Suffolk Smallholders Newsletter December 2012

I was in my teens or early 20s when Dutch Elm Disease struck and I’m sorry to say it had little impact on my life. Now it provides a source of firewood, as the elm trees in the hedgerow around our boundary grow for 10 – 15 years before dieing and when we cut them down there are always several small  trees still growing from the base. But I fear that Ash Dieback fungus will have a significant effect on our countryside, with one in three of the large  trees in some areas being ash there will be so many empty spaces. I’ve listened to several reports on radio and TV and most experts seem to agree that there is nothing that could have been done to prevent it arriving and nothing that can be done now to stop it spreading. I just wish we had heard about this when it was first found in Eastern Europe, perhaps we wouldn’t have planted the 100 Ash saplings that we put in 2 years ago. They were planted to provide firewood for whoever lives here in 20 years time but now I guess they will have to replaced by something else.
If you live in town or city preparing for winter probably means turning up the heating, buying a winter coat and waiting for the council to grit the footpaths. But here in the country you’ll find we have MUD. So the first thing to do is to check that your wellies or boots are waterproof and haven’t developed an un-noticed crack in the sole during the summer. There’s no telling what the weather will be like this winter. We may not get the huge snow falls and frosts of 1963 or 1981 but if your heat system requires electric and the electric goes off for more than a few hours ( and twice in the last 25 years our electric has been off for a week) you might be glad of another source of heating, so get chimneys swept or a mobile cylinder gas heater is a useful thing. Some way of heating a kettle or soup will make you feel better. A wind-up or battery powered radio is a must to find out if schools or roads are closed. Lighting can be a problem, tea-lights are pretty but useless, nightlight candles will burn for longer, but a camping lantern or light that runs off a 12volt  battery is very handy when the novelty of candle-light has worn off. For outside, a wind-up torch or headlamp will be useful. If you have livestock it’s a good idea to keep an extra supply of feed in store to cover Christmas, New Year and bad weather. I know that goats really appreciate warm water to drink in cold weather and sheep will be grateful for somewhere to get out of the wind.
If you have freezers full of your own meat or vegetables, covering them with an old sleeping bag will help, but a generator is really the only way to keep things frozen if the electric is of for more than 24 hours. Let’s hope you won’t need to use it this year.

I will wish you a Happy Christmas and a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year.

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