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Farming columnist Richard Spencer talks about cool dude mussels to air turned black with rooks

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: August 28, 2014

From cool dude mussels to  air turned black with rooks

Richard Spencer

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Farmer Richard Spencer wonders what the warm winter has done to the grass and speaks up for mussels.

DID anyone see Countryfile on Sunday?

I have to speak out for mussels – no-one else will! Life is pretty darned cool when you live as a mussel – pretty well chilled in fact, whichever way you look at it.

Feet firmly on the ground – sorry, in the gravel – water flowing by...cool, man.

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Suddenly , without so much as a "by your leave," feet are wrenched from their secure base, dragged out of the water and waved around in the air with someone shouting, "this is a mussel".

Now, to me this is obvious! I KNOW I am a mussel. I always was a mussel and to the best of my knowledge, I always WILL BE a mussel.

I don't need someone shouting...oooohhh, my aching shells; shake, shake, shake...eventually back into the water...ouch, my shells...I mean, intrusion into lifestyle or what?

Mind you, green mussels, fresh from the ocean, served with a white wine sauce, French bread and a glass of white...lovely!

As the sun fell towards the horizon the other night, the greens of the leaves on the trees and the reds of the house bricks in the village were softened by the evening light.

Looking at the beauty of the evening colours, my eyes were drawn toward Bentley Carr, a small copse a few fields away. To the south of the wood the air was black with rooks – never before have I seen so many.

The same thought had struck me a few days earlier while moving sheep – I entered a field and the middle three to four acres was a solid carpet of them.

Has anyone else become aware of such a population explosion?

Likewise the local wood pigeon population; numerous and cheeky with it.We have even had a pair take up residence in the conifer in the centre of our garden, a frightfully "des res" for any aspiring wood pigeon with family.

I'm sure they invited their friends to join them for breakfast – lettuce, newly germinated peas, small veg of all types disappeared at an amazing rate. They even told their friends, the rabbits.

Never seen in the garden before, they obviously enjoyed the varied menu. Rooks, pigeons, rabbits; they all seem to have benefited; some from our garden but all of them from the very mild winter which we have just had.

A complete contrast to last year when we still had the relics of snow drifts in May!

While we are on the subject of large flocks of birds, some years ago – again, just before dusk – I was called to look at our front field.

It's about the size of 12 football pitches. Covering it from left to right and front to back, from ground level to as high as the eye could see and as thick as a swarm of locusts were swallows, swifts and house martens.

This must have been their designated meeting place before the autumnal flight south.

How unbelievably lucky and privileged to witness such a wonder of nature.

The effects of Mother Nature are many and varied; some we can see and understand, some we can't.

This latter category is perfectly demonstrated by a conversation I had with a fellow farmer this afternoon.

A dairy farmer, he said that his cows had not seemed to benefit from the grass this season to the same degree as usual; no jump in milk yield, and the organic residues behind them not as fluid as usual.

(A livestock farmer is always aware of what his animals leave behind them. It is an indicator of their digestive well being.)

This perfectly matched my own observation that the lambs seem to have hit a brick wall, stopping growing about 5 kilos below target weight, in spite of an abundance of grass.

Has the mild winter affected the grass? Who knows – I don't. Has anyone else noticed anything strange this season?

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