This is the time of year we make our hay, we cut it a little later than most to ensure the wild flowers have had chance to set seed. Doing this encourages meadows which are packed full of flowers, as well as all of the insects and other things that live on them. The hay we make is used as winter fodder for our small herd of belted galloway cattle. The cattle have a vitally important job to do, they help us manage our heathlands, the action of their munching and trampling keeps the heaths open and in good condition for the many rare and endangered species of wildlife that live there.
You may remember George and May, this years calves, being born back in the spring. Here they are grazing at Swan barn Farm in the meadow opposite the Speckled Wood building with their mums. I am pleased to report they are doing well and growing fast.
Making the hay they will need this winter is one of the jobs we have going on at the moment, such a post on the blog would normally mean lots of picture of tractors (not that there is anything wrong with that). But this year some friends asked me to help mow a small meadow up on the Lynchmere Ridge, I was keen as I knew they would be using sythes, and I have been wanting to have a proper go at some sything for a while.
Hay is simply grass that has been cut and dried prior to baling, if made at the right time of year the wildflower seeds in the sward are spread and set back into the soil as a side effect of the process. The guys have been cutting this meadow by hand for a while now, and the results were clear, there were lots of flowers in amongst the grass, including plenty of Yellow Rattle.
It acts as a semi parasite, gaining some of its nutrients from the roots of the surrounding grasses, this can be usefull as it weakens the grasses and allows space for other wildflowers to grow, I always like seeing it, and was pleased to hear that the owner of this little meadow was activley encouraging it, she was even kind enough to give me some seeds to take home for my own little wildflower corner (otherwise known as the bit I don’t often mow!) in my garden.
The sything went really well, we even managed to get most of the grass cut around the beehives without making them too cross. I really enjoyed it, there was something quite theraputic about the swing of the sythe and the swish of the blade cutting the grass. I think we will still be using the tractors in order make enough hay to keep our cows happy, but its nice to see traditional methods being kept alive, for small areas like this I suspect they are also just as efficient as anything powered by petrol could be.
I couldn’t resist sneaking a photo of Mark’s land rover loaded up with his sythes and hay rakes, it seemed to fit in very appropriately with the late summer sunshine.