Latest blogs

Thistle cutting, grass cutting and wool...

Emma Heseltine - 30 June 2013

Hay makingIt's time to crack out the thistle cutter. It has been sitting in the barn all winter but now we need to attack the weeds in lagoon field. We have decided to not make hay on there this year so it’s a good chance to get the weeds in hand. The thistle cutter is a basically a mower that goes on the back of the quad bike. It has its own engine and is quite incredibly loud, but it does the job. There is no chance of doing the whole field so I do the worst patches of thistles, docks and nettles, mowing little patterns into the field.

As I get under way the Swallows come to join me. I love watching them doing their aerial gymnastics; they must be the fighter-plane of the bird world. I am disturbing all the insects in the grass with the thistle cutter so they have come to scoop up a feast. There are quite a few nesting in the bait room, raising broods of little ‘uns, hungry work I’m sure. The field doesn’t half look odd from the top of the drive with its odd cut patches. I think on the whole I prefer using the scythe but nothing can beat the thistle cutter for area covered in quickest time.

This week Susan decides to cut one of our fields. We have two fields at Houghton and four at Wallace field which are shut up for hay. Big Dipper is starting to look ridiculously long, so it’s mowing time. John comes with the mower of the back of Mathida the tractor and soon has it cut. I just hope the weather holds out.

By Thursday it’s raining, so much for hay. The trick now is to let it be, to get hay you need about five days of sunshine and you need to keep turning it to make sure it’s all totally dry. If it isn’t dry it isn’t hay and could overheat when stacked in a barn and cause a fire. I’ve heard it said ‘you’ve got to be in among it, else it wont be hay’, but in these circumstances its best to leave it alone. If the top of the hay is fairly dry and it starts to rain you don’t turn it, the dry layer will protect the damper layer underneath like an umbrella. If you turn it you’ll end up with a soggy useless mess. Let’s hope next week there is some more dry weather.

On Friday I’m having a day off and going to check out Woolfest in Cockermouth. It is a celebration of everything woolly. Plus there are lots of rare breed sheep to admire, which is always fun. Last year I learnt to knit and can now knit anything at all as long as it’s based on a square. I am however getting ambitious and have decided to knit some hats for winter. I definitely need to start now, so I’m hunting for circular knitting needles (less seams, must make it easier) and some lovely wool. I settle on some Blue Faced Leicester wool that is super soft. Watch this space...

Emma completed a degree in Creative Imaging at Huddersfield University before working for a photography studio as an editor. Taking a break from the office world she worked in outdoor education for several years, climbing, abseiling, shooting, trampolining and even life-guarding with children of all ages. When Emma found out about the apprenticeship scheme with the Soil Association it seemed the perfect chance to do something worthwhile and fulfilling. After much searching and badgering farms in the North of England she found a position with Hadrian Organics and started in July 2011. So far it is living up to her expectations, every day is a new challenge and every day is different.


Recommend? Share


Emma Heseltine
14 July 2013 18:47

We do have a full barn now, and it was much less of a battle than last year. You are right about the flow of work! shaking then raking, baling then leading it in. And all in glorious weather, who would have thought it? Woolfest is brilliant, I stayed all day!

Chris Atkinson
02 July 2013 20:20

Wonderful evocative stuff as ever. It is a while since I have been involved in the chancy business of making hay and this brought back lots of memories, some of battling, but also of that special feeling of being in the flow when the work is going well and a sense of the rightness of it all. I hope that you have a full barn now? And that you enjoyed Woolfest? I went reluctantly, but wished that I had been able to stay for longer.

Post a comment

Enter the code shown above in the box below
  Post Comment

Comments will be moderated prior to publication. Abusive, hateful or off-topic comments will be deleted.

Watch us on YouTubeFind us on flickr

Our bloggers