Autumn has definitely arrived, the evenings are getting darker and the nights colder, dew forms on the grass and fog drifts across the landscape. Fruit picked early in the morning has the best taste of all- fresh, cold and sweet with a heavy dew forming drips that sparkle in the morning’s sun. Eden.
Well that soon slipped away and we were left with a dank day as the clouds began to roll in. Never mind, at least we were up, many weren’t and so never saw the delights of an early sunny morning. Spent the day gathering up more rubble and found a gold mine of it at the Woodyard. We’ll have to set about cleaning this area up properly in the next few weeks.
While Jim and Paul sorted through the rubble I took the MF390 and Bomford mower to slaughter the regrowth that had grown up over the last two years since we cleared the orchard behind the Woodyard complex (plenty of old varieties of apples, pears and plums here). ‘Tis a bumper year for greengages and damsons; odd thing is tho’ that the apples are plentiful but small, and one pear tree, that in the last twenty years has not produced one single fruit, has thousands dripping from its branches this year ( I have no idea what variety it is though). Unfortunately the Bomford encountered quite a bit of hidden rabbit fencing and other wire that had been discarded many years ago and lay almost hidden underneath the soil. The flails only have to snatch up a small piece for the Bomford to wrench it from the earth and wrap it around the whole flail roller. Damn, that’ll take ages to get out!!!!!!
Well, that was more difficult than first appeared- the netting was well wrapped around the roller; took ages to cut it out and then we had to replace four lost or broken flails. Some needed the angle grinder to cut the bolts (note that we use 110 volt grinders and transformer as 110v is much safer when used outside). Soon the MF390 and Bomford were back in action to clear the rest of the Woodyard brambles, stinging nettles and young woody regrowth… no more mishaps for now.
While the grinder was out we fetched the metal scrap from the Woodyard- old kissing gates which were of no further use; nor were the copious other bits of rusty angle iron, tubes, pipes, corrugated tin etc. We did not get all of it as the metal skip was getting rather full and the metal recycling skip company needed to come and change it. Must have sent away 40 tons of scrap iron this year, where does it all come from?
Next job on the list was to mow our field beans- had to do that early on Wednesday morning when the dew was heavy as, if the shucks are too dry, the beans fall out as the scythe blade severs the stalk from the roots. We did notice, as we set about the beans, that a large number of goldfinches and linnets flew out- must be a feast in there for them!
Here is a bit taken from Wiki
Convolvulus arvensis (field bindweed) is a species of bindweed in the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae), native to Europe and Asia. It is a climbing or creeping herbaceous perennial plant growing to 0.5–2 m high. The leaves are spirally arranged, linear to arrowhead-shaped, 2–5 cm long and alternate, with a 1–3 cm petiole. The flowers are trumpet-shaped, 1-2.5 cm diameter, white or pale pink, with five slightly darker pink radial stripes. Flowering occurs in the mid-summer, when white to pale pink, funnel-shaped flowers develop. Flowers are approximately 0.75-1 in. (1.9-2.5 cm) across and are subtended by small bracts. Fruit are light brown, rounded and 1/8 in. (0.3 cm) wide. Each fruit contains 2 seeds that are eaten by birds and can remain viable in the soil for decades.
- Convolvulus arvensis var. arvensis. Leaves broader.
- Convolvulus arvensis var. linearifolius. Leaves narrower.
Although it produces attractive flowers, it is often unwelcome in gardens as a nuisance weed due to its rapid growth and choking of cultivated plants. It was most likely introduced into North America as a contaminant in crop seed as early as 1739, as an invasive species. Plants typically inhabit roadsides, grasslands and also along streams. Its dense mats invade agricultural fields and reduce crop yields; it is estimated that crop losses due to this plant in the United States exceeded US$377 million in the year 1998 alone. Other common names, mostly obsolete, include lesser bindweed, European bindweed, withy wind (in basket willow crops), perennial morning glory, smallflowered morning glory, creeping jenny, and possession vine. It is called leli in Punjabi. In one of the tales collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Our Lady’s Little Glass, this flower is used by Our Lady to drink wine with when she helps free a wagoner’s cart. The story goes on to say that “the little flower is still always called Our Lady’s Little Glass.” Ecological Impacts: Field bindweed intertwines and topples native species. It competes with other species for sunlight, moisture and nutrients. It poses threats to restoration efforts and riparian corridors by choking out grasses and forbs. It can decrease habitat biodiversity. It is one of the most serious weeds of agricultural fields in temperate regions of the world. Toxicity: Mildly toxic to grazing animals Control and Management: Field bindweed is difficult to eradicate because the seeds remain viable in soil for up to 20 years. One plant can produce up to 500 seeds. The deep, extensive root system stores carbohydrates and proteins and allows it to sprout repeatedly from fragments and rhizomes following removal of aboveground growth.
