Summer Fayre @ Hartley Farm Sunday 31st August

10410454_10152875468214879_13790043088369767_nPop on down to the farm this Sunday to say howdy and exchange veg tips! As well as us local food producers offering samples, there will also be tractor rides, brewery tours, coffee sessions, hula hooping, farm trails to try plus barbecue nosh and the usual farm fun!

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Polytunnels, Swearing & Perseverance

IMG_20140719_113725 copyIMG_20140719_113838 copyWe are just about starting to recover after a mammoth day of polytunnel action on Thursday. Him Indoors & I hired a van (eek, already stressy when you sign an agreement that you’ll pay £1,000s for any damage etc) so we could drive to Wallingford and take down 2 polytunnels from Close To The Veg there (Clare there is selling up); then transport them back to Hartley Farm – in the same day. Just the 2 of us. Err…

All was going pretty well: we started on the larger tunnel (20 x 60ft), with 11 hoops that come apart into 4 sections, plus the ridgepole down the middle, and side rails at the top of the elbows on each side. After slashing away the plastic (feels like such IMG_20140821_150417 copya waste; although I’ve salvaged some for stone bags); dismantling was relatively straight forward. The excellent Him then started taking down the smaller tunnel (10 x 30ft, 9 hoops, really simple lightweight design) pretty much alone, while I got on with digging out the ground tubes of the large tunnel. This was when I realised we wouldn’t be done by 5pm like I was hoping.

 

 

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Left: large tunnel; right: small tunnel

The tubes were driven in around 3-4ft on the lower sloping side, so it took much digging and swearing – especially in the concrete-like dried soil inside the tunnel – plus the higher slope had the bolts connecting the ground tubes to the uprights below ground level – so you had to dig to get at them if you’ve given up the idea of digging out the whole ground tube as well as the upright. But then because they were below ground level, several of the (ridiculously long) bolts had rusted and couldn’t be dismantled. Plus the slope also meant that these ground tubes were driven in even deeper, into possibly the world’s stickiest clay.

By 7pm and 1 snapped upright later, we had to cut our loses and leave some of the ground tubes where they were, using a combination of gritted-teeth digging for the rusted tubes, and lots of WD40 for the better bolts that would come off the ground tubes. I’ll have to try and sniff out some suitable ground tubes from somewhere – I do have some scaffold poles already on site,  but not sure the internal diameter is correct.

 

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Look at that clay level! Blistered digging hands are go…

Aaaannnyway, by 7.30pm I was way past caring about these triffling details and would gladly have spent over £100 on some spare ground tubes, so we loaded up and headed back towards Bradford on Avon, very tired, aching and bruised; to unload in the dark and leave the poles vaguely near my shipping container; and then go back drop the van off at the hire centre. I moved the tubes out of my way yesterday and stacked them pretty neatly away, but will probabably have to wait some weeks before I can face looking at them again and even consider reassembling them…

The GM Arms Race

IMG_20140814_145642I do worry about the direction of some scientific research at the moment. Surely every right thinking person knows about evolution, right? Survivial of the fittest? Is any of this sounding familiar?

So why are people still surprised that spraying more sophisticated chemical pesticides leads to more sophisticated weeds, who are resistant to the weed-killer? Is it just me, or is that pretty obvious? Yet so many millions of dollars are being poured into making crops resistant to weedkillers, so that more chemicals can be used to kill the weeds around them. How can people not see the inevitable evolution of weeds that will resist the sprays? Come on people! Like Mugatu in Zoolander, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills! Why are people still doing it?

Is it really sensible, or even economic, to carry on investing in producing more crops that are oblivious to ever increasing amounts of pesticides just to keep on top of these evolving weeds? Here’s a radical thought: why not ditch that idea of racing to chemically arm yourself quicker than the weeds evolve, and only have chemicals in your armoury: why not, oh, I don’t know, use something that actually physically takes the weed 0ut? That way there are plenty of other benefits too: no chemicals to affect wildlife, and they can make use of the weeds before they’re taken out; once weeded out the plants can be left as a mulch to protect the soil from drying out/more weeds germinating/protect the soil structure from the elements; then they get broken down back into soil organic matter. So let’s have more investment in manual labour systems that hand-weed; or tillage attachments for tractors; or even the exciting machinery being invented as we speak all around agricultural and engineering colleges? Think Lasers, super-light-weight tractors, robotics…

Yes this is getting a bit Sci-Fi; but I do prefer this version of the future of farming with things you can see and handle (safely), rather than noxious chemicals. These pesticide vs weed war games aren’t getting us anywhere.

Strange game. The only winning move is not to play.