Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Bramble Problem On The Smallholding.






We must have had a good year last year.  You can see 2 new fence posts in the photograph.  Seriously.  I have noticed there is a bit of a bramble problem developing on the smallholding.  I think it's because we have been a bit under stocked and so the land is undergrazed.

It's true that the countryside we see is there because it's been grazed and fertilized by livestock for thousand of years.  My dad used to say it only takes 3 months for a vegetable garden to become fully overgrown with weeds.  Likewise pasture would soon become overgrown with scrub and brambles and other weeds if it wasn't grazed.

When we were young ("Shine on you crazy diamond") the Irish farmers would grow ("set") a field of vegetables and grow hay the following year. So the fields never got the chance to go wild.  Last year I bought six heifer calves and they never did much grazing.  We made silage in some of the fields.  But a lot of seem to be getting invaded with rushes (always a problem), Furze (Gorse) and brambles.

The cattle like to eat the blackberry leaves.  It's supposed to be a fine tonic for them.  I am going to top some of the brambles with the tractor and topper if the fields become dry again.  Last year myself and number one son cleared around 3 of the fields with the mini digger and I piked the brambles and grass and other weeds into the dumper.  There are a lot of high banks("lockers") that are too dangerous to remove them this way.

So I have come up with a few options:

1.  Get a couple of nanny goats again.  They do a fine job browse grazing and eating the leaves.  But you have to tether them and they are always getting tangled around the brambles.

2.  Pay somebody with a sprayer and quad to kill the brambles with a weedkiller like "roundup".  I don't like using weedkillers because you don't know what it does to to the soil.  I don't like the idea of paying either.  I have heard they charge around 25 Euros an hour plus weedkiller.

3.  Get some hand shears from Lidl and cut them back and use the Azada to dig their roots out.

4.  Get the petrol strimmer and put the brush cutter blade on it and spend hours cutting them back.

5:  Buy more cattle to graze more tightly.  Calf prices are lightning at the moment.  I will probably make good money when I sell my heifers in late summer.  But they will cost me a king's ransom to replace them.  I have heard of Friesian heifer calves being sold for 400 Euros.  Two week old at that.  I only paid 200 a piece last year for mine.  So I don't think I will be increasing my herd size.

6.  Get some farm volunteers to come and stay in the old farmhouse for a working holiday clearing the brambles?  We would give 2 of them free board and lodgings and a few cans of Newcastle Brown ale at the end of the day.?  Free (working) holiday on the Sheeps Head Peninsula in Ireland?

What do you do to combat brambles?  If you have and suggestions please let me know.  Preferably organic methods.  Thanks.  

22 comments:

  1. Dave I do commiserate with you in regards to brambles, we were nearly taken over by them. It took Mrs H almost a week to cut them out of the ditches. While I was working elsewhere.
    Goats can be bloody minded, in that some eat nettles others brambles while other only eat grass and weeds. I know this from experience.
    Woofers are the people that you need look them up on the internet. Friends of mine use them all the year around.

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  2. Hi Heron,

    Yes brambles soon become a nuisance don't they? We use to have two nanny goats who did a good job chewing the bramble leaves. But they were always geeting there tether ropes wrapped round brambles or a tree. They also don't like rain. I think it's because they originate in desert areas in Asia and they don't have waterproof oils in their fur. It looks like I need to start cutting back the brambles with loppers and secateurs. It's boring work on your own and your arms get cut to pieces with the bramble thorns. Thanks for your comment!

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  3. Cutting back brambles is something you need to do year on year, if you ignore them they just become rampant and will over take you. If you cant get a hedger and tractor in, then cut them back by hand, is my advice.

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    1. Hi Rachel. We have a Perfect topper for the pasture. I think I am going to have to get stuck into the brambles in the hedgerows and lockers. It's boring on your own though. Thanks for the advice.

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  4. goats and then follow them with pigs in that patch. can you borrow some goats?

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    1. Hi Sol. I can get goats again Sol. I found them to be anuisance always getting tangled up in the brambles or round some tree that was covered in ivy. They need shelter too. So you are always having to move them about. I might get one that would go with the cattle. Years a go farmers use to keep goats with the cattle because they believed it kept the TB away. Thanks for your comment.

