Saturday, 2 June 2012

Black Gold

Saturday 2nd June 2012

See! I was serious about wearing the bee suit when mowing the lawn, though the bees behaved themselves today. With rain and showers forecast for the week ahead, I had another mammoth mowing session today, doing both lawns, the goose paddock, the veg patch, the soft fruit garden, the orchard and I carved a couple of paths through the meadow right to the end of the land. 
Fed up with the damp grass clogging up the machine, I gaffer-taped the metal contact at the back and bypassed the need for a collection box or a deflector. (Do not try this at home! The safety mechanism is there for good reason!) Notwithstanding this warning, the plan worked fabulously, though the mowings flew yards out of the back of the machine. This was OK when I mowed North to South, but when I turned I got a face full of grass and, over time, the back of my jumper began to resemble a football pitch!

Two things happened during the day to interrupt my mowing. First, and delightful it was too, I paused to watch a swallow playing with a goose feather. Four times it caught the feather mid air, only to release it and swoop again. I thought it was collecting the feather for its nest, but since it eventually left it to float back to the ground, I assume the swallow was either playing or just plain gave up.

The second thing that happened was this...

A bumper apple year last year meant that Don was unable to eat his way through all of his stored apples. This is very good news indeed for the pig family.

Black Gold
Achievement for the day went to the comfrey bin though. I hadn't checked the bucket for a while and got a really good surprise when I did. Expecting to possibly find a few drips of oily black liquid, instead I found over an inch of liquid. This will be diluted about 15:1 to make a fertiliser. And this from just one cut of less than half the comfrey bed. With about five cuts a year, that's a lot of fertiliser. The reason that comfrey is so good at collecting nutrients from the soil is that its roots go down as far as 10 feet. It can be soaked in water to give a fertiliser or leaves can be compressed and the black sludge collected as they break down. The leaves can also be used as a mulch or placed into planting holes to give plants a good start in life.
Ideally the leaves are cut just before the plant flowers. This is when they are at their most potent. However, I like to leave some of the plants to flower for the bees and for their beauty.

Beware of the Fenland nettle
I once did a study on nettles as part of  a Field Biology course. It involved counting the stinging hairs on the surface of the leaves. There was an astonishing difference between the stingiest and the least stingy. (Please read these two words with a hard g.) It transpired that nettles evolve locally to become much more potent when they are subject to grazing. So the rabbits have a lot to answer for. Our nettles are like no others I have come across. They get you through jeans and gloves, and once stung they leave tingling and numbness for hours.
But nettles are, on the whole, a good thing... like any other 'weed', if they have a use then they are good as long as they are controlled. They provide an excellent habitat for insects and are the food plant of small tortoiseshell caterpillars as well as being the host plant to comma and red admiral butterflies and many moths. Not only that, but they can be used in a similar way to comfrey, so today I carefully cut one of our nettle patches and topped up the comfrey bin. Basically, I am using the comfrey and nettle leaves as a means to collect nutrients and transport them to where I want them.


  1. How is Gerry? There was no update x

    1. Thanks for asking.
      Gerry is slowly on the mend, though still not quite back to his old self. No idea what caused his illness.


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