Ploughing through

I’m back. I’ve been ploughing through (sorry!) almost 100 photos, to show just a few. As tractors and farming are not my usual topic, I’ll forgive any of my regular readers for clicking away, but before you go,  I promise a lovely yarning crafty post next time.

Yesterday, I went to a ploughing match up on the Mendips. As it was work related and a school day, it was only an outing for dh, the Gwinny dog and me. Weather wise, it could not have been better. The event was right on the edge of the Mendips, giving fantastic panoramic views over the Somerset Levels. There was a haze covering the whole of the Levels, so Glastonbury Tor was only just visible.

This is my kind of agricultural show. Only refreshment tents without the rows of trade stalls. No fun fairs or information displays. The people who attended, were there because they were really interested in these rural crafts and, more than likely, made their living in the countryside.

Apart from the ploughing competitions, there were a good number of people competing in the hedge laying competition. We are increasingly seeing more hedge laying in this area. Stock fencing and barbed wire are quicker to throw up, but I know which I prefer. I always love seeing stretches of hedges, like this, when we are out walking.

There was also a dry stone wall competition. Keeping alive another country skill.

By far the biggest part of the event was, of course, the ploughing. They had about 80 ploughmen, competing in different classes. There were horses, vintage tractors and modern tractors ploughing. Each had their strip to plough in 3.5 or 5 hours, depending on the class. We ran into a farmer friend, who explained that the furrows not only had to be straight but no stubble visible. They had to plough an exact area and we saw several plough men off their tractors with tape measures, ensuring they had the correct measurements.

A new phrase for me was a “ben of land”. The best ben of land ploughed, won the first prize. I’m no expert , of course, but I reckon this one must have been a good contender.

I’ve read that the furrows should be perfectly straight. You should be able to see a mouse running down a furrow and not lose sight of it. No mice, but we did see a Jack Russel dog run down one.

No farming event would be complete without the characters that make the countryside so rich. The dog was perched on the front of the tractor as the plough man ploughed his furrows.

I had to risk being stung by nettles for this shot. A chap on his vintage tractor, talking on his mobile with the Mendip transmitter in the background.

We have a toy metal tractor, which I suspect is older than me, just like this one. TF was thrilled to see the photo.

Nor would a country event be complete without a crop competition of some kind. Some classes would be readily seen at most village shows. The largest pumpkins, the tallest sunflower and the best sweetcorn. The difference may be that farmers bring the whole plant in, so there were rows of sunflowers and sweetcorn plants laid out. The bales of straw and hay are also there to be judged. I do have a wonderful shot of the judge’s face after he was heckled to lift the pumpkin again, as the bystanders hadn’t seen it leave the ground.

There were also root crop classes including potato,swede and mangelwurzels. I’ve read about mangelwurzel before, but hadn’t realised that they grew so big.

 tm of shire horses

I’ve left the horses to last. I think there were seven pairs ploughing.

So often these heavy horses are on display at country shows. Seldom have I seen them working as they have been bred to do. It was fabulous to see man and horses showing that the skills are not lost.

After managing to wrap Gwinny’s lead around one bystander, as I went one way and she took a different route, I got the distinct feeling that I would not be invited, any time soon, to try my hand at ploughing with horses. The chap at the front had to really put the brakes on to stop the two horse power of this pair.

Great day out. We ran into so many people that we knew. All country folk, who live and work in the countryside, and are so much more knowledgeable about farming than me.

Gwinny the dog had a great day. She eventually got used to the idea that, although we were in big open fields, she could not run free. Difficult for a long dog to comprehend.  “But its a field!” She didn’t mind the chainsaws or great big tractors turning close to us. The man serving bacon rolls, left his long queue of customers to bring her a huge rasher of bacon, as he said that it was nice to see a real dog. Not sure what the handful of Jack Russells would make of this comment.

I feel very privileged to be able to attend events like this and call it work. I may dream of one day having more land and doing more than a kitchen garden and our little orchard. We can’t justify acquiring even the smallest vintage tractor, but maybe a rotavator. Not quite the same, but its on my Christmas list! A girl can dream, right?

10 thoughts on “Ploughing through

  • Thursday 29 September, 2011 at 11:10 pm
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    This is for work??? Wow! Of course, now I must ask…what wonderful paid work do you do that takes to you to such wonderful events:?: I’ve never heard of mangelwurzel, but I’m certainly intrigued – what a photo! My family has some vintage tactors like the ones here, but I must say, you’ve got the Midwestern U.S. corn belt beat with this event…I’ve never seen anything like it. Very cool!

    • Saturday 1 October, 2011 at 11:56 pm
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      You’ll never believe it, because you probably are imagining something more glamorous, but I’m an IT consultant! What can I say, except that even I am amazed at the variety of people I visit. It is the best part of my job! I was there researching my next project, but its not in the bag yet, so forgive me for being vague! I’m chortling about the idea that the Mendips could outstrip the Midwest of the US in any way! Loved seeing so many tractors in one place. I’d love to own one! Who knows, one day.

  • Friday 30 September, 2011 at 12:07 am
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    yes, i agree with rain. its fantastic, and what work do you do?
    i thought the mangel- was a turnip! .. the giants! try souping one of those for tea..
    and tomorrow night
    and tomorrow night..
    :))
    i loved it all. so glad , like you, that an olden days ways simple and hard are still being remembered and passed down.
    the stone wall building fascinates me. there are some beautiful ones in tasmania made by prisoners, and are stunning and perfect. john says in ireland (or scotland?) there are some really old stone walls thousands of years old and still standing perfect. with no morter. just precision. !

    • Sunday 2 October, 2011 at 12:01 am
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      I don’t know what mangelwurzels taste like. I did google it and found some recipes. Suspect a winter of soup made of it, might lead to lots of groaning from my family. I’ll leave it to the cattle. I really enjoyed the feeling that the event wasn’t all set up to educate us bystanders. Proper competition of old skills to keep them alive.

      I can believe that some dry stone walls are very old, but I’ve not seen any dates. I may have to do some research. Its easy to find courses, which means lots of people are still interested in doing it.

  • Friday 30 September, 2011 at 3:19 am
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    This is a fabulous post! What a day… I find it thrilling to see these skills put into practice. Somehow all is right with the world!

    Blessings, Debbie

    • Sunday 2 October, 2011 at 12:04 am
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      I’m with you on that, Debbie. Progress is good, but we’d end up reinventing the wheel if we forget the past. We make a point of going to all the events, like this, that we can. Never stop learning!

  • Friday 30 September, 2011 at 6:10 am
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    I’ve lived, and on occasions worked, all my life in a rural enviroment just like the one you visited and I would never want to live anywhere else………..it’s great to see the land worked with ploughs and horses , even if it’s only for a competition……..looks like you had a fantastic day. x

    • Sunday 2 October, 2011 at 12:09 am
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      I’ve had brief spells in cities, but I’m much happier in the countryside. I know it doesn’t suit everyone, which is fine by me!

  • Friday 30 September, 2011 at 5:36 pm
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    Wonderful I particularly love the straight furrows, the pumpkins, the mangleworzels, the tractors, the long dog story….well all of it really! xx

    • Sunday 2 October, 2011 at 12:13 am
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      So difficult not to post many more photos! I think I covered all the areas. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love seeing people using these rural skills. There has been lots of toy tractor play, in the last few days, by the children.

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