Tractor Time

Gotta love the Kubota tractor & 5ft rotovator: it may only be a small tractor with something like 22hp, but it does such a great job when it comes to getting my fields ready for action. Wednesday saw me walking several miles with the pedestrian Honda Izy lawnmower (also brilliant) cutting down the remnants of last year’s herbs, spinach, fennel plus inevitable grasses and other weeds that had started to perk up; to prepare the way for a session on Friday afternoon on the tractor. As windy and cold as ever (it takes a while to stop shivering after several hours in the cold wind without a cab for protection), I just managed to beat the incoming rain after a 3-hour session of shallow rotovating. The field will sit there and wait for a couple of weeks, then we’ll go over it again, knocking back any missed or re-growing weeds; before a final pass a couple of weeks after that which will give it a lovely friable tilth ready for sowing and planting into. I can only try and imagine how long this job of ground preparation would take by hand…

Tractor Happy

IMG_20160519_140120 IMG_20160519_140512Last week was a bit of a hard-core tractor fest: I had the use of a tractor which I have a share in (an amazing Fordon Major from 1957, which we call Vivienne – a friend & I bought it between us last year on eBay, and other friends have helped us do it up); so it was all systems go! A neighbour had ploughed the Old Field over the road a few weeks ago, so I borrowed the ringroller from the farm here & hitched it on the tractor, to try and level those big ridge and furrows, so I could at least try to cultivate it. The soil there dries out so quickly though; so after a quick go last Monday, I waited until the rain on Wednesday then tried rolling again on Thursday, which worked much better. Then I managed to borrow the farm’s Kubota tractor & 5ft rotovator (thanks again guys!) on the back, to try and make a nice tilth on Thursday night; it sort of worked in places, but parts of the field that were quite clayey had dried already into clods.

IMG_20160520_145832IMG_20160520_135428On Friday I really needed to start getting the brassicas in the ground, but the tilth didn’t look that great still in places, and there were still some bumps and holes from the ploughing. So I attached my lovely spring tines that I also bought via eBay a couple of weeks ago (£80! bargain, even if there is no guiding wheel any more) to Vivienne, to see if she could pull them around. They worked a treat, and helped break the tilth up some more and level the ground; so Friday afternoon and evening it was all about planting kales. I figured that Saturday I could give my back a rest… sorry back, I promise I will tack you swimming soon!IMG_20160520_181251

Manic May Catch-Up

IMG_20150527_171244Now the Elephant Polytunnel is finished at last, we finally managed to plant the tomatoes last Wednesday, phew! This means that the peppers are in, tomatoes are in, some cucumbers and climbing beans are in (the rest in the next 10 days); so the tunnels have now caught up at last (the tomato tunnel still needs some work asap though, since some don’t have the strings planted under their roots to grow up; and most don’t have straining wire in place for the string to tie on too, since I’m waiting for fixings etc to arrive). I also managed to plant out all the pumpkins and the majority of squash plants in the main field last week, after using Howard the rotovator to go over the patch again (bloody thistles!). However towards the end of the patch, Howard starting losing power (I think the clutch plate has gone again); so I now have the happy annual task of trying to find someone who knows what they’re doing and will help me fix him. Hmm…

IMG_20150518_153517 IMG_20150528_173436Now I need to catch up on all the jobs that have been waiting while the tunnels and crops were being sorted: we did manage to keep the successional sowings (kale, lettuce, fennel, basil) going in between jobs, so that’s not too bad (although I haven’t sown any sunflowers yet); but round the tunnels and fields desperately need a strim (the mower is still not back from the mechanics, argh); the weeds in the umbellifer/beetroot patch have shot up, and the courgettes could also do with a hoe; not to mention planting out the first batch of fennel once the ground is hoed first; I need to drill more spinach and herbs; plus in a couple of weeks the leeks will want to be planted out.

IMG_20150522_151051Oh and really helpfully, we have been forecast 50mph winds tonight and tomorrow, AGAIN. This year has been ridiculously windy, not just the usual wintery gales: I remember the damage the winds did to Vole Tunnel’s plastic back in February, simply bursting through the plastic; and we seem to have had strong winds pretty much weekly since then. So I’ll need to go round making more stone bags to weigh down nets today; and try & work out how to secure the polytunnel doors as much as possible. I’d love to plant hedging right next to the tunnels, but I’m not sure how practical it will be on this rented land, or how effective – we are pretty much right on top of the hill above Bath. I did start planting soft fruit bushes (such as a few red currants, right) behind Vole Tunnel, which I might look into again. Heigh ho and fingers crossed; here’s to a calmer rest of the year: and if anyone still doesn’t believe in climate change… pah!