Wednesday, 2 April 2008

A Walk Around the Farm

I took advantage of a break in the showers to don my wellies and coat and take a wander around a couple of my fields. As I set off to look at the trees I’ve planted, I first go past the pond. I’d already spooked the heron as soon as I left the house, they have amazing eyesight, but the coypu hadn’t really noticed me. As I approached he moved out from the overhang at one side of the pond and swam to the middle. He then started humming. Yes coypu hum, it’s a much lower and more reverberation hum than the alpacas. The first time I heard it, they were in their underwater tunnel and I thought it was snoring. Using the trunk of one of the poplars at the edge of toe pond as a screen I was able to approach right up to the waters edge and poke just the camera round the tree without frightening it.

I then set off up the field, which as you can see is still unmown from last autumn. It’s had one and a half years uncultivated and it’s interesting seeing what has started to re-colonise it.

First up are dense mats of yet more couch grass and myriads of thistles. Considering how all the fields here are well and truly sprayed with weedkiller each year, and my fields are at least half a kilometre from any roads, I’m not expecting to have a flower meadow overnight. But here are some of the things I found.

There are lots of teasels, all of them the unhooked variety as far as I could tell last year. These are mainly round the pond, I would think that’s because the area round the pond hasn’t been cultivated to the edge – there is a possibility of collapse with the coypu tunnels – giving time for the biennial to develop.

Here Cid is helping to point out what look like a member of the hypericum family.

There are also large patches of this pretty plant, I think it’s Crosswort.

Bordering the ditch between my field and my neighbours wood is this white Comfrey, either the tuberous or the bulbous, I’ve not dug any up to see which it is.

Further up the field still and there is a large patch of Burdock. I’m wondering how easy it is to make homemade Dandelion and Burdock as I have more than enough dandelions as well.

This view is of the top of the field where I have a wonderfully large nettle patch. Up here it is nicely out of the way so it will stay to provide not only nettle soup for me but also a food source for the tortoiseshell, peacock and red admiral butterflies.

The mint here confirms the water retaining properties of the clay based soil round here. In fact, even though there is a reasonable slope on this field, there were places where I was in danger of sliding down the slope, even though it hadn’t rained for about a day.

From the wood field I cut across to the wheat field. As you can see, I was not alone. Cid is nearly always with me on these walks but this was the first time Hazel had come along. She has the most pitiful meow going and she would drop behind when something caught her attention only to start calling and then race up to be right behind me.

Right at the furthest point of the wheat field, I found this growing by the ditch. I’d seen it on a previous walk and had gone back to see if it had grown enough to let me identify it. The slugs have had a bit of a go at it but I no longer think it’s an orchid, which is what I thought a couple of weeks ago when it was just emerging. I now think it looks a bit like a lily but how a lily got to be here – this is about the furthest point you can get from mine and all the surrounding houses.

A walk back across the wheat field was quite instructive. The soil changes frequently across the field, some places loamy, some much more clayey and some very sandy. The change in soil is highlighted by marked differences in the height of the wheat. In places it is a good 6 inches tall while in others it is barely 2 inches, but throughout, the seeds of last years sunflowers are germination like mad.

We all then crossed to the paddock field where the grass is coming along nicely. In places there are concentrations of the less desirable weeds, thistles and rape but generally it is looking quite good. I would like the soil to dry out well so that I can take the topper through there to deal with the less desirable weeds and encourage the grass to branch a bit more.

On the way back up the drive I spotted more of the barbed wire I found partly buried in the grass and the ditch. It’s now out and I haven’t spotted any more. I really dislike the stuff but the rose pruning gloves I’ve got did a really good job on protecting my hand from the spikes.


aims said...

I'm still shaking my head! What a beautiful and diverse piece of the countryside you have.

Now - I've never heard of a coypu - I guess I'm going to have to google it...It looks a bit like a muskrat and sounds something like a beaver with the tunnels.

How is it that you know what all these plants are? I'm hopeless when it comes to the garden. I don't know what is a weed and what isn't!

Are you doing all this by yourself or do you have help?

dND said...

Hi aims,

I still cant' believe just how beautiful it is as well, even in the cold and rain.

I've always liked plants but I'm not really good on names but I do have a couple of wild flower books and I recognise some plants from their garden counterparts - that's where knowing the Latin names helps.

Basically it is just me here. The partner of my friend comes over if there is something I can't do but that is just for specific things. For instance, he seeded the wheat and pasture for me as his seeder is a bit temperamental - I could have broken it in other words - but left me to get on with the rolling using his roller on my tractor.

I will have to get someone in to help with putting in the posts for the paddocks, I just don't have the strength or stamina for that but I will probably do the fencing myself or with one of my sons, depending on if they are here.

VP said...

Hi Dnd,

Glad I came over when you were having a good walk around. It's great to get a good feel of what your place is like.