive.

But hope is always just around the corner. New life beckons with sows due to farrow so that the little ‘uns are ready to wean just as spring beckons; sheep will mostly lamb in the early spring and many cattle are due to calve at the same time. So, the next generations are due in the coming weeks and preparations are being made with lambing sheds made ready and a careful eye kept on stock whether out in the fields – for the hardier breeds – or in barns within the farmyard. All such stock must be fed or watered on a daily basis whatever the weather or ground conditions. So, for the livestock farmer, the busiest period of preparation takes place at the worst time of year!

The arable farmer is also due to be busy with spring sown crops soon due to be drilled. Like last winter, many will be keeping a weather eye out as an excess of rain will ruin those crops planted in the autumn. Much more precipitation this winter could signal another disaster with the dying crops needing to be ploughed in with a spring-sown replacement. Very few other industries are so weather dependent.

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Many of you with gardens will be busy feeding the birds, I know. But remember, they need clean water too. Of course, most birds don’t necessarily come into gardens but stay away from human habitation living in woods, the fields and hedgerows or on water. They must make do as best they can and are adapted for their chosen lifestyle but there are instances where our intervention can help. Take for instance a prolonged cold snap when the waters freeze over for days or weeks at a time. This makes life almost impossible for ducks, geese, swans, coots and moorhens, grebes and others that rely on water for their natural environment and sources of nutrition. If this happens this winter, keep an eye out, especially around the water park or the Abbey Grounds to ensure that hungry birds get regularly fed. Ideally, take mixed corn as the healthiest option, but seeded bread or a wholemeal loaf is an alternative if you don’t have access to grains. White bread is the least nutritious but can help keep birds alive. Bird flu is also around, (restricting farmed poultry to being kept indoors or under cover), and swans are susceptible. Once infected they can become weak as finding food becomes more difficult so human intervention with feeding can help them recover.

Soon winter’s worst will be over and we will begin to appreciate the first daffodils and other spring glories as a weak but positive sun emerges from the dark grey days of the passing season. So, get ready and if you feel down and depressed by the gloom of winter, remember it will soon be gone and a new season full of hope and new life will emerge whatever other disasters occur around us.

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