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Farmer Focus: Soil sampling- a pleasure in the autumn sun

It feels luxurious to be soil sampling without carrying large lumps of Essex clay on each of my boots.

Dry weather has made the job a real pleasure. This year’s autumn colours have been simply stunning as the backdrop to this usually mundane chore.

In addition to the standard soil tests, we are measuring soil organic matter this time round. I now wish we had done this as a matter of course when we stopped ploughing six years ago.

It would have given us some idea if our change in approach has altered the organic content of our clay soils.

Fewer cultivations, the addition of cover crops, the end of us growing oilseed rape and the introduction of borage, millet, spring barley, herbal leys and sheep must have had an effect.

We know from our stint as AHDB Monitor Farmers, when we looked at this, that it is very hard to alter soil organic content by even a small percentage, and perhaps I am placing too much importance on it, but I do think a soil with a sense of humus is a good thing to aspire to.

There is a great deal of moving to be done this winter: we have a new farm office outside of the farmhouse for the first time, so there will need to be some decisions about what moves from the old to the new.

I can’t see my father’s collection of farm sales catalogues going in there, intriguing as they are.

Also, our new workshop is getting the final touches, so it is going to be a big sort out when we move into it out of our current Nissen hut which has been the farm workshop since 1967.

I think I am good at getting rid of obsolete parts and broken tools, but I know that Hew will have a large skip booked and will relish filling it with any assorted items he doesn’t recognise.

If he chucks out the G clamp I made at Writtle College in 1982 there will be words.

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