There’s Grass!

Yesterday I thought the field looked a bit whispy, but then figured it might be my eyesite playing up, so I hopped over the fence to get a closer look and sure enough we’ve about 1″ of growth of grass! Fantastic! Everyone told us if the weather held up for  a week or so we’d get growth before Christmas but I always try and prepare myself for the worst so I’ll always be pleasantly suprised 😉

Now we only have to see the indent the flock starlings and occasional pigeon cluster have made!

Woohoo!

Harrowing

HarrowingAs I sit here and write this, I have a new found respect for Suz Harrowingthe word ‘harrowing’. I ache. My back aches. My arms ache. My neck aches. My aches ache. But it does feel good to have harrowed an acre by hand using 2′ wide wooden tine harrow.

We had access to the heavier metal version usually pulled behind a tractor (or horse) but as it had rained the night before we drilled the seed, farmer John thought it would be best by hand. It may have been a test to see if we’d  break 😉

John popped over to see how we were getting on and to bring us the wooden tine harrow to use. John and DunkHe’d noticed us drilling the seed and knew we’d probably visit him soon to borrow the metal tine harrows he’d offered but he’d come to the conclusion that they’d be heavy going by hand. I think he was right, but I wouldn’t like to do more than we’ve done by hand again! The wooden harrow was a lovely piece of woodwork – all the tines were push fit into the end, the ash handle was split to at the handle end to house the handle itself and only a brass collar was used to keep it from splitting all the way to the business end.

Suz and FrankieOnce we’d pegged out the land and drilled the bits we want to grow as grazing land, the harrowing of the sown piece took about 5-6 hours. Suz came and helped for a fewgary_liz_patch rows which was a welcome break, and Frankie came to sit in the dirt – he’s good at that, an expert even.

7.40pm on the evening, the sun was almost gone and I was rescued by Gary and Liz from next door who came to admire the newly turned dirt and help me with the evil barrow from hell back to the house. Here they’re standing on the piece of land that will soon be part of their allotment! I’m going to sleep well.

Pegging Out & Drilling

Barrow at the ReadyThe wind was calm, the rain nowhere to be seen, the new leather strapMarking Out had arrived for the fiddle drill and the sun was shining – perfect! We filled up the crap barrow from B&Q  (the tyre looks like a pneumatic tyre but deflates to nothing if you so much as look at it) with wooden pegs, tape measure, grass seed, fiddle drill and chunky mallet. The wellies were donned and we skipped into the field. Well, we trudged slowly whilst trying to steer the barrow and it’s road-hedgehog of a tyre.

The first job was to peg out the layout, to see where we needed to sow grass seed and where to leave bare soil for the veggie patch. Suz can be seen here smack bang in the middle clutching a post that will eventually be the walnut tree. We’ve found a variety called ‘Rita’ fromWalnut Wife Keeper’s Nursery, which only grows to 25ft tall. Much more manageable than the 100ft variety and a lot less shadow cast on valuable growing space on the ground.

FiddlingI was amazed at how little seed is needed to sow an acre – as a total novice I had 1 full bag and a 3/4 full bag of seed – enough to sow 1.75 acres in theory. I figured there would be wastage, and sure enough fiddle jams, stumbling and just forgetting to lock off the feed hole on the fiddle meant there were a few piles of seed dotted around the field. All in all it took about an hour to drill the whole field, and I still have half a bag left which is not bad by my reckoning 🙂 Of course, the truth will out if the field ends up patchy 😉 We’re hoping to get some decent growth before Christmas if the next week is as good as it’s promising!

Fiddle Drill for Sowing Seed

Ploughed FieldSo there’s now an acre of beautifully ploughed and prepared land, ready for grass seed. You can just about make out the far South East corner by way of the little pole with a rag attached to it, centre picture. After much advice I’ve decided to put in a permanent paddock in terms of grass seeds as I don’t fancy resowing that often between fruit trees. A local farmer has sold me a couple of acre bags (yes – seed is sold in acre bags!) of a ryegrass mix. Whilst the paddock at the back of our house has white clover in it as a nitrogen fixer, it was suggested by our neighbour farmer that we may want to sow a clover-free mix else it may take over!

The ryegrass mix will make great hay and be good for grazing by both sheep and chickens, but I plan to add some red clover, which I believe is beneficial to chickens, next spring. I also hear this is not as hardy as the white variety so won’t act like a triffid, taking over everything! We’ll have to resow it every spring but I’d rather that than a field full of white clover.

You might have noticed there are a lot of  ‘I believe’s’ and ‘So I’ve been told’s’ – there’s much to learn, much to unlearn, and probably even more to relearn in the future!

My first lesson today was being introduced to this amazing contraption – a Fiddle Drill. Both farmers helping us along in our venture have giggled (in a manly way of course) when seeing our reaction to them miming playing a fiddle whilst dancing a little jig. Essentially you fill the bag with seed, set the slider to how much seed you want to come out and for every pace forward you make one sweep of the bow. In theory this will broadcast seed about 2 yards left and right, on a calm day, and save more time than if broadcast by hand. Sounds a bit like rubbing your stomach whilst patting your head to me, but it’ll be fun trying! This particular fiddle drill is believe to be around 80 years old and still going strong.

I’m hoping tomorrow will be dry enough later to sow the seed, after which it will need harrowing with a light spike harrow (we’ve been offered one where I have to play the part of the ox) and then rolled to tamp it all down (we have been volunteered help with that part 🙂 ).

As far as how much seed to sow goes, when I asked the question I was told if there are 5 seeds under your hand when you lay your palm face down on the ground, then that’s plenty. It’ll give room for each grass root to spread and become stronger in the future. If the weather stays this warm (around 15 degrees at the moment) then we could get some good growth before Christmas!

First Ploughing of the Field

We could hardly contain our excitement! We’d been told by a neighbouring farmer who works many of the fields around us that they’d be ploughing the one behind us soon. Panic had already set in – we’re still waiting on the solicitors to make the purchase but our good neighbour who is selling us an acre portion of the large 46 acre field has suggested we let the ploughs work our land over as well, to get rid of the left over rape seed stubs, but we must catch them before they sow the wheat seed!

So when Gary, our neighbour, and I noticed the tractor and plough pootling over the large field to begin ploughing it was exciting for us – somehow made it all the more real. Up until now I’d spent hours on the evening scouring books and websites for inspiration. John Seymour’s ‘The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency’ has been the bible of course, but various others have been a great source of ideas.

As the plough worked around the edge of the field and into the distance, Gary pointed out that they didn’t seem to be doing a great job as they’d only just about dinted the surface! As ploughing expert number 2, I stated that they were probably just dragging the plough to where they would start properly. Later, telling our famer neighbour next door about this, he chuckled to himself and told his young padawans that this was called ‘sub-soiling’ and is needed to soften the ground up where the plough will eventually be dropped into the hard ground to begin new furrows. Like I’ve said – much to learn 😉