Saturday 11 May 2013

Down the Rushy Glen

Keen to stop all this lovely rain water going to waste, we decided that it would be a good idea to invest in a couple of the huge (1010 litre) water 'butts' that everyone uses round here. These could be a reservoir for refilling the pond and also for irrigating the poly tunnel but also to supply drinking water to a drinker on our East Field for the horses and soon the sheep. These come from Coca Cola in Dublin originally and are for sale at anything from about €45 to €75 but have lately been in short supply. We have clubbed together with Mentor(s) Anne and Simon who can possible get them, delivered, at the €45 end of the scale, but their supply has dried up, so we nipped out and got a pricier one locally, collecting it with the trailer. We want to start accumulating water now so that we have a full tank by the time we finish the pond.

We have rigged up a bit of 2nd hand guttering (also, partly, from Anne and Simon) to collect the water from the car port roof. These tanks are only made from plastic and aluminium, so are nice and light when empty, so that Liz and I could easily lift it between us and wrangle it into position. After a bit of rain over night it is already 5-6 inches deep in water. We find that we are now ahead of the curve. Keeping your rain water separate from the sewers is the LATEST THING in eco-warrior terms and is called "Blue-Greening". Get us!

Look at any picture of the East Field we have printed up to now and you will see a mess of rushes tall enough to tickle the bellies of sheep and horses, tall enough to hide them if they lie down. These grow easily here-abouts as soon as the land is allowed to get wet and neglected. The cattle will not eat them, so they just get worse and eventually take over the fields, rendering them useless as pasture unless the farmers bother to spray them and mow the fields; not many do unless pushed, as in this year, by serious shortage of fodder, or forced contractually by their landlords.

We do not want to be negligent managers of our grassland, and the sight of all those rushes was preying on our minds. I was going to have to hire a brush cutter for a day and have at them. I was talking about this to our fencing guy, Paul M and, generous guy that he is, he offered me the lend of his meaty, 'professional' strimmer to try out. This turned out to work like a dream, scything through the clumps like a knife through hot butter. The field is one and a half acres, so it took a few hours (about 4), some replacement "string" (tough nylon cord in the strimmer head) and 4 tanks of petrol but it looks very good now.

The rushes were sprayed last year by Mike the Cows when he was using the field for his cattle, so they are possibly weakened, and some have grass growing among the rush root-plate, but the theory is that the soft rush regrowth can be eaten by horses and sheep which should finish the tufts off and grass will win the grazing war in the end. Our pasture will be like a rush-free garden lawn (!). Liz fancied a go at this strimming game so we kitted her out with her best pink wellies, and my Husqvarna chain-saw gloves, helmet, mesh visor and ear defenders and she was away. It is not on record who she was thinking of as the whirling string zipped through the tufts sending a spray of mashed rush fibre flying in all directions and the decapitated stalks whipping away in the wind.

Meanwhile we have sought (and gained) permission from John Deere Bob to go newt surveying on the little pond at the bottom of his bank field. We explained that we might have to go look during daylight but also at night with a torch. Looking a bit twinkly eyed at Liz as if calculating how much he might get away with as a tease he warned us to be wary of the faeries in the dark down there as there were known faerie-forts (raths) near that water. I am remembering Pud Lady's little rhyme from when we were all small

Up the airy mountain
Down the rushy glen
We daren't go a-hunting
For fear of little men.......

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