20 August 2007

A Rake's Progress

It's been a frenetic few days in the barnyard. The tree surgeons came on Friday and Mike helped them carve up the poplars into manoeuvrable chunks which can then be split into logs for the fires. They also cut down the branches of the ash tree that were resting on the roof at the back of the house. This has had the added benefit of preventing the squirrels from getting on to the roof and into our roofspace (for the moment anyway).

The rotary tiller attachment for the tractor turned up in the afternoon and we spent an hour or two getting it fixed on during Saturday before we could start using it. I'm glad Mike's got a background of working with machinery because I wouldn't have had a clue how to fix it all together. My role on these occasions is solely as moral support, or more likely, irritatingly curious bystander.

Barnyard Two, tilledOnce the thing was fixed on, Mike used it to till Barnyard Two. It was pretty effective - tearing the grassy soil up into big lumps. Lots of stones came to the surface and we removed the biggest ones. Before tilling the area looked like the grassy strip on the right of the photo.

Yesterday I was finally able to do some of the work myself. I started by clearing more stones from the western end of the yard. I persuaded the children to help me and they picked stones with me for half an hour, pretending that we were a pioneer family. Then they realised that being a pioneer family wouldn't actually have been much fun and they went off to play Top Trumps instead.stones

When I'd cleared the biggest stones I marked out the boundaries of my first vegetable plot, an area ten feet wide and 15 feet deep, and proceeded to rake it clear of big clumps of grass and more stones. The grass roots are long single strands, rather like thick noodles in size. The rotary tiller has left many of these in the soil so I had to pull them gently out by hand as my experience in the front garden has shown that the grass will re-sprout from these roots very readily. I spent about five hours raking, de-stoning and de-rooting the area yesterday and I think it's now ready to be seeded. My plan is to sow buckwheat as a green manure (I ordered two kilos of seed last week) in the vegetable plots. I might be cutting it a bit fine, as it will be killed by the first frost, but it is supposed to be very quick to grow so I'm hoping it will work. The soil is so fine that leaving it bare seems like a really bad idea.

First vegetable plot
The picture shows the finished plot, although I know that it actually doesn't look very different from the 'before' picture. Even this one plot is twice the size of the raised beds I had for growing vegetables in the old house. There will be eight vegetable plots in all in this part of the barnyard - and by the time I've cleared all eight I expect to be super-fit and as thin as my rake.

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