Tuesday 24 July 2012

It's a beast

Under the hood

I've always had a fear of vehicles with big wheels and steam engines scare me silly. A tractor has aspects of all of these things so living with one is a big learning curve and I'm finding it somewhat gut wrenchingly scary. A fifty horse power tractor is so powerful, I can't imagine what being in control of the bigger ones is like and I'm so aware of the damage I can do by missing a turn or misjudging my line.

I'd never driven a tractor before this one arrived. My extreme youth spent on and around farms means I'm not unfamiliar with them but opportunities for driving lessons when you're six years old are few and far between. My experience was all about riding in the trailer with the feed sacks, something that is severely frowned upon by Health and Safety these days.

The controls are easy enough although the clutch needs all my strength when engaging the power take off for the tools. There are  four gears and two gear ratios, high and low, although for the farm I only need the low option effectively turning it into a four gear machine. The higher ratio is for road use when head spinning speeds of 25 mph are achievable. A separate stick selects forward or reverse. Plenty of levers and settings for the front hydraulics to control the bucket and more levers to raise and lower the back tools. I've only really used the grass topper shown although we have some other implements for fancier work.

The real problem is my inexperience. We have wonderfully flat land on the whole, a few rutted places and just a tiny slope  at one end of the lawn area but all the time I'm driving I'm petrified of turning the tractor over. Never mind that I have a heavy cutter behind and a heavy bucket held low in front, the slightest incline and I'm sweating and trying to use my comparatively puny weight to counterbalance the slope. I've spoken to other amateur tractor drivers and they confirm the same feelings. It just feels dreadfully out of control.

The silly thing is I've watched Paul bounce and jounce the thing across all the bits that scare me and from the ground there's no problem apparent at all. He's done some other things that are frightening but you wouldn't catch me trying them in the first place!

I suppose I'll just have to keep working at it until familiarity breeds some contempt but in the meantime my adrenaline is running high every time I climb into the driver's seat.

By the way, if you'd like to get one of these for yourself, I can offer no better advice than to contact Danelander if you're in the UK or France. They have done us proud and have an excellent customer service attitude which has helped us no end as we learn about the equipment. Highly recommended.

original art formed

Thursday 19 July 2012


Just like the Red Queen the weather forecasters keep promising jam tomorrow. Today, they say, is the last twenty four hours like this - windy, chilly, showery and more suited to a good day for late October than the middle of July - for at least a week, maybe even the rest of the summer. Humphhhh, is all I have to say to that.

wet windy 19th July 2012

I sprayed the tomatoes and potatoes liberally for blight again yesterday. It rained all night but there was still enough blue on the foliage this morning to give me hope that the dread disease will be checked long enough for the drier conditions to take hold. If the promised improvements don't arrive I don't know what I'll do. Cry, probably.

marbled white

Still very few butterflies, one of the most profuse this year, previously notable by its rarity, is the Marbled White, a very pretty little thing. Also seen today a Comma but nothing else identifiable.

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Stinking Roses

lousy garlic harvest

Realising that the rust attack on the garlic meant the plants had stopped growing, it was obvious that the time had come to pull the plants and see what could be saved. The bulbs are tiny; the picture has by chance a crown cap from a beer bottle in it but that's a clue to the scale of the crop. I've trimmed and cleaned the outer leaves and have left quite long stalks in the hope the drying bulbs will pull a little of the goodness back into themselves as they dry. It'll make plaiting easier too, if that seems worthwhile at all.

Paradoxically this pathetic harvest has made me feel a little better about the garden and I'm marginally more inclined to keep fighting the blight on the potatoes and outdoor tomatoes, to plant out cabbage seedlings that are languishing in pots and maybe even start some autumn vegetables before it's too late. However, in fear of a false dawn I make no promises there. I'll do what I can, but for this year, I'm not a gardener, just one of my many other personas and she doesn't like to get her hands dirty at all.

The elephant garlic has stood up to the poor conditions rather better seemingly able to withstand the rust and equally more robust in the face of sodden cold conditions. The bulbs are as good as I might have expected in a more normal year. A few are very good indeed.

elephant garlic

However, does anyone know how to break the dormancy on the little bulbils that are produced between the cloves? It seems such an obvious and intentional way of propagating the plant.  Last year I found this article which seemed to answer all my questions but despite carefully snipping the bulbil coat and replanting them immediately after harvest nothing came up at all.

Thinking hard about it, and noting that the plant multiplies readily from the individual cloves anyway seems to indicate that these bulbils are a back up method of  reproduction, perhaps only of use in time of drought or inundation when the main bulb has been destroyed. In that case, some form of stress needs to be be brought to bear but should it be heat, damp or cold - and does anyone have the slightest idea what I'm on about?

A hope is arising that the summer might yet recover. There is talk of the jet stream moving, that more settled and warmer weather will result and the excessive rainfall and chilly temperatures will be no more. I'm not sure whether there is a basis in science for this hope or if even meteorologists have succumbed to wishful thinking but if we all hold our breath together perhaps we can influence our environment and bring back the sun.

Saturday 7 July 2012

Pictures today

sparkly track flowers on painted lady blight on ambo Also spotted, some ringlets and a marbled white butterfly but they didn't stop for pictures.