I always look forward to the arrival of autumn each year. Of course, it’s not that autumn arrives all of a sudden on 1 September, it’s a gradual transition from the long heady days of high summer to the well-shortened evenings and the cooler dewy mornings of late August.
But this year, I think it’s less subtle than that. After a very dry and warm summer, some of the trees, particularly the beech, have already started to turn, weary of scavenging for water and induced into an early senescence by the scorching heat of early August. It should be a good autumn for colour. After all the sunshine, the leaves will be high in sugars which is essential for a visual treat.
The trees and hedgerows are also laden with fruits and berries. Except for our two gnarly old apple trees, which are bare. It’s always a feast or a famine with them. However, the well pruned and beautifully kept orchard in Emo Court is laden with apples.
Last Sunday, Mrs P and I had gone for an open top blast in the two-seater down to Carlow and around to the magnificent Emo Court in Laois as a celebration of post-harvest freedom – the last few Sundays have been busy in the harvest fields.
With apologies to Marianne Faithful’s lovely Ballad of Lucy Jordan, it wasn’t so much a ride through Paris in a sports car with the warm wind in her hair for Mrs P, but more like a ride through Borris with the warm wind in her hair. I’d prefer Borris myself, but Mrs P would take Paris any day.
But back to Emo Court. It’s a spectacular Gandon-designed Georgian house and estate in the care of the State’s Office of Public Works (OPW). I am a fan of the OPW in this regard and would like to acknowledge the great work that they do. They carry out incredible preservation and restoration projects to our country’s built heritage and long may funding continue.
Anyhow, let’s return to the fields on this sunny morning. Harvest is well over, but the cropping cycle has begun all over again. The Glas sheep-grazing cover crops were broadcast onto stubbles, lightly tilled and rolled in.
The trees and hedgerows are also laden with fruits and berries. Except for our two gnarly old apple trees, which are bare
Will it establish in the dry soil? With difficulty, I would say, but I’d be more concerned about the sown oilseed rape. It was drilled in the last week of August into dusty min-till seedbeds, but I’ve seen rape establish before in very dry seedbeds.
But, that said, oilseed rape can be notoriously difficult to get going. The surface stubble will help to retain moisture.
Speaking of which, we’re having a problem with cereal crop residue, either from chopped straw, driven-on swaths, uncut lodged patches blocking the cultivator or the tined Sprinter drill.
This hasn’t been a problem for years, but it is this year due to the very heavy straw crops and some lodging.
And whether it’s a blocked toilet or a blocked artery, blockages are a bloody nuisance and particularly so in the seed drill. It’s much less of an issue if you plough.
The new tined cultivator, the Farmet Fantom, has had a mixed review in this regard. A Rolls Royce Phantom it is not, but between the hard ground and the loose straw, it’s an exceptional year so I’ll keep it. And because of these tough conditions, it’s been difficult to create level stale seedbeds with cultivators inclined to bounce on the ground.
Meanwhile, Mrs P and I will bounce, in the two-seater, down to Doneraile Court in Cork, another OPW gem, before the busy autumn drilling – and the monsoon season – begins.