Tools I love using

I’m fortunate to have many projects that fill my days, but my favourite is Glorious Grasslands, which I have been volunteering on since 2019. Their aim is to create 50ha a year of new wildflower meadow in the Cotswolds.

Grasslands have been in decline – one hundred years ago, 40% of the Cotswolds was wildflower meadow, today it is less than 1.5%. We are doing a small amount to try and reverse that trend.

Meadow restoration is a year round activity but the tasks, and subsequently the tools, change with the seasons. This project is a major part of my online diary and without these tools, I would have no content.

In the summer, it’s all about seed harvesting. The brush harvester gets transported on a trailer to the field that’s being harvested. It’s towed on the back of a landrover, while we spread out a tarpaulin, peg it down and create a drop zone for the collected seed.

The seed are sifted in a coarse sieve to get rid of the chaff. They are then brushed and raked and dried in the sun. Towards the end of the day, it’s shovelled into ton bags with a lightweight plastic spade.

It’s a simple but effective process. Each tool – the harvester, the tarpaulin, the brush, the rake, the sieve all have a specific role to play. Repeat day after day for eight weeks and, good weather permitting 2,000kg of seed can be collected.

In September and October, the seed is spread. A line of people with buckets across a lightly harrowed field is all you need. The seed to thrown from the bucket as everyone moves forward, ideally reaching the refill bag in the middle of the field before you run out. Again, a simple process and simple tools ensures even distribution of seed and maximise the success of the new meadow.

Winter is habitat management. Loppers, slashers and silkies are the tools of choice to cut back encroaching scrub on parcels of land where machines and cattle can’t go. I spend a lot of time brush cutting – clearing the dominant grasses which allow the wildflowers to flourish in spring. But the clippings can’t remain – they would rot and deliver nutrient back to the very grasses we are trying to tame. So rakes are necessary to clear the area before we finish.

Simple tools and hard work can create a diverse species grassland across a south facing slope that previously was a dense sward.

In the spring, it’s survey season. Quadrats, hand lens, field guides and clipboards help to baseline the habitats and track the effectiveness of management applied to the meadow.

Then harvesting begins again. Nature is relentless. These tools and this process has created over 1,000 acres of new wildflower meadow over the years.

But, they also provide the main inspiration for my online diary. Sometimes, you need to experience the content rather than just dream it. Without any of the tools described above, my blog would be a rather drab and soul-less place.

This post was written as part of the July 2024 IndieWeb blog carnival, hosted by James.

If you have a blog, why not enter and talk about the creative tools you use.

I look forward to reading your post!

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