Sunday, 23 February 2014

Green glows and wellington boots

I can't say I was initially absolutely delighted when Farmer woke me at 2am to say he could see a green glow in the north sky.  I spent the next 2 hours wandering around the garden with the camera and the tripod, until the final colours of the aurora borealis faded.

The local office of the Scottish Agricultural College (in Oban) put in a bid to take part in a Scottish Soil Nutrient Network, with Treshnish as the monitored farm.    The first of two meetings was held here on Thursday afternoon.  Farmer had carefully cleared up the cattle shed thinking that the meeting would be held in the shed, but in the end everyone came into the house, hence the boots in the porch!

We had to take soil samples of different areas of the grassland, the silage fields and parts of the hill, in order to see what minerals we may be lacking.

We haven't put artificial fertiliser on the fields for about 17 years, we were organic for 10 years, and have noticed the wild flowers increase hugely across the fields we use for silage - and we know wild flowers thrive when soil fertility is poor.

Nutrient budgeting is a more holistic look at soil health, because it looks at both sides of the story - what you take off and what you put back.  You assess what nutrients you remove from the soil (whether through grazing or cutting for silage or hay) and then what nutrients you add back (through applying farmyard manure as we do, or by grazing). So Farmers do sums, and calculate what the balance or deficiency is in the course of a year.  This will alter what you might need to put on a field, and it will almost certainly differ from previous practice.  In our case, we only use FYM, and we use a silage rotation.   Our only worry about being the guinea pig farm was that we might be asked to apply artificial fertiliser that we may not want to use.  However that was not the case thankfully!

Farmer was pleased that our 'worst' soil sample was an area of the hill, which we cannot improve even if we wanted to.  The fields we cut regularly were no worse than other Mull fields our results were compared with.   

Phew the wild flowers are safe then...

The 8 new external spec doors are safe too... they were carefully unloaded in a gale on Friday.  The sliding doors have been installed and look great in Shian sun room.  So exciting! Taping and filling starts on Monday! 

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