Harrowing, potato planting and rolling...

Emma Heseltine - 21 April 2013

We have had our soils done at Houghton and have some recommendations for helping our fields. It’s been a tough year so they could do with a boost. One of the things we can do is to use a grass harrow to scrape at the moss which has sprung up all over the place (seriously where is it coming from, there was grass here before) and aerates the soil. We are hoping to get an aerator in at some point which puts slits into the sward, but the conditions have to be perfect for this to be any use. In the mean time grass harrow it is. It’s a great big folding out spidery legged thing with lots of tines that scratch at the surface. I soon get into the swing of it, I just have to remember to never reverse (hello snapped tines!) and that it’s really wide, so has the turning circle of a small country. Also I must not to run over any sleepy lambs. Easy as pie.

Potato planting on the farmThe sun is shining and there are April showers. Time to plant potatoes. I’m getting to use allsorts of machines at the moment and today it’s another first, the potato planter. I’m installed in the cab of the tractor and told to keep at a steady speed on the right line whilst the machine, and Colin, do the planting. There is a plough/chute/ hopper arrangement on the back at which someone can sit dropping potatoes down the chute at the right rate. The plough then buries them, a neat ridge forms behind me and the sun is shining, potato planting Zen.

Back in the veg garden at Houghton there are also potatoes to be planted, but not on the same scale. We are getting the earlies in and have dug some trenches. The day turns into quite a planting mission and by the end we have planted not only the potatoes but some broad beans, potted out some of the tigerella tomatoes (mmmmm striped) and put some rows of radish and lettuce in the cold frame. Come on now spring, let’s get growing!

The other task this week is to start the rolling. All the fields that are going to have hay or silage taken from them need rolling to get rid of any winter damage caused by cattle and of course squish in any stones that have appeared. I’m soon getting back in the swing of it, the heavy roller plodding along behind me and slowly making the field all striped. The rain starts to set in and its getting harder to see my lines, its time to pause – hopefully its just an April shower.

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.

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