Meadow Musings April/ May 202329th of April, 2023
It has been along time since I wrote about the meadow, why ? well I guess it took over me for a little while. Since 2020 and the pandemic, I have seen my business change almost over night. What was a full diary of retreats became within a week an empty year of uncertainity. The meadow during this time was my tangible focus as things unfolded and the world turned to chaos over night. On may levels it kept me grounded and sane during this time, I am so blessed to of had this space when others suffered in small apartments and gardens for a while. There didn't seem much I could do other than turn my attention to the meadow. Daily walks and time to slow down enabled my perception to shift on all matters, and the meadow took on a new lifeforce which enabled me to handle the vastly unclear world around me. The Bees commanded the right to forage freely in the clear blue skies of unpolluted covid lockdown, the distant rumble of M6 traffic ceased, and something happened in this time, the world stood still. I would have it back in a flash, it was almost like we were given a window or glance into the future, possibly or how things could be and possibly used to be before the world got full of cars and planes. For some it was hell but for a nature lover it was essentially a blessing of stillness to rethink,redirect and obviously plant more wild flowers.
2020 -2023 Brought many plug plants and seed, in fact it became a little bit obsessive if I am to be honest, I don't think my right arm will ever be the same after troweling through hard ground and the dense carpet of Yellow Rattle, of which I do seem to have my fair share of. Clearly in the early part of the pandemic the plug planting had no helpers, some body said we were not allowed. The frustration for me knowing that people really needed this space and I couldn't open my meadow until the rules were changed. I trowelled my frustrations into the ground and created as much beauty as I possibly could. Soon the things became to open up, slowly though. During this time we lost Kennys Dad to the ghastly virus, so no one really felt being around the public anyway, a deep grief and sadness ached at my heart as my family were torn apart by this inhumane virus that didn't even allow us to put our loved ones to rest in a way we would of liked to. Needless to say my way of working through this pain was to plant more wild flowers it was the only thing at this time that I could do, and then I just couldnt stop. In 2021 we raised a small sum of money for those that had also experience the tragic loss of loved ones, 500 native orchids were planted for those that were lost during covid.In 2022 over 1000 plugs were planted to build up my species and I have totally lost count of the amount of seed that was sown. Things started to get busier in 2022 and I quietly opened up , but slowly. Everyone talked about getting back to normal, I wasnt sure what that meant really or if I wanted to go back to normal, to be honest something changed with in me during this time and I became very content with just working on the land. I did actually feel like the world had changed forever. It is amazing how fascinating a meadow can become, everyday is different, everyday brings something new and I never knew it was possible to get so excited by bouncing crickets, numerous ladybirds, swooping swallows and field mouse holes.
Children began to come again and a life line was thrown with the Defra grants known as Farming In Protected Landscapes, suddenly I could host group field trips for young people and adults with out charging them which created such a good feeling within. Many hands planted plug plants in the year of 2022 which had some very dry hot spells, this left the ground hard and resulted in a few broken trowels. In fact a dry April with a cruel south west wind burnt the grass and young plants for a short time, this was exasperating. The late Summer also brought an intense hot spell which also made planting of the late flowering species difficult, I vowed I would never plant another plug plant again. I enjoyed the late flowering plants in the meadow through the last spell of heat in September. This was the year that we had a brush harvest done and my seed was donated to other meadows in Bowland and Pendle Hill . I didnt cut the meadow in 2022 until mid September and I didnt get my tractor out to harrow, which was a sigh of releif for my son William who likes to tell me I do it all wrong anyway. The final sowing came with seed from Bell Sykes farm in the late Autumn , I do recall that the day was a windy day, and one must remember to advise people to throw the seed with the direction of the wind or they are extracting seed heads for their hair for days. The Swallows leave about this time also, I am always sad to see them go, there are so many welcoming's and farewells with in a meadow, the cyclical nature of wildlife always bringing opportunities to honour the highs and the lows, it always saddens me when people dont see this, I really feel thay are missing something rather special.
