S. managed to cut the grass on the main trackway down to the lower junction, but when I tried to do a bit more a few days later, I found that the scythe mower was not cutting very well. It was out of action for a few weeks, since S. found that it wasn’t just a matter of sharpening the blades or tightening things up; the bearing on the blade pivot had broken up completely. Luckily S. is a mechanical genius and managed to source and replace some suitable bearings so the machine now cuts better than ever. We suspect it must have been running loose for a while.
The weather has been pretty dry this year, so despite the delay of a few weeks, S. has been able to cut all the main trackways (which didn’t happen last year) as well as most of the backways, which are single mower width paths between the trees in strategic directions. He has also made a new backway looping round the north side of the field about half way down.
It is funny how different the grass is in different areas of the field. Up at the top it is thick, tall and quick growing, where as towards the middle it is thin bladed and shorter. Here it is made up of what I call “blood grass”, since it sometimes looks like the tips of the grass have been dipped in blood. Nearer the pond is where most of the orchids grow, although there are a few bigger ones further up the field. I marked the positions where I could identify the growing leaves (they are less ribbed than plantains, and wider than bluebells). S. managed to avoid most, but mowed right over one of the more spectacular ones, a double headed one too! I put the cut heads in water, so far they are looking pretty lively, so may open out in the jar eventually.
I had a bit of a brainwave last winter , it occurred to me that if I had a suitable fruiting shrub or tree at the appropriate interval along the track, then as I raked I could dispose of the cut debris around the said shrubs, mulching them at least annually, without having to transport the mulch material very far. I did distribute quite a few black currants as cuttings along to the first main junction. The idea does seem to have worked pretty well this year. The volume of mulch material varies according to the type of grass in the different areas as mentioned above, so when I add strategic shrubs further down they may be wider spaced than where the mulch material is produced more lushly. In the meantime there are plenty of little spruces and pine which I planted as intermediate windbreaks in the sparse area of the field, as well as the new alder, elder, lime and sea buckthorne plantings. I’ve tried to mulch as many of these as I can, since I know how much new plantings benefit from the grass being kept down around them. I haven’t put a sheet material down under the cut grass, so it won’t be effective for long.
On the north side of the main trackway down, there is an area planted with birch. This has the stringy blood grass growing quite vigorously. In fact, it seemed to swamp many of the original birch trees, so I replaced them a couple of years ago with some locally sourced ones from Skye Weavers, who had self sown birch in their meadow which they did not want. These are now growing well, but we are still concerned that the grass is very competitive and so S. mowed between the trees. The grass came off like a huge fleece – a great mat of tangled grass rather than individual blades. Hopefully it will still be effective as mulch and not just carry on growing.
Some of the cuttings I have put in have been further back in the trees and most of these have not yet been mulched. I was surprised how many of these took, considering they were just stuck in with no clearance (unlike the strategic ones at the trackside, which had a clearance turf turned over to give them a start). I’ll probably leave them rather than try to move them, since it is easy enough to strike new plants from cuttings whilst pruning in winter.