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Gressenhall Diary: Farm praying for rain as crops suffer in heat

PUBLISHED: 13:26 27 May 2020 | UPDATED: 13:47 27 May 2020

Trojan looking at the grass. Picture: Norfolk Museums

Trojan looking at the grass. Picture: Norfolk Museums

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As part of a weekly diary, MEGAN DENNIS of the Gressenhall Farm team reports on the latest from animals and crops.

Gressenhall Farm grass, which is struggling with the heat. Picture: Norfolk MuseumGressenhall Farm grass, which is struggling with the heat. Picture: Norfolk Museum

This week we have been enjoying the sunshine – even if our animals and crops haven’t been! One thing that has been doing really well are the edges of our fields.

Our nectar rich strips are great for our bees, but also for all sorts of different wildlife. We see an amazing array of different plants flourishing there too. The blue flower is called fiddleneck (Phacelia tanacetifolia). It is great for insects and smells good too. The flowers last for ages. Some gardeners grow this together with buckwheat and red clover – you get a very patriotic mix of red, white and blue!

We also have lots of Dame’s Violet (Hesperis matronalis) popping out on the river bank. This is also known as night-scented gillyflower because it smells amazing in the evening. Caterpillars also love this plant so we look forward to seeing lots of butterflies along the river later this year.

Our crops haven’t been doing as well as the native plants. They have all been suffering from the heat and lack of rain. Our barley is, however, now coming into ear (six weeks ear to harvest is what farmers say so we should be cutting it in July).

Gressenhall Farm's barley is, however, now coming into ear (six weeks ear to harvest is what farmers say so we should be cutting it in July).  Picture: Gressenhall FarmGressenhall Farm's barley is, however, now coming into ear (six weeks ear to harvest is what farmers say so we should be cutting it in July). Picture: Gressenhall Farm

Newly emerging grass that was sown about a month ago could do with some rain. Wet May means long hay. We are hoping that dry May doesn’t mean no hay! Even the vetch and oat seed mix planted in the Autumn hasn’t done very well, we were hoping to cut it with the horses.

First of all it was too wet when it was sown and now it is too dry. We’ll have to wait and see if there is any hay to be cut at all.

Even if there isn’t much work for them the Suffolk Punches have been enjoying the sunshine and Trojan has been keeping an eye on the sheep. The Norfolk Grey chicks are continuing to grow fast. Both of our female turkeys have now decided they are broody and they are both trying to sit on the same nest – ridiculous birds!

The Norfolk Grey chicken was developed by Fred Myhill of Norwich. Originally he called them Black Marias (after the police vans used to transport prisoners) but later changed the name to Norfolk Greys.

Boar and Sow. Picture: Gressenhall FarmBoar and Sow. Picture: Gressenhall Farm

These birds are extremely docile (so good for our farm) and very robust. They have dark grey or black legs and the cockerels have very striking silver-white feathering on the neck. They lay around 230 eggs a year, and rarely get broody. In 1970 there were only four of these birds left. Now they are on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust Chicken Watch List.

We are hoping for more baby animals later in the year. We moved a sow in with the boar this week and if everything goes to plan we should have some piglets in three months, three weeks and three days.

For those of you who are missing visiting the museum this week we have just launched our virtual Murder Mystery on our Facebook page: GressenhallFW.

Join Detective Lightfoot as he investigates the murder of Mr Richard Barker. There are new videos every day over half term with clues and hints. Can you identify the culprit by the end of the week?

Norfolk Grey chicks at Gressenhall Farm. Photo: Norfolk Museums ServiceNorfolk Grey chicks at Gressenhall Farm. Photo: Norfolk Museums Service

As part of a weekly diary, MEGAN DENNIS of the Gressenhall Farm team reports on the latest from animals and crops. Picture: GFAs part of a weekly diary, MEGAN DENNIS of the Gressenhall Farm team reports on the latest from animals and crops. Picture: GF

Dame's Violet and Dame's Rocket. Picture: Gressenhall FarmDame's Violet and Dame's Rocket. Picture: Gressenhall Farm

The Suffolk Punches. Picture: Norfolk MuseumsThe Suffolk Punches. Picture: Norfolk Museums

Two female turkeys trying to get on the same nest at Gressenhall Farm. Picture: Norfolk MuseumsTwo female turkeys trying to get on the same nest at Gressenhall Farm. Picture: Norfolk Museums

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