Making Hay while the Sun Shines

Making hay while the sun shines

 

 

The fields surrounding Elmet Farmhouse are grown for hay each summer. As well as feathery grasses, they are full of wild flowers, including buttercups and sorrel. During the spring they turn from bright green to golden yellow tinged with red, providing a wonderful backdrop to the cottage garden. Watching the meadows grow to their full height is one of the pleasures of midsummer.

 

 

Hay-making normally takes place at Elmet from mid July to early August, depending on the weather. Roger and William Tennant from Horse Hey Farm just along the road at Crimsworth Dean cut and bale the hay for use as winter feed by their cattle. Their brother Jonathan, who delivers milk to the farmhouse, also lends a hand.

After the grass has been cut, it is left to dry for a day or two, then turned so it dries out more. The cut grass is then gathered up into long rows so that it can be sucked up and compacted into bales. The bales are stacked up in the field, before being loaded onto trailers and driven off to the farm.

That’s it for another year. All that’s left behind is pale stubble. But the grass is so lush that it soon starts growing again. Within a week or two the fields are green once more.

 

 

Haymaking August 2016

 

 

Silaging July 2017

 

 

© Text and images copyright Lesley Jackson and Ian Fishwick

Tree-mendous!

Many thanks to Treesponsibility and their energetic band of helpers from Old Earth Primary School at Elland and Savile Park Primary School in Halifax for their heroic treeplanting achievements here in Pecket Well during October 2016. Thanks to them, the steep slopes below the hay meadows at Elmet Farmhouse are now planted with several hundred saplings.

Interspersed with oak, birch, alder and field maple are numerous hazel saplings, which will be coppiced in years to come. The trees will stabilise the hillside and help to alleviate the risk of flooding lower down the valley. Because trees turn CO2 into oxygen, they help to offset carbon emissions, thereby countering the impact of global warming.

Each sapling is staked and covered with a translucent plastic tube to prevent them being nibbled by deer. Straw is used as a mulch around the base of the trees to help them get established. In a few years’ time the previously bare slope will become a productive woodland, enhancing the beauty of the existing trees in Pecket Well Clough and nearby Hardcastle Crags.

Many thanks to Dongria, Christina, Bear, Gavin, Jem, Billy and the whole team at Treesponsibility for organising and carrying out this tree-planting session, and to the Woodland Trust for providing the trees.

Tree-planting is very hard work, especially on such a steep slope in the rain! We’re extremely to all the children and staff from Old Earth and Savile Park Schools for their Tree-Mendous work. We hope you enjoyed your visit to Pecket Well this autumn. We look forward to meeting more of you next spring for tree-planting phase two.

 

p1110062  p1110064

More Tree-mendous Work!

And a big thank you to the pupils of Ash Green Community Primary School in Mixenden for two days of hard work during March 2017 to complete the tree-planting scheme begun in October 2016 – ably organised once again by Treesponsibility

 

  

 

We also planted 6 apple trees and 2 damson trees in the field near Elmet Farmhouse in January 2017 with help from our friends Daru and Stu. We plan to share the fruit with them – and our guests at Elmet – in future years. It was a beautiful sunny day and our mini-orchard has a spectacular view, so we hope the trees will thrive. 

 

@ Text and images copyright Lesley Jackson

Bilberry Stories

Bilberry Bonanza

2016 has been a bumper year for bilberries. These small wild blueberries thrive on the acid soil of the Upper Calder Valley. Bilberry bushes are widespread on the steep wooded hillsides and up on the moors. The berries ripen during mid to late July. We’ve been busy picking over the last few weeks in Luddenden Dean and Hardcastle Crags.

Although the bushes are laden with berries, it’s still a slow process gathering them as the berries are so small. You can easily tell a bilberry picker by the colour of their hands, stained by the dark purplish-black juice.

Bilberries need to be cooked to bring out their subtly perfumed flavour. They make delicious pies and divine bilberry jam, perfect for home-made scones. 

 

© Images copyright Lesley Jackson and Ian Fishwick