I can’t think straight. My brain’s like jiggling jelly. My body’s disassociated itself completely and my eyes, nose and lungs feel as if I’ve been burrowing deep in one of those sawdust lucky-dip bins….but I feel so relieved!

Since last Wednesday it seems as if we’ve packed a whole summer’s worth of jobs into five days.


Yesterday, Sunday, I spent the whole day topping. We have rush-infested pastures, soft rush (Juncus effuses) to be precise. These indigestible, totally unpalatable plants are the bane of my life and during a wet year such as this completely take over our meadows at the expense of all else. Robert assures me I would make my fortune if I found a use for them, so far I haven’t and neither has anyone else past or present, apart from rush lights and chair seating and you don’t need much for that! Oh yes, and ineffective stock bedding…

soft rush – Juncus effuses

soft-rush-5-locks-park-july-2006-rjw-reduced-size.jpg soft-rush-4-locks-park-july-2006-rjw-reduced.jpg

But, if only I was not organic, I would use sprays. Yes, I have to admit it sprays. You see topping (using a heavy-duty tractor-mounted mower) is, I think, much more damaging to the environment.

Conventional farmers deal with rushes using chemical sprays (often together with artificial nitrogen fertilisers, ploughing and drainage). Being organic I’m not allowed to do this and have only topping to fall back on.

Topping is destructive. It smashes and destroys everything in its path: wildlife – mice, frogs, butterflies, beetles – and those wild flowers which have not been smothered by the rushes. Topping is also energy intensive. Twelve hours tractor work in low ratio gear takes a lot of diesel. That’s a big carbon footprint

On the other hand there is something called a weed-wipe. This is a piece of equipment that brushes herbicide onto the rush standing proud of the grass. One treatment every two years is usually enough – compare this with topping three, four or even five times a year which is what I have to do.

Now the Soil Association, who licence us as organic, agree, have some sympathy but won’t budge. These are complex issues, yet public confidence could be hugely damaged if just a single farm where allowed to use herbicides.

So all I can do for now is to leave wide field margins. Who knows what the future will hold? Peak oil has come and gone and climate change is the critical issue for humanity. In the not too distant future I can see carbon-friendly farming as being more important that organic farming.