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…
Last 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.
On 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!
It seems like ages ago, but Bath & Bristol Organic Growers (BABOG) met up at Kensons Farm near Salisbury only a few weeks ago, on Saturday 23rd January, kindly hosted by Hugh Collins. A good turnout, we all met at the Veg Shed shop, well stocked even in January, then moved onto the propagation area and polytunnels. Hugh grows most crops for several local weekly markets, but also does some wholesale – especially potatoes, onions and asparagus. We checked out his new system for aerating the stored onions to prevent rotting, and also the benenfits of dig vs no-dig beds in the polytunnels.
Hugh is also taking on another Future Growers trainee this season, and we swapped experiences and recommendations on volunteers vs waged labour. After admiring his many brassicas standing well in the field, and checking out the leeks and new asparagus beds, it was time to head to another barn for a look at Hugh’s extensive machinery collection.
After checking out his root lifters and other tractor-mounted tools, we headed inside for a welcome hot cuppa and homemade cake; along with chats on the merits of the Biodynamic seed sowing calendar, best varieties of crops, the weather and green manures. Thanks to Hugh for a very informative meeting; any volunteers for the next BABOG in spring please get in touch!