A lot of action, some sedate and some more action packed, has occurred on the field in the last two weeks. But before I detail what went on I’d like to take you through the philosophical, ecological and romanticized cognitive dance that preceded this.

  • Fossil fuels are running out and it must be better to use non-fossil fuel means of processing
  • Soil is precious and should be treated with reverence and not squashed and bitten and chewed up (thats how I see a ploughing tractor)
  • More people on the land can only be a good thing. There are less than then 1% of the population employed on the land in the UK a drop from 40% a hundred years ago. A clearer more obvious connection to food through working with the soil, the seed and the products that come from it will remove people from their subservient relationships with food retailers – who in Totnes (Morrisons and Co-op) take 27m out of the local economy whilst returning very little economically, culturally or socially
  • Horses are a great way to work the land; less impact, shallower plough (cutting though less of the mycelia network)
  • Working with horses necessitates a connection to the wider ecosystem, being in the outdoors and not cocooned in a cab like a tractor driver is, being part of the audible soundtrack of the field
  • Phenomenologically I wanted this process to be about experiencing audibly, bodily, cognitively and intuitively this meant treading as light as possible on the soil and dispersing the seeds among their cohorts with a a flick of the wrist
  • A contractor is simply there to get a job done

The battle I had in my head had a few key moments: One horse I had hoped to meet died, the next horse who’d agreed to some feel sick, the trail of horse people and the horse went cold. That skirmish was lost, so I turned to the contractor. In full celebration the tractor arrived ploughed, drilled and left, all in a day (with a few days in-between). I had then to admit that I had been defeated in my quest, but the feeling was better then I had thought. The contractor had done a great job (ok the soil was bitten, chewed and spat out) the seeds were in, the field was perfectly set for growing, the previous compaction was lessened, in the top 80cm (the depth of the plough) and it had set me, most importantly, on the path to growing a Devon land race wheat, a magnificent unique achievement, here in Devon. And started me on a path to link the soil and the seed with the loaf and the consumer.

Prior to any preparation, devoid of life, striped of all nutrient.
Prior to any preparation, devoid of life, striped of all nutrient.
20 Holes and two worms of limp character
20 Holes and two worms of limp character
Turkish red winter wheat from seed banks - 20cm gaps
Turkish red winter wheat from seed banks – 20cm gaps

Two types of winter wheat planted

Planting - Clovers, chicory, yarrow, lupins
Planting – Clovers, chicory, yarrow, lupins
The magnificent machine seeding at the right spacing, depth and amount
The magnificent machine seeding at the right spacing, depth and amount
ready for growing - one acre of Devon Blue red chuff planted by hand
ready for growing – one acre of Devon Blue red chuff planted by hand
Lots of beneficial  seeds ready to sprout and help the soil
Lots of beneficial seeds ready to sprout and help the soil
Three weeks old and growing strong - lots of weeding to come
Three weeks old and growing strong – lots of weeding to come