- Manual- Discing, tilling or hand pulling
- Chemical- Apply herbicide 2,4-D or glyphosate (Roundup); applications that trans-locate to roots, before seeds set
- Other approaches: Research suggests that shading will help control this species; mulching using paper, straw, wood chips, or black plastic can be effective in certain areas
- Natural Enemies: Eight fungi and ten arthropods have been found on members of the genus Convolvulus.
Another bit from Wiki, this time about fat-hen:
The leaves and young shoots may be eaten as a leaf vegetable, either steamed in its entirety, or cooked like spinach, but should be eaten in moderation due to high levels of oxalic acid. Each plant produces tens of thousands of black seeds. These are high in protein, vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium. Quinoa, a closely related species, is grown specifically for its seeds. The Zuni people cook the young plants’ greens. Archaeologists analysing carbonized plant remains found in storage pits and ovens at Iron Age, Viking Age, and Roman sites in Europe have found its seeds mixed with conventional grains and even inside the stomachs of Danish bog bodies. In India, the plant is popularly called bathua and found abundantly in the winter season. The leaves and young shoots of this plant are used in dishes such as soups, curries, and paratha-stuffed breads, especially popular in Punjab. The seeds or grains are used in phambra or laafi, gruel-type dishes in Himachal Pradesh, and in mildly alcoholic fermented beverages such as soora and ghanti.
As some of the common names suggest, it is also used as feed (both the leaves and the seeds) for chickens and other poultry. It is also much sought after by wild birds who relish the seed.
Thursday morning and we had to do a little bit of tree surgery for the gardeners (would have cost them quite a bit if they had gone and got contractors in). Matt had seen two very large bits of deadwood above the footpath going through the pleasure grounds. The silky pole saw was effective at removing one branch from the ground but, alas, I had to get up the tree for the other one. Half an hour later that was on the ground but I had spied another bit a tad higher- one good snatch with the pole should do that… darn, I brought my left hand down too fast and it caught the sharp hook on the silky saw which buried itself deeply into my thumb knuckle- ouch! That really hurt. Did the job, came down and Jayne administered the first aid… blimey, she grabbed my thumb- that REALLY hurt… I looked daggers at her… “there” she said “that’ll get you back for what you did to me last week”. Hmmmm can’t remember what that was- think I was hoodwinked! Actually it went so deep that it cut a few nerves and it’s still feeling a bit odd. Anyway a rather large plaster was put on.
Back to clearing away more rubble at the Woodyard – plenty of it (where did it all come from?). Had to sort through it to get all the larger bits out, the rest will have to be skipped but not before we remove the large pieces of roofing asbestos lying within it. That’s a different job altogether and expensive.
Back up the hill above Cobbs Wood Farm to fill the bottom of the deep ruts- this job is never-ending but at least we can get rid of the rubble and save ourselves a pretty pound or two in limestone.
I also had to get rid of a number of very old diesel oil tanks. Blast, they were going to cost quite a bit to get rid of, but then I had a rather cunning idea… I needed some bunded tanks to hold our twenty litre plastic containers with oil in them ( some for the hydraulics, some for the engine and some for the gear box) plus other bio-oils used for the chainsaws. ‘Specially made bunded tanks cost a fortune (over £500 each) so why not convert the old tanks by cutting a square hole? Easy with an angle grinder but one has to be careful that you know what was in the tank. Diesel oil only ignites and explodes under compression so it is safe to use the angle grinder but to make sure you can always squirt CO2 into the tank before cutting. No oxygen= no fire… but best to keep a fire extinguisher handy.
Finished off the Woodyard with the MF390 and Bomford mower but something was up… the belts seemed to be slipping and rubber smelling smoke was wisping out of the metal shroud that covered the belt tensioner. Time to tension the belts but… oh dear, something WAS wrong! We had to strip the Bomford down and found the problem- the tensioning bearing assembly had failed. This would need to be replaced before we could use it again- a job for Andy Klose Engineering.
While sorting out the Bomford Paul replaced the pickup hitch to the Ford 5000. This had got bent when one of the back hydraulic links had failed some weeks back. This is what happens when you have older machinery and, as the Farm has found out, the ‘new’ second-hand combine had also had some bearing failures . (Not only that, even the new tractors sometimes break!!!!)
When work had finished I went back to give Mr Anderson’s Fergie some TLC… soon had that running sweetly.
