May 2007

View from the Hill                                                 22nd April 2007

It is now six weeks since we last had any proper rain, and the soil certainly makes that obvious.  Dry as a bone it is.  Lurching from flood to drought in such a short time is quite confusing, the cattle footprints and squelched tractor wheelmarks in what was mud on the 8th of March, are now baked solid and look like fossilized imprints from thousands of years ago.

What Blackthorn winter?

A muck spreader’s lament.  How much thought have you ever given to  the quality of muck?  We have had to turn our minds to it this week.  We do not own a muckspreader, preferring to hire one for odd days when we have something to spread.  We don’t produce a great deal of manure ourselves, as most of our animals spend the winter outdoors, so the small amount that we do produce accumulates in a heap for two or three years until there is enough to cover a whole field properly.  We would love to have more, because it does the soil a power of good as any gardener knows, but you can’t justify the time and expense of keeping more animals indoors simply to produce manure.  Fortunately we do have access to a limited amount of chicken manure from a local chicken farm.

This stuff all needs spreading, and for this the tool of choice is a  Muckspreader.

There are a number of different designs available locally, and this week we have had to spread chicken manure as well as well rotted and less well rotted farmyard manure from overwintered cattle sheds.  If you were thinking that any old muckspreader will do, then think again.  The chicken muck needs a horizontal rotary side flinger, the FYM needs a robust rear discharge vertical rotor spreader, and ne’er the twain shall meet.  The trouble really starts when you hire a rear discharge machine which doesn’t work.  It took 3 loads, 6 hours, and a lot of forking and swearing to convince us that this machine (a Rolland) was useless, so we had to return it to Winterborne Kingston, and then roar over to Milborne St Andrew for a pair of Samson spreaders.  They don’t look very different to the Rolland, except that they are green not blue.  However they do a much better job of spreading FYM, rotted or fresh.

A muckspreader is basically a trailer, with fairly high sides, so it can carry up to 12 tons of muck, with a moving floor, consisting of a chain driven bed of moving slats, and a pair of fast spinning rotors, which break up and  fling the muck out to the sides and rear.  The speed of the chain driven bed can be varied from the tractor cab to match ground speed, and to vary the thickness of spread.

The main reasons for differing performance seem to be the angle of the sides, the Rolland is tapered inwards, which stops the muck falling to the floor, and the shape of the slats of the moving floor. On the Samson the slats are more aggressive, and grip the muck, the Rolland’s are flatter and don’t. End of story.  We still have the chicken muck to spread, and previous experience has shown that rear discharge machines tend to dribble a thick line of muck directly behind the spreader rather than spread it evenly over a ten or twelve metre width.  This then shows up in the following crop as a very lush and thick line, which sometimes goes flat, and can make harvesting difficult.

Fling it here, Fling it there, If you’re standing by then you’ll all get your share.  (Adge Cutler)

Remember, the better it is, the worse the smell!  Think how happy the worms will be.  With apologies for the pong.

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