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27 Apr 2010 - 2:12 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

Harrowing. It was very harrowing.


Harrowing is something you do to break up the compacted soil. It's a way of tilling the earth so that you can plant new seed and it can thrive beneath the mat of old grass. Harrowing creates soil that is more aerated and more likely for the seed to be able to set root in.

It’s not, apparently, something you do with a shovel and a few handfuls of grass seed, without a great deal of thought and consideration.

Anyway, I did harrow one small patch of earth by hand. Thankfully it was a former pig paddock, so my black snouted tractors had done some of the hard work for me. Otherwise I’d still be out there, shovel and fork in hand, attempting to make furrows in ground that is bone dry and full of clay. There are machines - big expensive, petrol driven machines - that can do this job. An organic grower, Bruce from Yorktown, told me he used a big wooden pallet with nails in the bottom that he’d drag across the fields. The kids would ride on top to weigh it down. Makes my way look lame.

If I didn’t have animals, I’d do things a bit differently. I’d improve the growth in my pasture with seaweed juice and blood and bone, slash it a couple of times in the year, harrow the ground, maybe make a swale and re-sow with perennial pasture seed in a year or two. Instead, I’m playing with patches of ground that I can isolate from the livestock and experimenting with regenerating the land while still grazing some of it.

I’ll still use seaweed, famed as it is for invigorating root growth. It’d be good to get a worm farm set up as well. Though I’m not sure what they’d eat because so much of the leafy matter from the vegie garden is good for the pigs and chooks. Apparently the juice from the bottom of a worm farm is a miracle in the garden. Can’t be bad for the paddock, either, though it’s so powerful it must be watered down.

The brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cavolo nero, kale) are all powering along in the garden. Big fat leaves that now stand tall above the weeds. A friend who checked out the tangle in the patch was very complimentary: 'So long as it’s green," she said. And I agree. Despite a sloppy attitude to neatness and weeding, I hardly purchased a vegetable all summer.

Things are slow now that the winter vegies are in, so finally I can draw breath and start thinking long term. I want to improve this patch of earth, not degrade it. I am, after all, just a caretaker for the time I live here. Someone will come after me as others came before.

That’s why I harrowed and sowed the small paddock just before it rained. But the rain came and went. So I’ve been out with a hose and a tiny domestic sprinkler giving the pump from the dam a workout, trying to get the seeds to sprout. A faint green fuzz of rye grass and (in patches) clover seems to show that at least the first part of my plan is working.