WRAPPING a bale of newly cut grass in black plastic and leaving it out in the sun sounds like a recipe for something unspeakable, if not explosive. However this is the basic method for making silage for feeding livestock over the winter, and production is in full swing round here. There has been little rain over the past several weeks but the grass is looking green and strong.
Here is a field with silage bales in the shadow of Pendle Hill last week.
Silage is essentially pickled grass and making it is quite an art. The plant material (which can be many pasture plants as well as grass) must have the right moisture content, 30 to 40 per cent. It must be cut when the grass is at its most nutritious, before it seeds. Chemicals can be added for better results.
There are two main methods of making silage, one involving stacking the cut grass in a pit, compacting and covering it. In this area they mow the field, then use another machine to chop up the mowings. At this point they can be left to dry a little if necessary. A third machine sweeps the mowings into ridges. A fourth machine chugs along the ridges sucking up the vegetation and compressing it into bales which it dumps on the ground, and a fifth machine wraps the bales in plastic (sometimes white plastic is used). There are some super-duper machines that combine some of the functions.
Here is a video.
Once the bales are wrapped and air is excluded, anaerobic fermentation begins and lasts about two weeks. The result is a nutritious feed for cattle, sheep and goats, and apparently they like it. The field can be cut again after about six weeks and many farmers aim to get four cuts over the summer. I have tried to discover how much silage can be expected from an acre but I’m afraid the literature is too technical for me. I have found out though that one bale of silage feeds 26 cows for a day.
Sheep of the week
THE Black Welsh Mountain sheep is the only completely black breed in Britain. Here is a ewe:
And here is a ram.
The Welsh Mountain breed has had occasional black individuals since at least the 13th century, and they were considered a symbol of wealth. About a century ago, Welsh shepherds began to breed the black sheep together, selecting for a finer fleece and improved body conformation. The Black Welsh Mountain was recognised as a separate breed in the early 20th century and the Black Welsh Mountain Sheep Breeders Association was established in 1920.
They are small, hardy and self-reliant, and ewes give birth in the open without help to strong, vigorous lambs which grow quickly. According to the breeders’ association: ‘As profitable scavengers of rough, unploughable land and for parkland herbage control they stand second to none.’ The meat is lean and full-flavoured, and the wool is used in combination with other colours to make tweed and check cloth.
Here is a charming video with a rather homespun look.
It is not yet the end of June but already autumn fruits and seeds are developing. I find it comforting that nature continues as it always has done no matter what is happening in the human sphere. Here are haws, sycamore seeds and crab apples.
Wheels of the week
INSTEAD of showing groups of vehicles that I see at various fairs and shows I thought it would be interesting to do one a week in a bit more depth. The first is this Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special from 1956, which we saw at last weekend’s Scorton Steam Fair near Preston.
Owner John Boardman told us that he bought it as a wreck two years ago and had spent lockdown lovingly doing it up. It now runs on petrol or LPG.
Mr Boardman and his Fleetwood travelled to Glasgow and to Pinewood Studios to play a cameo role in the as-yet-untitled fifth Indiana Jones movie, due for release next June. He reported that Harrison Ford was filmed walking past the car 16 times before the director was happy with the take.
The Sixty Special name was used from 1938 to 1976 and again from 1987 to 1993. It was reserved for some of Cadillac’s most luxurious cars.
This one is from the fifth generation built from 1954 to 1956, the last in the line to feature lamp-capped tailfins. It measures 18ft 8in between the bumper tips. In 1956 it cost $6,019 without extras. That would be $65,086 now, or £52,896. I think that is quite reasonable for such a magnificent motor.
Elvis Presley bought a second-hand pink and white model in March 1955 – it lasted three months before it caught fire in June. Elvis bought a new one in July. It was blue but he had it repainted in pink. That one was badly damaged two months later when back-up musician Scotty Moore drove it into a ditch. These were the first of the King’s 30-plus Cadillacs. You can read all the details here.
LAST week the native white wild rose Rosa arvensis burst into bloom.
FINALLY, don’t forget that reader Kathy Nel (‘linuslimmy’) is collating anecdotal evidence about bird and insect numbers, either increases or decreases (or even static). Send your comments and observations to this address: firstname.lastname@example.org.