October 1864 and Samuel Jonas down at Chrishall Grange has had a trying year on the farm. This is his report he sent in to the Agricultural Gazette and published in the Chelmsford Chronicle on the 7th October 1864.
The crops about Saffron Walden – Mr Samuel Jonas, of Chrishall Grange, near Saffron Walden, writing to the Agricultural Gazette says:- “In regard to our crops, I consider the wheat rather under an average on our light lands; the barley a full fair average, and very heavy; oats, a large crop; winter beans destroyed by the frost, and peas put in instead, which are under an average. Of seeds we have none, and have had the most trying season for feed for our flocks I ever knew; and bad as it has been, the worst is now coming. I have between 3000 and 4000 sheep, and little feed, having had no rain for 12 weeks until about 14 days back. The bad planted seed-land, after feeding it off in the spring, was all dunged, and sown with rape, with 3 cwt. of blood manure per acre, but the rape has not yet made its appearance until the last day or two, which is too late to be of much use.
Our turnips are small and stunted in growth, and large patches destroyed by the grub of the brown moth. A man with seven children to day in six hours dug up from the roots of turnips quite three pecks; this was by taking the outer edge of the patches of turnips. How we are to get through the winter I know not, but it must be done by using large quantities of chaff, with bran, malt combs, cake and corn. I use straw-chaff largely. I have seven barns which used to be filled with corn, which I now use entirely for straw chaff; they now contain at least the straw produce of 200 acres of wheat and oats, cut into chaff last spring. I mix with the chaff when cut some green tares or rye cut into chaff, and salt also, and have a gang of six boys treading the chaff into the barn as it is carried in, so as to fill it as solid as possible; this causes a fermentation, and the chaff so expands from the heat that we are obliged to strengthen the outer walls by bars and iron rods across the building, and the chaff is as sweet as hay. I cut my chaff at the same time I thresh the corn, which enables me to do it for the same amount of labor I require to stack the straw. I have to use about 5 cwt. of coals extra for my engine, a 12-horse power one, so that I cut my straw into chaff at a cost of 1s. 6d. per acre, and it is astonishing the value of old chaff so made as compared with new fresh cut”.