Wednesday 18 June 2014

Scorched Earth

One plant spared on this spraying exercise!
In these parts, the lay-by in front of your house or, if you have no front garden, the hard standing between your house front and the lane or public road, is referred to as 'your street'. Your street is very much part of the local culture of 'house keeping' and keeping it tidy is a big thing round here. The thing is to have NO WEEDS or, as far as we can see, no other sign of life apart from the farm dog.

Even a random gateway gets a dose.
Sadly the standard way to achieve this, at least among the older folks, is to spray it vigorously with some kind of broad spectrum herbicide. This might be a contact killer like Paraquat, or a systemic one like 'Round-Up' (Glyphosphate) but the effect is the same - great stripes of straw-coloured death in the verges just when your eyes are accustomed to the peaceful greens. They glare in the sun and stick out like a sore thumb. We find them ugly and offensive; we hate the 'scorched earth' effect and we weep (well, OK, maybe not quite) for the flora and fauna wiped out in the interests of "tidiness". Certainly we worry about the amount of chemical be lashed around.

Both sides of the road, 'napalmed' 
Some of these 'offenders' do both sides of the road and any nearby farm gateways, as well as the 'streets' outside any abandoned farm buildings which they presumably own and feel that they also need to keep tidy. They seem to see nothing wrong in this, so it is a regular feature of a drive down any of the lanes here. Our good friend John Deere Bob does it, and even expressed concern at our drive full of daisies and suggested that we need to spray it off. Our protests about "trying to be organic" and "not using any sprays here" just brought a bemused and baffled expression to his face - we are obviously a bit new and silly and inexperienced and have not yet found the true path to tidiness. You could no more talk him out of it than teach him to fly to the moon. I also have to watch where I am collecting my rabbit-treats. It has been my habit on dog walks to gather a handful of dandelion leaves and red clover stems as a treat for Goldie and the babies. I now have to avoid streets, farm gateways and abandoned buildings in case they have been sprayed recently, lest I bring back glyphosphate to my animals.

We are back to 3 goslings, these two new ones are from the
2nd batch, under 'Smudge'
There is a gleam of hope in all this despair. Plenty of the younger land owners do their tidying with powerful 'strimmers'; so even though the foliage and flowers get it, the ground stays green and is not coated with nasty chemicals. We just scythe our bit down to maintain the 'splay' so that you can see cars coming when you are nosing out of our gate. We have no 'street' to worry about - our front hedge is right on the lane.

Blue skies and Foxgloves
I suppose I should put in a quick comment on my "trying to be organic" line above. We currently think of ourselves as that dubious non-status "Nearly Organic" and I can hear the justified howls of protest from the truer exponents of the regime. The real organic producers have to jump through hoops and keep watertight audit trails on all their inputs (feed bag labels, receipts etc) and outputs (lists of where all their chicken poo goes, for example) in order to earn the certification, so quite rightly, they will guard the status jealously. The fact that we use no chemicals here but do NOT feed purely organic feed (I use standard commercial pig ration, feed wheat, lamb 'crunch', layers pellets, chick crumb and milled barley for example) would count for little in the eyes of the certification bodies. I claim to be 'nearly organic' but not too loudly within earshot of, for example Mentor Anne and Simon. They have been there, done that and bear the scars and trauma.

Keet at 15 days.
So, what else is happening? We are currently enjoying a proper heat-wave, with the Irish midlands getting temperatures of 28 degrees C, the forecasters issuing 'heat warnings' and my poultry discussion forum carrying reminders to keepers to provide extra water and keep it fresh and topped up. We have sheeted over the rabbits and the guinea fowl keets to provide shade, and we have taken to getting up early and doing all our hard physical gardening by about 11 am.

Eating outside in the hot evenings.
The B-team broody goose, 'Smudge' has hatched another gosling, so that we now have 3 including the big strapping 'George Junior'. She has one more egg left in this dysfunctional group, so she tends to focus on that and hand over the goslings to Black Feather, George and now also G-J to rear. He parades them around like a big brother should, teaching them where to drink and how to graze the best grass. The little silver keet who went all wobbly on us, survived a couple more days under 'intensive care' but we found him on his back, eyes closed, last night, so we put him out of his misery. The remaining ten are thriving.

The pigs are now much more used to me and love to have their necks and backs scratched while they are eating. Their bellies too, when they have done in the trough. If I stop I get nudges in the calves by little piggy noses the same as you would from a dog - "Oy, I was enjoying that! Why did you stop?"

With all the jobs done, we've been able to finally unfurl the sun-parasol on the 'terrace' table and to sit in the shade for some of the afternoon and even to eat a few meals outside. It's nice that these can be light and salad-y warm weather food and we are able to supplement the commercial stuff with our own lettuce, radishes, salad potatoes (Sharp's Express) and broad beans. We are looking forward to hosting the Silverwoods for a few nights. We were hoping we'd have bees by now but sadly still no word from the Two Marys, so the Silverwoods will just have to content themselves with the keets, goslings and piggies.


Mr Silverwood said...

Looking forward to it

anne wilson said...

Paraquat was removed from sale in the EU in 2007 thankfully, maybe one day they will also ban glyphosate, the amount of times we have seen people spraying this stuff around like 'Old Spice' without any face mask, gloves or boots, even on windy days, clearly no one bothers to read the instructions. We also wonder when any of these people will have that 'light bulb' moment and realise that they sprayed the same area previously and the weeds have come back, clearly people have more money than sense as it is expensive as well as unsightly.