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Pegging Out & Drilling

Barrow at the ReadyThe wind was calm, the rain nowhere to be seen, the new leather strapMarking Out had arrived for the fiddle drill and the sun was shining – perfect! We filled up the crap barrow from B&Q  (the tyre looks like a pneumatic tyre but deflates to nothing if you so much as look at it) with wooden pegs, tape measure, grass seed, fiddle drill and chunky mallet. The wellies were donned and we skipped into the field. Well, we trudged slowly whilst trying to steer the barrow and it’s road-hedgehog of a tyre.

The first job was to peg out the layout, to see where we needed to sow grass seed and where to leave bare soil for the veggie patch. Suz can be seen here smack bang in the middle clutching a post that will eventually be the walnut tree. We’ve found a variety called ‘Rita’ fromWalnut Wife Keeper’s Nursery, which only grows to 25ft tall. Much more manageable than the 100ft variety and a lot less shadow cast on valuable growing space on the ground.

FiddlingI was amazed at how little seed is needed to sow an acre – as a total novice I had 1 full bag and a 3/4 full bag of seed – enough to sow 1.75 acres in theory. I figured there would be wastage, and sure enough fiddle jams, stumbling and just forgetting to lock off the feed hole on the fiddle meant there were a few piles of seed dotted around the field. All in all it took about an hour to drill the whole field, and I still have half a bag left which is not bad by my reckoning 🙂 Of course, the truth will out if the field ends up patchy 😉 We’re hoping to get some decent growth before Christmas if the next week is as good as it’s promising!

Fiddle Drill for Sowing Seed

Ploughed FieldSo there’s now an acre of beautifully ploughed and prepared land, ready for grass seed. You can just about make out the far South East corner by way of the little pole with a rag attached to it, centre picture. After much advice I’ve decided to put in a permanent paddock in terms of grass seeds as I don’t fancy resowing that often between fruit trees. A local farmer has sold me a couple of acre bags (yes – seed is sold in acre bags!) of a ryegrass mix. Whilst the paddock at the back of our house has white clover in it as a nitrogen fixer, it was suggested by our neighbour farmer that we may want to sow a clover-free mix else it may take over!

The ryegrass mix will make great hay and be good for grazing by both sheep and chickens, but I plan to add some red clover, which I believe is beneficial to chickens, next spring. I also hear this is not as hardy as the white variety so won’t act like a triffid, taking over everything! We’ll have to resow it every spring but I’d rather that than a field full of white clover.

You might have noticed there are a lot of  ‘I believe’s’ and ‘So I’ve been told’s’ – there’s much to learn, much to unlearn, and probably even more to relearn in the future!

My first lesson today was being introduced to this amazing contraption – a Fiddle Drill. Both farmers helping us along in our venture have giggled (in a manly way of course) when seeing our reaction to them miming playing a fiddle whilst dancing a little jig. Essentially you fill the bag with seed, set the slider to how much seed you want to come out and for every pace forward you make one sweep of the bow. In theory this will broadcast seed about 2 yards left and right, on a calm day, and save more time than if broadcast by hand. Sounds a bit like rubbing your stomach whilst patting your head to me, but it’ll be fun trying! This particular fiddle drill is believe to be around 80 years old and still going strong.

I’m hoping tomorrow will be dry enough later to sow the seed, after which it will need harrowing with a light spike harrow (we’ve been offered one where I have to play the part of the ox) and then rolled to tamp it all down (we have been volunteered help with that part 🙂 ).

As far as how much seed to sow goes, when I asked the question I was told if there are 5 seeds under your hand when you lay your palm face down on the ground, then that’s plenty. It’ll give room for each grass root to spread and become stronger in the future. If the weather stays this warm (around 15 degrees at the moment) then we could get some good growth before Christmas!