What to do with all the hay?

All the cut hay and flowers from the meadow-cutting weekend a fortnight ago has been piled in the small fenced-in paddock while we worked out what best to do with it. We could not interest a farmer in taking it for hay back in July because of the possiblity (..probability) that there was some remaining ragwort in it, even after our three days of toil pulling it all up.

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It seemed such a complete shame to pay a contractor to come in to take it away and burn it and so we were very excited when we approached a Waste Company in Sandwich who thought thay would be able to find a home for it with a green composting facility. They came to visit us at the meadows on Friday and looked at what we were asking them to do and – oh dear – because it was cut so late and the meadow plants had gone to seed, they thought that it could not be used for green compost because it would contain the seeds of ‘injurious weeds’ such as creeping thistle which would then be like unexploded bombs in the compost. They were talking of having to deep bury it as a toxic substance. This was bad news indeed and also seemed a little bit ridiculous. However, it seemed we were back to square one with having no idea what to do with all this hay and in the meantime, there is was, all piled up in the paddock – kept low so that it didn’t overheat and spontaneously combust – and presumably now would be crawled into by all sorts of hibernating animals over the next few weeks and if we didnt shift it soon, it would have to stay all winter until they woke up.

We spent the weekend working on the second meadow. It wasnt cut a fortnight ago other than a couple of circuits of the machine round the margins. We’ve been raking this up, bagging it up into Hippo bags and dragging it the really rather uncomfortably long distance to the paddock where the rest of it is that was cut from the first meadow. Also, the Blackthorn in the hedgerows has produced a lot of suckering and these springy suckers generally managed to resist the minstrations of the cutting machine, still standing straight and tall even after we’d directly gone over them. So, we also crawled around on our hands and knees cutting these off with loppers and bagging them up for burning in the newly purchased brazier. It was a tiring weekend

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The second meadow with just the margin cut

However, the good news today is that the Waste Company phoned and it seems they can use our hay for green compost. They have taken advice and been given the green light and are coming on Thursday with a lorry that can drive to the paddock and load it all on with a grabbing hand. Moreover, they are giving us a good discount on the cost of this job since they wish to support our project (..its still quite expensive though….)

I don’t know how the issue of the Creeping Thistle seeds has been resolved but hope to find out more on Thursday.

Preparing for Winter

I have been giving some thought to hibernating insects over the coming months and have stacked some flower pots upside down in a sheltered south-facing spot against the field shed  as recommended in this months Gardeners World magazine! We are also generating piles of twigs that we are leaving around as shelter

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Ivy Bees

The ivy in the hedgerows is absolutely seething in bees today, in epidemic feeling proportions.

I have just been to the local plant nursery and they have had to close off one of their poly tunnels because it’s full of ivy bees, Colletes hederae.

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Ivy bees are solitary bees, although they nest in burrows in aggregations and emerge in late August, early September to coincide with the flowering of the ivy.

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One of many hundreds of thousands of ivy bees on our ivy today

I got back from the garden centre and took a closer look at the bees on our ivy – yes, its them alright.

Autumnal hedgerow fruitfulness

Beautiful day today so took ourselves round the meadows looking at what the hedgerows had to offer

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Beautiful black berries on the Dogwood
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We have a few Elder trees and many of the berries on this one have already been eaten
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Bright red Hawthorn berries
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Spotted this butterfly on the way round. Unfortunately the camera had run of battery by this time and so had to try to get it on the phone camera. I think it might be a Chalkhill Blue but maybe not….
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This dragonfly was sunbathing on the blackberries. Again – only the phone camera so image not great but I think it is a Southern Hawker, but the rarer variant that doesn’t have any green on it, just blue. But then again, what do I know?
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Loads of blackberries
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This wild rose bush is growing up the middle of a cherry tree
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The ivy is covered in bees. There is a very audible humming as soon as you get close. Maybe next year I’ll be able to tell you what sort of bees they are but at the moment I have no idea.Update: They are Ivy Bees, Colletes hederae. The ivy is humming like an electricity sub-station.
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Old Man’s beard. I understand that this plant favours chalk and there certainly is a lot of it in the hedgerows. There were several references on the internet to the seeds being good for birds but I couldn’t discover any details and certainly no birds are currently flocking to it..
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Seems to be a very good year for sloes. We are going to try to make some sloe gin shortly

So the hedgerows are dripping with berries at the moment. We are planning to cut sections of the hedgerow each year on a rotational basis so that each year there will be berries left around to bridge the hunger gap later on in the winter.

Oops

Doing a bit more raking today in the meadows to more thoroughly get up last weekends cuttings and found this chap:

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Feel a bit guilty that we might have been responsible for this as we cut the meadows, but he seemed completely fine and I think I’ve been told that lizards can regrow their tails

A lot of gall…

In about July we noticed that something fairly wacky was going on with the wild roses:

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Rather than a simple pink flower, many of them had these spiky red and yellow pompoms.

By today, mid September, these looked like this:

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A bit of research has shown us that these are the delightfully named Robins Pincushions – made by a Bedeguar Gall Wasp and inside this gall are several chambers, each containing an overwintering larvae. The adult wasps emerge in the Spring and will look like this:

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But thats not all!

Many of the Creeping Thistle also have galls:

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This is the work of the Creeping Thistle Gall Fly, Urophora cardui who lays its eggs onto the thistle and, after hatching, the larvae burrow into the stem of the plant to form the gall to overwinter in.

The fly looks amazing and I’ll be looking out for it next year – we certainly have enough creeping thistle!

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