We are finally finished with all the sowing and planting, and just in time for the rain! We spent many days preparing the grain fields for sowing, as they were freshly ploughed and in some places the turf hadn’t turned over properly. We also had to clear rocks and even out the soil, and spread manure. My partner made a kind of sled (slådd) to pull behind the horse to flatten the ridges made by the plough. It worked very well! It is something they used in pre-industrial norwegian agriculture. We also had to rake a little by hand to get the bits that the slådd missed. Then finally we could sow! After sowing we dragged a harrow over the fields to try and bury the grains. We also raked over the field by hand. We have sown oats and barley, and next year hope to get older varieties of these grains, closer to the type they would have used in this area in pre-industrial times, though the exact varieties have been lost. In those times, practically every farmer had his own variety, perfectly adapted to the local environment.
All around the farm is a sea of green, dotted with purple and yellow wildflowers. Everyday i think how lucky i am to live here. Now we are also surrounded by the sound of bells- the farmers have released their sheep, and there are always some in the forest around the farm. Yesterday, Hornfagr and Audhumla made some new friends. We had the cows and the horse in the farmyard, to graze the fast growing grass all around the farm. I was inside and i heard an awful lot of bellowing coming from the gate. I went out to have a look and there was a small herd of heifers disappearing round the corner. That is until H and A bellowed so hard that they could ignore the call no longer and one by one turned around and came to the gate. They sniffed each other through the gate- apparently already aquainted from some days ago when the pair went on an outing down to a nearby farm and decided to hang out in someone else’s cow shed!
Apart from grains we have also planted a big potato field, also on freshly plowed land, so they probably won’t be the best- but its the best thing to plant! We just put them down in the soil betweeen the furrows. We have also planted a pea field, almost as large as the potato field! We hope to be self-sufficient in peas! But really we have planted them far too late- they should be planted before the last frost. Other field crops are turnip and swede, so we should have plenty for ourselves, and some for the animals too. Likewise with the peas- any surplus can feed the chickens. In the garden i have started harvesting salad and from the hayfield too! Wild plants include nettle, yarrow, sorrel, ground elder and i just discovered wild cress (nasturtium officinale) which makes for a delicious salad! I need to learn more about wild food, because I’m sure many of the flowers here are also edible. Im trying to grow as many types of vegetable as i can, though of corse here we are limited by the shorter growing season; onion, carrots, beetroot, parsnip, chard, spinach, courgette, pumpkins (very excited about this), beans, garlic, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, sweetcorn (probably won’t produce) kale, sweet peas, gherkins, radish, lettuce and other salad plants, herbs. We must also limit ourselves to vegetables which we can save seed from. For us self-sufficiency means producing our own seed, not just growing food from bought seed. And thats alot to get our heads round! For example, brassicas can cross-polinate so we should only really grow two types, and they must flower at different times. I chose brussel sprouts and cabbage which are both biennial so we have to find a way to store them over the winter so they can flower in the second year. (We do it so they flower in alternate years) This probably means digging them up and storing them in the root cellar, and planting them out again in the spring. We tried leaving the kale out last winter, as it is also biennial, but all the plants were completely eaten up by mice. I know some of you are thinking- “but broccoli and kale and radishes and swedes and turnip are also brassicas!” Well, it’s very complicated, but basically we just need to make sure they don’t flower at the same time. I have planted swede and turnip from last year, and they have both sent up seed stalks, the turnip has just started flowering so i have nipped all the buds off the swedes and let the turnip set seed before allowing the swede to flower. I am a complete amateur at seedsaving, so it will be a steep learning curve!
Our soil here is slightly acidic (around ph6) so some plants are struggling and have yellow older leaves. The squashes are particularly unhappy, so i dont have very high hopes for them at the moment. We spread ash on the soil to neutralise it, but it will take many years to bring the pH up. There are also lots of beetle larvae (wireworms, larvae of the click beetle) which have taken a fancy to my onion and lettuce plants! I think they have killed about a third of my onions now, which is a bit devastating, as ive been nursing them since march! I read up about them, and they can be quite numerous in reclaimed grassland, which is what the garden is, and live in the soil as larvae for six years! But hopefully they will become less and less as time goes on, and we improve the soil. We will also send an army of chickens in there in the fall, they can be pretty efficient at clearing the soil of bugs!
So now we can breathe a little, though of corse there is always a lot to do! I finally have time to make cages for the rabbits, so they too can enjoy the great outdoors! My partner has been preparing equipment for haymaking- fixing a strange old mower we have, and maybe making some new scythe shafts soon. Across the valley, the farmers have already cut grass for hay and silage, but we won’t be making hay until july. Due to the fact that we will never plough and re-seed our field, it’s best to wait until the grass has seeded. Summer is well under way, and it’s just under a week to summer solstice! I still can’t get used to it not getting dark at night, and sometimes i can’t sleep. But on the bright side (haha) i never have to use a headlight, unlike winter when i only took it off to sleep! Everything seems to be happening so fast now, i have to remind myself to stop sometimes and just enjoy living, among such radiant abundance.