Time to wander down the South Avenue to see what flowers are growing down there since our green haying; plus, I might find some late St Georges mushrooms. I did, loads of them and they are late this year as the soil has been quite cold so far this year- so much so that the spring sown arable crops are struggling to get going.
Plantago is doing well and so are the creeping buttercups (which makes the avenue look like gold), then there are clumps of speedwell scattered through the fields with delicate pencilled lines adorning the blue flowers.
Mixed among the buttercups are red clover flowers, only a few at the moment but many more to come into bloom. There are the early grasses blooming too like the fox tail and sweet vernal grass (which incidentally is exceedingly nice to chew, so much so I may pick a bit and put it into a glass jar with some vodka to see what flavour it’ll give it).
In parts of the field the common vetch has taken hold and adds a beautiful, delicate pink hue which breaks up the golden-yellow of the buttercups. Then there are the patches of glaucous blue and brown seed heads of the, well, glaucous sedge- a good chalkland species. The nice surprise for me was the field wood rush, only a few plants but, left to seed, it will slowly increase in population. It has another name, Good Friday grass, as this is about the time it flowers; it’s hated by gardeners for some obscure reason as I like to see it in the lawns (don’t suppose many people take time to look properly at this lovely plant).
The May tree is out in blossom and will provide much valuable pollen and nectar for the late spring insects although, with a cold May, there seem to be fewer insects about. Meanwhile the grass is now really starting to grow and the lawns around the Hall are getting their short back and sides- they look even smarter when the clippings are removed and Kieron has a novel way rounding up the clippings.
It’s a St Georges mushroom! Sometimes they grow sort of wrong but this one was rather enchanting.
The mowers were out in force on Tuesday. We went and mowed the meadow behind Cobbs Wood Farm and we even tackled the jungle of nettles that were growing up on the old dung heap. ( Pretty furious stingers though).
Ian and Jess from the Hall came out and honed their skills felling great swathes of lush stingers. Once dried they can be fed to the animals as they are very nutritious and they can be eaten by humans! Here’s a bit from Wiki:
“Urtica dioica has a flavour similar to spinach and cucumber when cooked and is rich in vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. Young plants were harvested by Native Americans and used as a cooked plant in spring when other food plants were scarce. Soaking stinging nettles in water or cooking will remove the stinging chemicals from the plant, which allows them to be handled and eaten without injury. After the stinging nettle enters its flowering and seed setting stages the leaves develop gritty particles called cystoliths, which can irritate the urinary tract. In its peak season, nettle contains up to 25% protein, dry weight, which is high for a leafy green vegetable. The leaves are also dried and may then be used to make a herbal tea, as can also be done with the nettle’s flowers.
Nettles can be used in a variety of recipes, such as polenta, pesto and puree. Nettle soup is a common use of the plant, particularly in Northern and Eastern Europe. In Nepal (सिस्नो in Nepali) and the Kumaon & Gargwal region of Northern India, stinging nettle is known as sisnu, kandeli and bicchū-būṭī ( Hindi: बिच्छू-बूटी) respectively. It is also found in abundance in Kashmir. There it is called soi. It is a very popular vegetable and cooked with Indian spices.
Nettles are sometimes used in cheese making, for example in the production of Cornish Yarg and as a flavouring in varieties of Gouda.
Nettles are used in Albania as part of the dough filling for the borek. Its name is byrek me hithra. The top baby leaves are selected and simmered, then mixed with other ingredients like herbs, rice, etc. before being used as a filling between dough layers”.
They’re at it again, nicking our wood! Well, more precisely, the oak stumps. What’s more we even had to help them install their ill-gotten gains. Did a bit of a tally and we reckon they owe us about £8,000- whoopee! Somehow I don’t think the cheque will be in the post. Actually, on a serious note, stumps like these can cost a small fortune in garden centres and, many years ago and in another job, I sold them for shop dressing- they get sand blasted to clean them up.
Odd week really- had the plant safety man in (Nick); (not to test the green plants silly) to test the lifting equipment, play equipment etc for LOLER see this blog for a simple explanation: rospa. Had all our climbing gear inspected (this has to be done every six months), the lifting strops, the timber crane and the winch (the latter is not strictly for lifting but wire winch ropes can break and cause accidents).
This time our six ton winch failed, the wire cable had got damaged when we did the last bit of winching work by the lakes plus there were too many broken small wires. Nasty little blighters especially if you don’t use leather gloves, they soon bury themselves deep into your flesh and cause quite a bit of pain. So the wire rope had to be stripped off and we’ll have to get a new one. (Mind you we can make smaller wire ropes for strops with the good sections).
That was an awkward job (removing the cable), just as well John the Engineer Ranger was around!
Next to fail (well, have an adviser note) was the Botex timber crane – there were some loose bolts which Nick kindly marked for us and there was a problem with the spool valve sticks.
Tightening the bolts was easy but what on earth was the problem with the spool valve block? Just sometimes one thinks the worst has happened- we thought a return spring had broken but, as it turned out, a load of small bolts had worked loose. Fixed the spool value block in seconds after that.
Nothing to do with the LOLER inspections but, as we were engaged with repairing equipment this week, we thought we might as well fix as much of the worn out and broken items in the shed as possible. Some of the high lift wedges needed the wooden pegs replacing. They needed a bit of heat to expand the ali wedge and burn the wood so both could part company. Managed to do quite a bit of repair work, even grinding the metal wedges.
Got stumped with the treadle trip hammer though…even with some heat we couldn’t budge two pins that needed to come out of a spline. We have to remove two bits of the trip hammer so that we can get it into the forge. That job will have to wait till next week. Now it’s time to clear off for the weekend :-)…