Tuesday, 22 March 2011
Able to farm at last.
Half way through the morning a little bird hit the kitchen window with such force that I expected to find it dead on the path but no, it was badly winded, its beak open and laying quite still. I left it there - the farm cats didn't seem to be about and I didn't want to scare the poor thing rigid by picking it up. Half an hour later it had gone, so I hope it recovered and flew off.
At last the land is dry enough to begin the Spring's work. These operations have taken place every Spring for hundreds of years - all grassland farms go through the same process and it is this continuity that appeals to me. First of all the land is harrowed. In my father-in-law's day the harrows would be heavy cast iron ones pulled by work horses; now they are much lighter harrows and in the few years before he died he would complain bitterly that the new harrows were not doing the land any good.
Then the land is fertilised. In the old days all manner of things was spread - bone meal, basic slag - by now the farmer uses a chemical fertiliser which he mysteriously calls 20:10:10. This is spread on all the grass fields and then they are rolled with a heavy roller.
Our Winter manure is already lying in a heap in the field rotting down nicely. Once the grass begins to green up, then the farmer will hire a huge mechanical "muck spreader" for the day and, working from early morning until dark he will - hopefully - manage to get the whole of the farm spread in one day.
Then it is up to Nature to take its course.
On our walk to photograph the farmer we passed one of our old field barns which is rapidly falling into disrepair. I held the camera through a hole in the door and took this photograph. There is something so sad about these barns as they all lose their stone slabs off the roofs and then begin to fall down. In the old days, when they were used to house cattle in the Winter, they were such an important resource on the farm - now they are totally redundant.
We did once try to have planning permission to convert one of these little barns into a retirement home for the farmer and me, but we were turned down and now that barn too is beginning to fall down.
Incidentally, walking round the fields today, I see they are littered with bits of soft fleece which are falling off the sheep. It almost makes me wish I could spin as it all looks so beautiful - if I knew anyone who did spin I would gather it up for them.