What happened to Spring? - The Farmers and the Winemaker Dinner Part 2 - Gippsland Food Adventures

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What happened to Spring?

Published by Paul O'Sullivan in Spring · 1/12/2013 15:53:58

One of the aspects of farming I enjoy most is being in touch with seasons – we’re face to face with it everyday – we feel the sun, the rain and the wind; and I love that the seasons change. For me, the novelty of "fine, sunny and 25 degrees" everyday that’s on offer in the north would wear a bit thin.
As winter approaches I start to look forward to those colder nights with the ambience of the fire at home, but after a few months, cutting and splitting firewood becomes an unpleasant chore. This is the time to look forward to the warmer days of Spring – but where have they gone?
Since the start of August we have had over 660mm (26 inches in the old language) and cool, overcast conditions have prevailed. The consequences for plant and animal growth has been dramatic.
Our pasture production for the spring is 40-50% below expectations. Normally we are working hard to keep control of the grass - to stop it getting too long and rank, so as to maintain the quality for our livestock. This year however, that’s not an issue. We have been moving stock regularly to ensure they have sufficient quantity, but this has meant we’re going to cut less hay than we’d planned for, and we will have less grass in the paddocks to carry into the summer, when the hotter conditions reduce pasture growth.
Hence, we have to readjust the stock numbers we carry into the summer, to ensure we won’t have to overgraze our paddocks. This will be done in two ways: we have not bought in any new ewes for next year, and we may sell some cattle earlier than planned to ensure the remaining numbers are well looked after. These plans will be implemented according to the summer rainfall patterns.
And our lambs are lower in weight than usual for this time of the year. I suspect they too are missing the sun – I’m sure animals enjoy a bit of
sunshine as much as we humans
But it’s not just the pasture and animals that have been slow growing. Our vegetable garden has been considerably slow to get going. It’s taken ages for the seeds to poke through the soil. This week’s Epicure magazine made reference to the many vegetable farmers that are struggling as the ongoing cool conditions slow growing. And I was talking to a Koo Wee Rup asparagus grower who confirmed much lower yields this spring. They had a bumper 2 weeks at the start of September, but since then the spears have not been shooting up through the soil as rapidly as usual. Cooler weather has meant soil temperatures are 3 degrees C below usual.
However, one positive sign for me is the arrival of new season’s mangoes in the stores. I love mangoes – the flavour, the aroma and the colour! And their arrival has coincided beautifully with a supply of fresh coriander we have in the herb garden, so we’ve been enjoying one of our favourite summer salads – mango cut into small pieces mixed with a small amount of finely diced red chilli and coriander served with a squeeze of lime juice. It’s a brightly coloured salad bursting with flavour.

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