Thursday afternoon and we went down to the Octagon in the South Avenue to collect reeds and rushes. These were needed for decorating the Chapel in the Hall. Every year we have a Harvest Festival to welcome all the crops gathered in. Although a pagan festival it has been absorbed into the Christian faith along with Christmas and Easter. Harvest festivals are traditionally held on or near the Sunday of the Harvest Moon. This is the full Moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox (about Sept. 23). In two years out of three the Harvest Moon comes in September, but in some years it occurs in October. Unlike the USA and Canada (I didn’t know this), the UK does not have a national holiday for Harvest Festival. Reckon we should vote for a harvest festival holiday. The harvest festival of the Jewish religion is called Sukkot or ‘Feast of Ingathering’ or ‘the ‘Feast of Tabernacles’. It is celebrated at the end of the year, after Rosh Hoshanah, the third of the great Annual Festivals. More on our Harvest Festival at the end of the blog.
It has been a bit damp of late but the weather dried up and the moisture levels in the spring wheat were dropping- time for Albert to combine the rest of the wheat; time was of the essence as the window of opportunity was fast drawing to a close. It was decided to enlist the help of the farm contractor Simon Parrish and his men, they were going to harvest the spring wheat over in Valley Farm at the weekend.
Meanwhile, as Albert was combining the wheat, Abi and Martin were collecting the straw- so easy when you have the right machinery for the job. This field of spring wheat also had a conservation area for birds which can be seen in the top right hand corner of the adjacant photo.
These areas that were left for the birds had an extra bonus- this cultivated ground was left fallow and some of the rarer arable weeds were growing freely. The fluellen flowers although small are very attractive to the larger bumblebees; another species of fluellen is the sharp leaved variety- same looking flower but the leaves are obviously sharp!!!!! Bees like them too.
Other arable weeds seen were the scarlet pimpenel and the dwarf spurge; there was also the locally rare, broad leaved spurge which is a much prettier plant.
Knotweed/knotgrass can be used as food for humans and as fodder for animals. While birds are happy to feed on the seeds of knotweed, pigs as well as cattle too like this herb, hence it is often referred to as pigweed and cowgrass. When there is scarcity of food even humans turn to this weed, belonging to the buckwheat family, for sustenance. They pulverize the seeds of knotweed to prepare a meal. Here are some uses for knotweed taken from herb2000.com :
“Knotweed is an herb that possesses astringent and diuretic attributes and in European herbal medicine, it is used for treating diarrhea, hemorrhoids, to stop bleeding from stomach wounds, to expel worms from the body, to lessen the profuse menstrual flow as well as to stop nosebleeds. In addition, this herb is also prescribed for complaints of the pulmonary system, as the silicic acid enclosed by it facilitates to reinforce the connective tissue inside the lungs. In Chinese traditional medicine, knotweed is prescribed to people suffering from intestinal worms, for treating dysentery and diarrhea. It is also used as a diuretic, especially in cases where urination is tender.” and a bit more info on other uses:
“The knotweed plant produces a blue dye, which, in any case, is inferior to indigo. While it is yet to be ascertained which part of the plant yields the blue dye, in all probability it is the leaves of the herb. On the other hand, green and yellow dyes can be extracted from the whole plant. The roots of knotweed enclose tannins. However, the quality of tannins obtained from the plant has not been specified.” Amazing what weeds can do as well as feed the farmland birds.
Harvest Festival used to be celebrated at the beginning of the Harvest season on 1 August and was called Lammas, meaning ‘loaf Mass’. Farmers made loaves of bread from the new wheat crop and gave them to their local church. They were then used as the Communion bread during a special mass thanking God for the harvest. The custom ended when Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church and nowadays we have harvest festivals at the end of the season. At the start of the harvest communities would appoint a strong and respected man of the village as their ‘Lord of the Harvest’. He would be responsible for negotiating the harvest wages and organising the fieldworkers. The end of the harvest was celebrated with a big meal called a Harvest Supper eaten on Michaelmas Day. The ‘Lord of the Harvest’ sat at the head of the table. A goose stuffed with apples was eaten along with a variety of vegetables. Goose Fairs were, and still are, held in English towns at this time of year. The tradition of celebrating Harvest Festival in churches as we know it today began in 1843 when the Reverend Robert Hawker invited parishioners to a special thanksgiving service for the harvest at his church at Morwenstow in Cornwall. Victorian hymns such as “We plough the fields and scatter”, “Come ye thankful people, come” and “All things bright and beautiful” helped popularise his idea of harvest festival and spread the annual custom of decorating churches with home-grown produce for the Harvest Festival service.