Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A Prickly Problem...This'll Sort It Out!

Come on! Face The Camera!

Tuesday 21st August 2012

Oh dear, we broke the farmer's tractor!
Yesterday the farmer was in the ex-rape field next door cutting the vegetation along the dyke with his tractor. We thought nothing of it until he appeared asking us if we had a knife and scissors. The huge sheet of polythene which once covered our old stack of haybales had blown into the dyke at some point and was now entangled in the farmer's machinery! We did sort it out, everything was amicable and no lasting damage was caused. But the reason I tell you this is that the conversation brought to the fore another job which needed doing...

A Prickly Subject
Remember back in early spring, after Squiggle and Curl had recreated a scene from The Battle Of The Somme along one edge of the pig enclosure, I had a brilliant idea. Bring in the electric fence and plant the area with Jerusalem artichokes, then in the autumn I could just move the electric fence back again revealing a tasty harvest upon which the new piglets could feast.


Here you can see the old fence line
and the forest of thistles in the background.
Well, it almost worked, but instead of Jerusalem artichokes I got prickly thistles! Now, much as I  and the birds and the insects like the thistles, I need to keep on the right side of all those around me and the fluffy seed heads have started drifting through the air in the summer breeze.
I can't really see it being an issue, as the fields get pounded with herbicides, fungicides, pesticides...you name it... I even found out that they get a liberal sprinkling of slug pellets. No wonder the wildlife struggles. 


Anyway, clearing the thistles was a job which needed doing. So this morning, at first light, I switched off the electric fence and began the painstaking job of moving it the other side of the thistles. Fortunately pigs have a very good memory for where their boundaries used to run and take quite some time to realise that the fence is not still there. Nevertheless, I worked as quickly as I could until I could switch everything back on.





I then set to work flattening the thistles. I wasn't really appropriately dressed, with shorts and no socks, but my big feet made relatively short work of rendering the forest flat.

Next job was to send in the pigs to complete the trampling and dig out the roots. Pigs are remarkably tough and seem completely unaffected by prickles and thorns.

But first there was the invisible line to cross! Even the temptation of lush grass and tall vegetation was not enough, but a sprinkling of pig nuts soon proved too much temptation as the first brave soul ventured his snout into previously forbidden territory.




I
t wasn't long before all seven were burying themselves beneath the thistles, shoving each other out the way and tossing piles of thistles aside to get at the pignuts beneath.





So there you have it. Happy farmer. Happy pigs. Happy me.

And the goldfinches, butterflies, hoverflies and bees? Well, I make sure there's plenty enough food and habitat for them spread around the farm.








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