Our land is going through some very welcome rest and recuperation this year, with a large proportion of it sown up with a dense and diverse species mix in order to build fertility, restore soil structure and benefit wildlife. The bees are absolutely loving the phacelia flowers at the moment (shown in the photo above). We have red and white clover both thriving in different areas, as well as buckwheat, sainfoin, and crimson clover.
Restoring soil structure is a particular emphasis this year after we discovered a major drainage problem affecting nearly a third of our land. We have a really good and comprehensive drainage system that was put in place in the mid ’90s and, like most of our neighbours, our land (due to having heavy clay subsoil) relies on the drainage pipes to clear away excess rainfall. All of our drainage pipes run into neighbouring fields before ending up in the local Moss Brook.
After a utility company came through our land nearly 5 years ago and cut through our drains in order to lay their own (much bigger) pipe, we got the drains on our land restored (after a bit of difficulty). What we hadn’t bargained on, however, was how much they had messed up the drains on our neighbours’ land – including the drains that take our water away.
And so it turns out that for 4 and a half years the pipes under 6-7 acres of our land have not been draining and have instead silted up. This is pretty serious, and is taking extensive and invasive remedial work by drainage contractors. We will probably follow this work with two years of green manure (the diverse mix of clovers, grass and annuals) before having the confidence to crop on this ground again. All of which makes us feel like the land and our business have taken a few steps back. Let’s hope that the last of these problems, and we can build up the soil quality and productivity on our small farm over the coming years, whilst still providing a bountiful habitat for wildlife.