Cornflowers in bloom and pigs in the shade - it’s high summer at Gressenhall
PUBLISHED: 13:38 07 July 2020 | UPDATED: 13:38 07 July 2020
As part of a weekly series, Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse curator Megan Dennis talks flourishing flowers and clever pigs
This week the slightly cooler weather has made our flowers flourish.
We were particularly pleased to see some native wild cornflowers on site.
These are growing in our oat fields.
They are very susceptible to herbicides widely used nowadays – so it is especially good to see them in our fields.
The cornflower is an attractive, tall annual with a branched stem and hairy, grey-green leaves. Easily its most distinctive feature is its large intensely blue ‘flowers’, which are in fact a compound head of many small flowers.
The edge of the head consists of large clear blue flowers and the middle of small purplish ones. Flowering occurs from June to August.
The cornflower was formerly a widespread arable weed particularly on sandy loams.
They were probably introduced to Britain with the arrival of agriculture and were certainly present by the Iron Age.
They continued to be a serious weed right up to the beginning of the 20th century when improved seed cleaning technologies were developed. The resulting decline was exacerbated with the introduction of modern herbicides and by the early 70s it was a very rare plant.
It continues to crop up as a casual on road verges and waste ground but as an arable weed it is restricted to a very few sites in southern and eastern England – including our farm!
The cows have also enjoyed our floral displays – they were turned out into our poppy field, together with the bull earlier this week.
This week it was Reg’s turn to lose a shoe – we found it in the field. The farrier will be back soon!
The vet is also coming next week for a regular check up of our horses. The Suffolk Punch is susceptible to foot problems – so we need to keep a close eye on them.
Their hooves have been criticised as being too small for its body.
This has been corrected by the introduction of classes at shows in which hoof conformation and structure were judged.
This practice, unique among horse breeds, has resulted in a massive improvement.
Our Large Black sow enjoyed a good wallow over the hot weather at the weekend.
Pigs do like to keep cool and a dip in the trough is ideal.
We do need to be careful about them in the sun though – although the Large Black is less susceptible because of its colour than white pigs they can still get sunburnt just like humans.
So we encourage them to spend time in the shade and on really hot days we have been known to put some sun cream on their delicate ears!
The Large Black is the only British pig that is entirely black.
It was created in the last years of the nineteenth century by merging the black pig populations of Devon and Cornwall in the south-west with those of Essex, Suffolk and Kent in the south-east.
It is hardy, docile and prolific – it has large litters of piglets.
The Large Black is a long, deep-bodied pig, well known for its hardiness. Large Blacks are best suited for pasture-based farming due to their strong foraging and grazing ability, which efficiently converts poor quality feed into meat.
Temperamentally, the Large Black is a very docile breed which is easily contained by fencing – making it perfect for Gressenhall Farm.
Their gentle nature is partly because their large, drooping ears obscure their vision, although they also help to protect the face and eyes while the animal is foraging, especially when rooting in dirt.
In 2011 the Large Black pig was classified as “vulnerable” on the watchlist of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, meaning that there are believed to be between 200 and 300 breeding females.
The sow is also getting clever – yesterday she figured out how to open her gate and made a run for it!
Luckily we caught up with her just before she got to the bee hives and her gate has now been reinforced.
We hope you have been enjoying the sunshine with a little bit of sunbathing – but remember, just like the pigs, use your sunblock and don’t get burnt!
You may also want to watch:
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Dereham Times. Click the link in the orange box above for details.