Joys of Country Life

On day 107 of 365 Days Wild I ventured out for a walk around the village lanes and found the competing odours of smoke and onions vying for my attention.

When I arrived at the meadow I discovered that the first of the piles of cuttings had been set alight. At present the only way of getting rid of the four big piles of cut plant matter that we raked up last weekend is by burning them. The presence of Ragwort in the mix narrows our options as it’s poisonous to horses and cattle, making the hay inedible as animal food. There’s far too much for it to be composted, and it can’t be left as a mulch as the wildflowers we’re trying to encourage thrive on impoverished ground. Leaving it in place would simply encourage the grasses, nettles, brambles and thistles to move back in.

The burnt patches will be seeded with a variety of annual native ‘cornfield’ wildflowers – species that thrive on soil enriched by ash, including poppies, cornflowers, corncockles and field marigolds. These are commonly found alongside farmland as they prefer the more fertilised soil to that of meadowland. A few patches of them in the meadow will add some interesting bursts of colour to next year’s meadow growth.

The pile that I saw burning didn’t seem to want to fully take and was simply smouldering, throwing out lots of smoke. From pictures taken by a fellow meadow walker (Anne) during their evening visit, I believe all four piles of hay went up quite nicely in the end. I didn’t stay long enough to see it. It was a bit too smoky for me!

I instead crossed over the lane to where the smell of onions filled the air.

We’re now at that time of year where the lifting of the onion harvest causes the village to take on a very particular odour. At the moment it’s a fresh smell, at least. The worst odours occur when the remnants of the harvest start to rot. Hopefully its downwind of us this year!

As I left the onion field to head on home I noticed a number of little wildflowers growing underfoot in the entrance to the field. I just had to stop and photograph them.

The plants spotted include: Nonesuch (Medicago lupulina),

Common Knotweed (Polygonum arenastrum),

Field Pansy (Viola arvensis),

and also some non-native Green Nightshade (Solanum physalifolium).

That’s all for today. Have you seen, or smelt, anything interesting while you’ve been out and about recently?


5 thoughts on “Joys of Country Life

    1. Yes, very much so. Once they’ve all been lifted the smell does reduce a bit as they’re left to dry out – at least until those that are left behind after the second stage of the harvest start to rot. Fortunately the onion field is east of our house this year and the prevailing winds are southwesterlies.

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