This is what the field looks like at the moment:

I can’t help thinking, after spending several days picking weeds out of the cut corn, lining up the heads all in one direction and tying them into stooks, that this very long job would have been much easier if we’d used sickles instead of scythes. (Obviously, there’s only one way to find out – more on this some other year).

The stacks, though, look fantastic.

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Last week, Her Outdoors, who pays more attention to these things than me, said it was time to harvest the field of triticale we sowed at the end of last year.

From memory, this field was prepared by pigs’ noses, horse with spike harrow, tractor with Canadienne, humans with buckets (for rocks – lots of rocks), tractor with plough, and tractor with spike harrow. It was then sown by hand, harrowed a couple of times and left for nature to do her job.

(There was actually quite a lot more to it than that.)

I’ve taken photos randomly since the planting which are labelled “cultivation” on the right for the true crop spotters among you. Here is how the field looked before we took our scythes to it:


Here’s a close up of the heads:


And this is what the field looked like after a bit of sweaty work:


Obviously, there was quite a lot more to it than that. We decided to buy a second scythe, for example, to make the job go a bit more quickly. Then we bought a peening jig to get the blades really sharp, which needed a seat making for it:


And just before we started, Her Outdoors knocked up a couple of cradles (which didn’t last long, but was worth a try):


After three mornings of scything, we’re beginning to get the hang of it. Her Outdoors is now making stooks while I finish the cutting. And we have threshing, winnowing and storing to look forward to.

While shuffling up and down the field, I’ve been feeling a strong connection with the many generations who have gone before us. I wondered briefly about the sustainability ratio of this way of farming – how much energy we are putting in compared to how much energy we will get out. But then Her Outdoors reminded me that farming allowed the human population to explode way back when. So the balance will fall heavily on the side of success.

I’m grateful for a year when we had good rainfall at a good time (unlike last year). And hopeful that the seed will be good, will not spoil, will not be eaten by mice, and all the other unknown factors we have yet to encounter.

I just want to share a perfect moment from this morning before I go. I’d been up and down the field, before sitting down to rest (and to drink quite a lot of water). I noticed that there was not a mechanical sound anywhere. Images of Van Goch’s paintings filled my head. The wind picked up briefly and delivered a sublimely timed gust to my face, and I felt a oneness with humanity down the ages. To top the moment off, I heard the sound of two horses coming up the hill.

It really doesn’t get any better than that.

The crop seems to be coming along nicely. But here’s something interesting:


On the left is what the triticale looks like almost everywhere on the field. On the right is what it looks like in one smallish patch Her Outdoors dug over for some other crops last year. The difference in potential yield (we’re not counting our grain until it’s bagged) is almost unbelievable.


In the last few days, our hand-sown crop has grown heads. Mainly on the bits we manured.

OK, this is not the most interesting thing going on at the moment, but I’ve started, so I’ll finish. This is what our field crop is looking like today – after a month of rain and a few days’ sunshine. You can still easily see where we put the semi-rotted horse manure just before we sowed.

Trust me, in the long run this will be interesting in some way.

(Orchid watchers will be pleased to know that Pyramid Orchid leaves have been spotted on the land today. Solar shower watchers will be in for a real treat in the coming days.)

We’ve had a few weeks of VERY HOT daytime temperatures and the blanket of snow has long since gone. So it’s time to take another look at the field we sowed late last year. It’s beginning to look lush.


No prizes for guessing where we dumped a few tractor buckets semi-rotted Pepito poo.


The success of this field, like all of us, is completely reliant on rain. It’s worryingly dry at the moment but there are some showers forecast for the middle of this week. Here’s hoping…

(By the way, Phil’s photos of the floor we laid this week are on the écovallée facebook page one click away – here.)


This field was prepared by our first set of pigs a few years ago, then harrowed a bit by Pepito but not planted (ran out of time) a year later, then scraped a bit by a tractor and part planted (which the deer ate) the year after that, then double ploughed and double harrowed, rocks removed by hand, hand sown and harrowed again for good measure a few weeks ago. But that’s not important right now.

What is important is that the bit nearest the camera on the left had a few tractor buckets of Pepito manure added to it over the first 30 metres or so (that’s about 30 yards) and that bit’s doing best of all. Plus, that whole left side was sown by Her Outdoors and seems to be doing much better than my half. (The first bit I over-sowed so that doesn’t really count.) And we’re not quite sure why.

But everything in life is an experiment. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this and coming back to the field study from time to time, not least to show Ben and Anna from flirtingwithyurting how their help has helped us.

Merry Christmas by the way.