The woolly grass mowers are allowed back on the meadow by November time, much to their delight as the edges of my meadow does provide a tasty feast to these perilious creatures that show no mercy on anything green. I must admit it is like a part of me goes everytime the meadow is cut, I really have never been able to adjust to that. However Winter has it's medicine of rest, with nothing to tend, nothing to water and a time to catch your breath, this is the time of year when the earth inhales, Its not the end but just feels along time before I see the flowers again. All manner of things are going on underground in the colder months, and 2023 saw the rampant burrowing of Moles. Gracious me they drove me mad this year, at one point I did think I was going crazy, I swear they were watching me go out and kick over their little hills of glory only to come back twice as bad the next day. However as with all things that happen in nature, they teach us something, and if we actually listen and step back we can gather some total gems of wisdom, all the time nature is trying to get our attention. So back to the velvety creatures that are limited in sight yet can hear and smell beyond any human, they carfully burrow the tunnels and sit in the burrow waiting for that unsuspecting earth worm to drop, then BOOM thay go in for the kill. The males appear to burrow in straight lines, whilst the females give them the run around all over my meadow. So the purpose of the Mole is yet something of a mysery for farmers and a mystery for me, however I did find out that the aeration of the soil in improved, and the fungus, microbes and mycorrhizal of the soil is improved, helping the ancient orchids and the good old magic mushroom
So 2023 and its Spring, at last after what seemed a long winter the plants start to appear, this is where I hope to see the fruits of the labour and all the species that were planted come alive. It is May 1st and this is the time I stir BD 500 which is a biodynamic prepartion for the land that helps to activate the soil, stimulates the calcium, magnesium and nitrogen relationships, to foster the balanced and abundant life in the soil. BD 500 is one prepartion I do every year, this is a process developed by Rudolf steiner which involves cow manure packed into a cow horn and buried in Autumn underground that absorbs the cosmic energies of winter, which then is lifted in Spring to be stirred into rain water for one hour. Sounds weird and mytertious all in one, but once explained it makes so much sense and I feel Biodynamic Agriculture has a lot to teach us, I wonder when, how and why we stepped so far away from these principles. In my experience the BD preparations I use , BD500 Cow Horn, BD501 Horn Silica and The 3 Kings have made a huge difference to my land and wild flowers. The species of wild flower seeds all come from a 6 mile radius of my farm, and most of the plug plants are from local seed which is collected and grown by volunteers, I counted on the 1st May the early sightings of Yarrow, Knapweed, Scabious,Mouse Ear, Speedwell, Plantain, Sorrel, Yellow Rattle, Dandelion, Buttercup, Hawkbit, Common Orchid, Globe Flower, Meadow Cranesbill, Great Burnet, Cowslip, Bluebell, Wild Garlic, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Ox Eyed Daisy, Daisy, Dyers Green Weed, Saw Wort, Rose Bay Willow, Red Clover, May Flower, Campion, Ragged Robin, Tufted Vetch, Wild Carrot, Meadow Sweet, Germander Speedwell,Crosswort, Pignut,Meadow Vetch, Tormentil, Sawwort,Foxglove, and Betony.
When I look back to where I started 5 years ago I only had a few species, now as I reflect back over the last 3 years I feel like I have taken a massive leap and feel very excited for 2023 final count. The species yet to show them selves that I planted 2022 are Self Heal, Borage, Fleabane, Water Avens, Dark Mullein,Harebell,Agrimony, Sneezewort,Corn Chamomile and Meadow Marigold, this is with out the meadow grasses which I can't identify yet. I will endeavour to update my blog more often so do keep a look out for the updates.. A new surprise arrival today(14th May) was a baby oak tree growing miles away from any other oaks so this has inspired me to keep writing. The year of 2023 I made an officail agreement and The Gathering Fields is now a donor and receptor site for Bowland, which basically means I pass my seed on to other new meadow sites and receive seed from established meadows to continue the biodiversity of species.