Tuesday 28 May 2013

A Contradictory Smallholder? (Have we got another Caractacus Potts?)

I find the older I get the more, I seem to contradict myself.  Rather like Tom in yesterdays featured film: 'Another Year'.  Tom goes on about carbon footprints and being organic and recycling.  Yet he goes on holidays abroad and drives a big gas guzzling Volvo estate.  A lot of organic farms use tractors to harvest and maintain their crops and they drive around in vans and cars.  We have a car and two tractors and we have a chain saw and petrol driven garden tools like my strimmer and hedge cutter.  One way or another, we pollute the environment.

So what are you saying Dave?  I am going all around the houses to say.  I have contradicted myself big time this last week.  Every farm around here seems to be getting destroyed with rushes.  We have attempted to strim them and top them with the tractor topper, but they still come back.  A lot of organic farms use toppers and probably destroy a lot of natural insect and bird and animal habitats during the process.

I would never use weedkiller on my vegetable plot or artificial fertilizers on my fruit and vegetables.  But we (very reluctantly) have decided to use some glyphosate on the pasture and silage (hay making is a distant dream)  fields.

Number one son (Caractacus Potts :"Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" farm inventor) only decided to make a weed licker/wiper.  This consists of a pump (connected to the back light of the tractor) trickling weedkiller on a carpet covered roller, suspended on a frame, over rushes, buttercups and other weeds.

Manufactured 'Weed Lickers' cost over a thousand to buy.  Number one son made it for less than 350 Euros. We gave it a go last week and it seems to have done the trick.  Here's a few pics.

We took it for 'field' trials and the wheels gave up on us.  A kind farming neighbour gave us two rubber wheels off an old silage harvester for free.  They are just the ticket and look like the land wheels on an a aeroplane.  

So please may I ask for your thoughts about using glyphosate weedkillers.  Should there be organic weedkillers and organic granulated fertilizer?  Are you a contradictory smallholder?


  1. Never seen one of those before, No 1 son really does seem to be a very talented young man.

    It would be nice to be completely organic, but just about impossible; if the weedkillers work, and don't do anything else any harm, why not? Trouble with large-scale spray applications, is all the other things that can suffer.

    Another miserable day here, dull, showers, cold wind. When are we going to get some summer?
    Raggy cat spent most of the day sleeping in front of fire.

  2. Hi Cumbrian,

    Number 1 son is very practical. He won't apply himself academically though. Wish he could serve an apprenticeship with a old mentor Blacksmith/engineer. Who would have the patience and knowledge to show him the right way. He seems to have a photographic memory. He just looks at something once and he goes away and makes it. He's going to make a transport box for the tractor next.

    I think in a year like this one and the last few years. Land needs some artificial help in terms of fertilizer and destroying troublesome weeds like rushes and Buttercups and Thistle.

    Talked to a German gentleman a few years ago. He told me that the organic movement began during the second world war when the government came round collecting chemicals (farm and domestic) for weapon production. People experimented with vinegar (natural weedkiller) and traditional organic fertilizer like Guano and seaweed.

    It would be great if you could buy cheap organic/natural weedkillers and granulated fertilizers. Organic methods too raise cattle take too long, when you get terrible years like the last few.

    It will soon be the longest day (21 June) and then the nights begin to close in. Think the Gulf Stream must have moved. See why people move to warmer climates to farm and enjoy the sun.

    Terrier caught 2 rats yesterday. We praised her accordingly.

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. Yes, the transporter box, on the Massey Ferguson, look so small now, but used to put the milk churns out with one, remember the stand at the roadside, the churns put out every morning, the lorry collected them and left the same number of empties? They were steel, heavy things, then they changed to aluminium, a lot lighter.
    Milking's a bit different now, I don't think anybody actually sees the milk, all the automated pumps and big tankers, even automated feeding systems. Must be a lot easier even with bigger herds.

    The transporter box was a useful addition, used it for all sorts of other jobs, can't remember the last time I saw one though, there's probably thousands of them rusting away forgotten in odd corners, overgrown with nettles. Sure you'll find a lot of uses for it.

    Hope the terrier keeps up the good work on the rats, don't think you'll ever get rid of them completely, but at least it can keep the numbers in check.

    Another miserable day, dull and cold wind, doesn't feel much like spring.

    Raggy cat been asleep in front of the fire most of today, went out early after milk and biccies.

  4. Dave, here in NZ we talk with pride about our No 8 wire mentality - ie invent with basic stuff - and you would fit right in with this contraption. Well done.

  5. Hi Cumbrian, We used to take the churns to the milk stand with my uncle and his horse and cart (car tyres) when we used to come on holiday in the sixties and early nineteen seventies. There's still a few of the concrete milk churn stands about. Some of them had a little hole in the side for the post or was it butter? Still got one of the churns with the herd number painted on it. A lot of the creameries stopped going to rural areas where the road tanker couldn't get down.

    A dairy farmer told me most cows have gone dry before they are 6 years old and have to be replaced.

    I have a 4 foot transport box. Number one son says he's going to make the new one 6 foot and with stronger steel. He says if you can't hit it with a sledge hammer, it's not strong enough. Think he made army tanks in another life.

    Gorgeous weather here. The Barley field is starting to crack and it looks like it needs a drink. You can't win can you?


  6. Never heard that expression, Carole. It's a good one. Must remember that. I will pass on the congratulations to number one son. Thanks!

  7. Sorry to tell you this, but I think using glyphosate is a bad decision, and the first organic farmer appeared in the Neolithic.I used it for years, but now I have learned to use the scythe. It is more tired, but it helps to be fit ;-)

  8. I have used a scythe myself Honorio. I very reluctantly used glyphosate because rushes had taken over sixty percent of one field. This was ploughed and reseeded and the rushes came back. I have read that the rush seeds can live for up to sixty years in the ground. I wouldn't use glyphosate near my vegetables. But I had to do something to stop the weeds taking over.

    Thanks for your comment.


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