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  5. I agree with Sol, goats, tethered so they can just reach the brambles but not get caught up in them, followed by pigs. Or a good strimmer, but you do need to keep at it. Helpx.net would be a good solution for you Dave as wwoofs are aimed at Organic farms, we expect our helpers to work 4-5 hours per day, five days a week, in exchange they have three good organic meals a day cooked by us, we also feed them on their days off or give them a packed lunch if they are having a day out. They live as part of the family and are treated as such. If they are very good workers we would take them out for days out and take them out for a good meal in a restaurant as way of a thank you

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    1. Thanks for the advice Anne. I might pay somebody to help me for a few days. There aren't a lot of jobs around. So I am sure they would appreciate a bit of money. Will look into Helpx.net. We would of course reciprocate with transport, meals, refreshments..., for their labour. Thanks!

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  6. We have a massive problem with brambles in the field next door to us. When you look out of our bedroom all you can see is a sea of brambles and they're a good few metres up the trees on our boundary. I've been out with a blade on the strimmer but they are impossible to cut and hours of work hardly touch them. I'd consider agent orange if I could get hold of it!

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    1. They are a pain aren't they Kirsty? Like Rachel says above, they need to be cut back every year. We also have problems with Rushes, Docks and Gorse. Not forgetting the hedges. I cut my garden hedges 5 times last year and paid a contractor over a hundred Euros to cut the roadside hedges because it's not safe to cut them any more with the motorists hurtling passed. Thanks!

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  7. I too have a bramble problem which I get a farmer in each year to top back, but they still grow. I think the only long term solution,is to dig them up via their roots. It will be long job but rewarding when finished. Good luck.

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    1. Hi BG. You never beat them do you? The silage man cuts the fields very tight and that knocks them back. I am always tripping up over young brambles in pasture that have rooted themselves. I think my biggest problem is understocking the land. Thanks for your advice.

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  8. We all know what stuff like roundup does to the soil Dave!
    Goats, pigs, and hard work are reliable companions of the smallholder.
    We have about a months work when we next go over to France, not least of which will be cutting back brambles.

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  9. I don't use roundup on my veg plot Irene. I have lots of hard work to around our smallholding. It's boring on your own cutting back brambles. Do you have much land in France? Do you need to speak French? Thanks!

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    1. 4 acres including an orchard.
      Yes you need to be able to speak the language wherever you are.
      Hubby and I tackle the work together.
      I can honestly say that I find no garden/smallholding work is boring, painful yes, but never boring, not even the jobs that I do alone.

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    2. Four acres will keep anybody very busy Irene. I get fed up working in the fields on my own. It's good to have company when your working. Thanks!

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  10. I agree with you Irene, wherever you live you need to speak the language, and I find it impossible to find time to be bored, there is always something new and interesting happening in a garden or smallholding. Regarding roundup, I'm not sure if too many people do know what roundup/ glyphosate does to the soil, or if they do they don't care. The latest report from WHO now confirms that glyphosate is the probable cause of non Hodgins Lymphoma . It's high time it was removed from sale.

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    1. I have read that handling granulated fertilizer causes Parkinson's Anne. I believe the UK is going to bring in new legislation against diesel engines. Cars and lorries are one of the biggest pollutants.

      I think smallholding life can be very isolated and it would be better to live in communities or near a community centre or a pub or a village. Thanks!

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  11. We cut ours back, but leave an area where they grow reasonably free as bramble is a food plant for a large number of insects (esp moths) and the berries help birds in autumn. A working farm holiday is a great idea- I'd bet you'd get lots of people interested.

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    1. Hi CT. We always have plenty for the wild life. I once saw two rats eating blackberries in one of the hedgerows. I think they come up from the cliffs overlooking the bay. Thanks!

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  12. We are getting over run with brambles as well! No goats now, so it is down to us to get them out.....however, they seem to be growing faster than we can cut them down so I think that it will be a never ending battle!

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    1. I feel the same sometimes Vera. Rushes are another nuisance we have to live with. They always come back or appear in another field. Brambles are a nuisance and they pull down fences and wrap themselves around barbed and sheep wire. Thanks!

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