Baling and sorting

A long day, today. After the morning sun came round to the meadow to burn the dew off the windrows, I stepped out to continue baling the hay. There were already four dozen bales made but showers had slowed the process. By eightish, this evening, we had about a hundred under the aqueduct; a large stack under another tarpaulin that would allow baling to start ASAP; and all the rest in tight stacks.

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It’s not a bad task, bringing in the hay. Monica commented that I should have my beer cooling in the canal, which made me realise that I was taking it too seriously. The only reason to bother is to take the grass off the field, rather than letting it’s goodness back into the soil as autumn withers it so that other species, especially wild flowers, have a chance. Almost no-one wants the hay, preferring to feed their rabbits and horses on bought stuff. We use it for mulching around plants and hedges; Monica tried planting spuds and strawberries directly into bales with some success. I think I’m going to use hay-making as my summer break from the pressure of project work. When the coppicing starts, that can become my winter break.

This year’s Irish holiday was a débâcle. Had the Campervan not been double-booked, we’d have had the joy of sitting outside Sligo hospital, day after day, waiting on her Dad as he recuperates from his emergency hip operation. Probably more expensive than a hotel; and a good example of why on-farm holidays would be better.

In between the baling, I’ve managed to sort through all of Ralph’s bits and pieces. The card stock arrived so I could make stouter, colour coded origami boxes. Monica found them perfect for sorting her mother’s sewing tackle, too. As usual, M had a valuable idea to improve upon mine: coat the card in wax, as she had seen in her grandad’s workshop, which will make the boxes less damp-sensitive but probably more incendiary. They’ll be better able to keep rust away from their contents so, on balance, it’s worth trying. Did you have any idea for a Perspex alternative for a drawer dust cover? I think a roll of stiff plastic sheet, like folder covers, would work just as well and not need to be hinged, given most of its life will be spent inside a cabinet. Must see what’s available.

We’re enjoying the first fruits of our planting, now. Well, mainly vegetables, actually. Monica’s allotment is producing peas, kale, spuds and shallots with the help of regular doses of nematodes to eat the slugs. Turnips, beans and sprouts are also on the menu. We have had some fruit: strawberries, of course, plus jostaberries and blackcurrants off the bushes I was supposed to be growing for cuttings (should have pulled the flowers off). My Keswick Codlings have three apples on them, which is great because they were declared the best-tasting on a BBC programme lamenting the demise of English apples.

I wonder if the hops will flower?

My peaches and almonds almost succumbed to leaf curl but seem to have been saved by a spray with copper solution. Bordeaux mix has gone from “organic” status to being banned altogether and now there is little easy protection from this fungus. RHS recommends covering the trees in the spring and, as a roll-down greenhouse to protect the early flowers was on my to-do list, the peaches might not need the copper. Perhaps, when the dense grass is replaced by forest garden species, the fungus’ role in the eco-system here might diminish. While I was mowing and musing, today, I realised that my hastily-composed slogan for Warland Farm, “Growing together”, is very apt for a forest garden. Also for damp logs attacked by mycellae (fungus rule!).

Apart from one family visit, here, on the 24th of this month, my calendar is clear until the winter solstice. Perfect. Another few days of my “holiday”, then it’s back to Project Pigsty and the start of surveying the barns.

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