Bet you don’t know how much dandelion seeds are worth? $50 an ounce!!!!!!! Why? Because you can grow them to eat and they are good for you. Dandelion Gastronomy- all parts of the dandelion are edible and have medicinal and culinary uses. It has long been used as a liver tonic and diuretic. In addition, the roots contain inulin and levulin, starch like substances that may help balance blood sugar, as well as bitter taraxacin, which stimulates digestion. Dandelion roots can be harvested during any frost-free period of the year and eaten raw, steamed, or even dried, roasted and ground into a coffee substitute. The flowers are best known for their use in dandelion wine, but they also can be added to a salad, made into jellies or dipped in batter to make dandelion fritters. The leaves are rich in potassium, antioxidants, and vitamins A and C. Dandelion greens can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, sautéed or braised. For use in salads, greens should be harvested from new plants while still small and tender, before the first flower emerges. Larger greens tend to be tougher and more bitter, and better suited for cooking. Oh by the way, goldfinches and linnets love the seeds too.
Back to work, oh darn! Now we have made quite a few posts it was time to get the Sumo post thumper out but not before some maintenance. The top pulley wheel had seized up and the working parts were in need of some molly grease. This is a bit from Wiki:
“Molybdenum disulfide is the inorganic compound with the formula MoS2. The compound is classified as a metal dichalcogenide. It is a silvery black solid that occurs as the mineral molybdenite, the principal ore for molybdenum. MoS2 is relatively unreactive. It is unaffected by dilute acids and oxygen. In appearance and feel, molybdenum disulfide is similar to graphite. It is widely used as a solid lubricant because of its low friction properties and robustness.” Trouble is it sticks to you like poo so these handy ‘Big Wipes’ helped to remove it from our hands as we have no water at Cobbs Wood Farm.
Now we had to try the thumper out… first job was to knock in a gate post (where the last- Sika spruce rubbish- had rotted away) where we are now stacking the timber. A nice eight foot long nine inches wide riven oak post… that’ll see me out.
After that post we knocked in over a hundred riven oak posts but ran out so had to make some more. The oak we collected last year had been lying around on the woodland floor for quite a few years and was relatively dry so harder to split. Ideally the oak wants to be fresh and green as it cleaves/rives exceedingly well.
To cleave a log you knock in a few wedges at the butt end to start the crack and, as this develops, you then add more steel wedges along the developing crack thus opening it up. We have some new steel wedges that work well and some old ones made of wrought iron (I think). These can be a bit of a problem as, over time, they begin to deform, as do the newer ones but the old ones also produce small flakes of iron that fly off at quite a speed. Care has to be taken with these older wedges and both new and old have to have the fat end ground down occasionally to remove the loose iron and steel.
Sometimes because the oak is dry it won’t split properly and so we have to use double wedges and even massive wooden ones until the oak splits asunder.
After that we then split the timber again and in this case each half was split a further two times giving us three posts from each half. If making riven timber for furniture it’s actually best to split everything in halves until you get the required thickness.
It’s quite amazing how long a piece of timber you can split- these two, which are sixteen foot long, will span the ditches to make some dragon gates (well that’s what I call them). Wasn’t long until we were back to knocking in the new posts we had just made. This field is called Long Ropes and has twenty acres of grass. Interestingly in an old ‘terrier’ (the old term for a document related to land ownership) from the 14th century this same field was called Long Ropes and was within the manor of Wratsworth.
Fifteen years ago Long Ropes was under arable cultivation but was returned to grass. For nearly all that time the grass was of a poor quality and no good to man nor beast but, a few years ago, some wild white clover found its way in and so a change began to happen. Now, after fifteen years, it can yield a good hay crop or be of good grazing value, just needed a fence around it. In fact, as we had already fenced in some adjacent fields, only 650m needed to be done. Cost to put a stock fence in? Well that depends on the quality you want, generally it’s about £2.50 for materials plus labour but bear in mind that softwood stakes are supposed to last 15 years… they don’t. Our oak stakes will last a good 20 years. So, as we have used oak posts, that means the total cost including labour would amount to about £4,000 (or £200 an acre over twenty years), so £10 per acre per year. We reused the stock netting too as this will still outlast the oak posts ( don’t you just love being thrifty and not wasteful?). There’s an old saying which is true: ‘Break a pasture make a man, make a pasture break a man’. Why? Because when you plough a pasture to grow crops all the stored nutrients are used and it’s a freebie but to make a pasture means you can’t get the cash from growing crops and it takes an awfully long time for the soil to recuperate.
Jim has got us training… that is mowing with a scythe training… ready to do battle in Somerset at the team event.
There were seven of us mowing in the evening sun and as we mowed the dandelion seeds danced in the breeze as we knocked them off the spent flower heads.
By the time we had spent our energy we had cut about a quarter of an acre and, with the sun dwindling behind the trees, we sat in the freshly mown grass scented with Sweet Vernal-grass with a beer- nothing so pleasurable and something long-lost to most.
Back to fencing but this time we had to scan the ground near the road as there were some telephone wires somewhere and an electric cable. Without a plan of where the utilities were it was out with the CAT & GENNY- clever little devices that enable you to find underground services (well almost all). Couldn’t find the plastic water pipe!!! (Tried for some time but to no avail.) Did find the telephone underground cable tho’. However the electric underground cable was far more elusive so we pinged it with the Genny. Blimey! It was in a totally unexpected place. Now these were found we could knock in the rest of the posts without damaging the cables ( still not sure where the water pipe was though, wish we had some plans of the underground services on the estate).
Arable crops are growing and hidden in the new young shoots were some hares… but I spotted this one only a few yards away from the truck.
This week two of the estate staff were leaving for pastures new. Steph who works in the house has decided to have a change of career- mountaineering! And Hattie, who works in visitor services, is off to New Zealand to start a new life there.
So, a farewell evening picnic behind the Hall in the parkland. I brought along the washing machine brazier as the evening was quite cool, also brought along some of the oak leftovers which burnt bright and clean.
New bit of kit! Not seen one of these before – impressive. The Luci light, which was developed for the developing world, is solar-powered and inflatable; it punched out quite a bit of light and I am definitely getting a few of these. Farewell and good luck Steph and Hattie!
Now the posts were in it was time to put that old stock netting to use ( must have about 1000m of it stored up at Cobbs Wood Farm).
Lots of sections and we had to join them together. The cheapest method is to use the New Zealand way of fixing two sections together. They use alloy sleeves that you crimp- very effective and at 10p each one that’s ten times cheaper than a gripple. However the gripples are superb at repairing broken sections as you can use the tool supplied to tension the netting. So- crimp sleeves for new fencing and gripples for repair work.
Managed to get all the posts in, the stock netting up and a field gate installed. Only the barbed wire and a pedestrian gate to go…