Could be mistaken in thinking that this is a desert … in fact it’s the Mare Furlong field on Rectory Farm. I think this field is going to be sown with oats, so within a few weeks it’ll be getting much greener. Note the colour changes- the lighter soil is called Landwade series which is very chalky while the browner shallow gully where more organic material and clays gathers is called Didmartin series. On the crest of the hill the soils change to chalky boulder clays known as Hanslope series.
Back down to the South Avenue to finish off the chipping and then spreading the piles under the lime trees. While spreading the wood chip Shane and I both pondered on how much chip there actually was? We guessed that the piles generally ranged from 20-40kg with a few less and a few more. There are seventy trees per row so… a total of 280 trees with an average of 25kg of wood chip per tree would mean 7,000kg of wet wood chip- seven tons! But, to use it in a wood biofuel boiler it would have to be dry so, as a rough rule of thumb and allowing for mistakes, lets guess three tons of dry wood chip … that’s enough to keep Wimpole Hall warm for about ten days (given that I worked out a few years ago that the Hall would use one third of a ton per day). Still, the wood chip will mulch the lime trees and next year the common deceiver mushroom will have grown all over the wood chip mulch and… that’s edible! 🙂
With the chip work done it was time to take the old worn out stock fence down and mow the grass where we had been working so as to munch up any small brash left behind as there will be a hay cut from this area in late June/early July. Mind you, with all the work the new Bomford mower had done, Paul had to replace some dubious flails and tighten a load of nuts and bolts.
Had a break from the work in the South Avenue and went to the Folly to remove some old wooden tree guards that have gone rotten – we’ll shortly be replacing these with the metal guards as the trees are still too small to fend for themselves against the gnawing pests and livestock.
From the Folly you can get some very fine views on a clear day and, now that the Woodyard has had a new roof put on it and the scrub has been cleared again, you can see the Brick End cottages, part of Home Farm and the Woodyard in one glance. Brick End cottages are the red brick buildings (pre 1820), the Home Farm (on the far right) has white & red brick and black timbered barns (1790 onwards) and the Woodyard (far left) is made of white brick and has a slate roof (1840s).
The wooden posts that were rotten were brought back to Cobbs Wood Farm and burnt in our especially designed inferno (but we did keep a lot of posts that were not rotten and could be used to replace broken ones on other existing stock fences). Jim and Alistair were hard at work cutting open a barrel (we thought it was Jim’s wallet they were trying to get into!) to make a bigger barrel so that a smaller barrel could fit inside ( if you see what I mean!). The retort we have is made from a normal 45 gallon barrel so, by cutting open another one and adding a section of steel, you make a bigger diameter barrel so that the retort can go inside and we can then add insulation to keep the heat inside the retort. It cooks the wood much quicker and you get a better quality of charcoal.
This week was perfect for drilling the arable crop seed so finally the farm staff could rest at last. Hopefully the spring crops will become visible but some nice spells of rain would be very helpful to get the seed germinating.
While I was up at the Mare Furlong field I took the chance to see how the competition laid hedge was doing- a few more weeks and it’ll be green all over.
Spring is the time when the adult badgers go foraging and so some come to a sticky end on the roads. It’s quite usual to see a few badgers run over on the roads around Wimpole as we have quite a few setts on the estate. The other time of year when you see a rise in badger deaths on the road is in the autumn when the young badgers start to find territories for themselves.
Last job of the week was to cut the top round rail on the park rail fence and lift the posts out. The timber crane has more uses than you’d think! Just as well as these posts were concreted in. I hate using concrete as it makes maintenance on fences very difficult if you have to replace posts; not only that it’s also not very good for the environment as it uses lots of energy to make it creating an awful lot of carbon dioxide. Tom informed me that at Hatfield (where he worked before coming here), their policy is to avoid concrete at all costs and use lime mortar instead of concrete if they have to use a filler. Managed to get quite a few out but there is about a day’s work left here.
While we are on the subject of carbon dioxide and fossil fuel use… it has become very obvious over the last year that a lot of solar farms have been installed on farmland in south Cambridgeshire. Sounds like a good idea from a fossil fuel point of view but I can’t help thinking that when the idea goes off the boil these fields will be earmarked for building, plus it’s using valuable farming land. I’m all for solar panels but why on earth are they not putting them on the millions of acres of roof space? Especially on industrial buildings and even the ever-increasing in size modern farm sheds! Somehow there seems to be a lack of joined up thinking.