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A Week on the Estate: Impatient Reds, Ketsby Fencing & Fantastic Fungi

This week, we had dreich days and blue-sky days and made the most of all of them. British Summer Time is about to end and we’ll return to GMT and darker mornings. Regardless of this, the Lincoln Red herd will stick to their very own time-zone when it comes to changing paddocks.

Every new day means another fresh paddock for our Lincoln Reds. Our cattle know when it’s time to move on and aren’t shy about it – they stand at the gate calling and staring meaningfully at us until we oblige them.

We have 120 paddocks and rotate several groups of cattle between them every day or two. We often allow a three-month gap to give the grass and other plants chance to grow tall and put down strong roots. Our resident wildlife – insects, birds and mammals – also benefit from these long recovery periods and thrive in the long grass.

Lincoln Red Cattle grazing in a field

When we open the gate for our native cattle, the cows and calves move happily into the next, fresh paddock and get to work on the fresh grass. Some of our cows are 10-15-years old and love this gentle pace of life.

Elsewhere on the estate, Steven and the team from Ketsby Sawmill made and installed a new screening fence behind one of our properties. The old one fared rather badly in the last bout of strong winds. The team did an excellent job, as always, and enabled us to make good use of estate timber.

The Saturday Club emptying a trailer

In the Walled Garden, Colin put his back (and knees) into sprucing things up before winter comes.  He created some neat and attractive borders on the garden’s south side.

Come rain or shine, the Saturday Club is always ready for a spot of hard work. Last Saturday, the team looked for walnuts, topped up the bird feeders and loaded up the logs. While they dried off, they enjoyed an enrichment talk from Jon on how to think outside the box when spying out business opportunities.

Mushrooms growing at the Estate

A gorgeous array of fungi is clearly enjoying autumn at South Ormsby Estate. Visible on the public footpath opposite the Massingberd Arms, the large, pale fungi are shaggy mane, and their smaller, dun neighbours are common stump brittlestem.

The common stump brittlestem (Psathyrella piluliformis) produces clusters of small mushrooms, typically on rotting timber, whose shades of red-brown vary with moisture levels. The shaggy mane (Coprinus comatus) is a common fungus equally at home on lawns and waste-ground. While the fresh fruiting body has a white, scaly appearance, this mushroom has the dubious distinction of turning black and dissolving into an inky liquid within hours of being picked or releasing spores. It is always the case that only expert mycologists should contemplate eating wild mushrooms. That aside, the shaggy mane is very good at making itself unappetising.

The main part of these organisms, a potentially huge connected network known as the mycelium, lies beneath the surface. To thrive, the mycelium needs a good supply of organic matter – Lincoln Red manure and rotting leaves and wood will do nicely – combined with minimal disturbance to the ground in the form of fertilisers, pesticides, compaction, ploughing or flooding. The presence of these fungal fruiting bodies suggests that we are blessed to live and work on a healthy and biodiverse piece of land.