Tag Archives: farming

Clearing the sunflower fields

In previous years, we’ve never been here to see the aftermath of the sunflower harvest. This year, because of the unusual weather this spring, crops were delayed and harvesting took place later. So for the first time we have been able to observe the process, and it’s fascinating. It will make me think differently when I crunch sunflower seeds in my muesli, or pour sunflower oil into the wok.

After the sunflower heads have been carted away for processing, the field is left with stalks intact [below].field after harvesting 12-10-13The stubble is rougher than that left by wheat, but at a distance it looks like the gentle fuzz of a chin unshaven for a day [below].cleared field, stubbly horizon 12-10-13The next job is to rake the stalks, and clear them. This is not a single process, but many steps and hours on the tractor. First, the farmer rakes the stalks into lines [below].farmer rakes stalks into lines first 12-10-13Then he rakes the field in the opposite direction and clears the lines into piles. The result, a neat line of piles, often two metres high [below].a line of heaps of stalks 12-10-13There is a pleasing geometry to the finish resulted.heap of stalks - close-up 12-10-13heap of stalks1 12-10-13heap of stalks2 12-10-13heap of stalks3 12-10-13heap of stalks4 12-10-13stalks and goats 12-10-13After the stalks have been raked up and burned, there are still stalks left in the ground [below].field after stalks raked up 12-10-13So the remaining last job for the farmer is also the first job in preparation for the next crop. He ploughs the field [below] ready to scatter the seeds which will germinate and take root over the winter. A dusty job, but a symbolic one: the changing of the seasons.a dusty job, ploughing after clearing 12-10-13

5 to remember
una tarea polvorienta – a  dusty job
el rastrojo – stubble
los tallos – the stalks
la cosecha – the harvest
el arado – the plough

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Clearing the #sunflower fields in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-zy

The Spanish way of making-do

There’s something thrifty about the rural Spanish people we live amongst that reminds me of my parents’ generation who grew up in World War Two and learned how to make-do, how to do without, how to make the best of what they’d got. Improvisation: the Andalucians could win prizes at it. Things are not thrown away lightly, everything is hoarded. Large white containers with thin metal handles which once held paint are now used as buckets for animal feed or when collecting veggies. Plastic lids from large food containers are used as bowls to collect eggs. Black agricultural twine is re-used and re-used, substituting for all manner of things from tree ties to hose connectors. PG dragging tyres1 12-7-13So I shouldn’t have been surprised by the sight of Pablo in our olive grove, at first glance ploughing the field he had ploughed the day before. All olive farmers plough around now to keep the weeds down. Weeds are their enemy: they take water and nutrients from the soil which by rights should go to the olive trees. There is a second reason for ploughing up the summer weeds: fire control. Every landowner has a responsibility to maintain the land against fire risk.
But at second glance Pablo was not ploughing, instead hitched behind his tractor were three huge tractor tyres. At first I thought this was an alternative way of harrowing, a process undertaken after ploughing which flattens the rough earth and breaks up clods of soil to provide a good tilth ready to sow seeds. No, the purpose was more canny, more clever. The land here is a mixture of red sandstone and white limestone, in all the fields can be seen small and large stones in recently ploughed fields. There is never a shortage of rocks around here for building rough stone walls. Last autumn, Pablo and his two sons collected three loads of stones from the same olive grove. PG dragging tyres2 12-7-13Since then, someone locally has discovered that dragging tractor tyres over the surface of recently-ploughed soil collects the stones inside the tyres. Since spotting Pedro and his tractor, we have seen other farmers locally dragging tractor tyres too. Much easier on the back than collecting the stones by hand.
My father was a farmer. Sadly he never lived to see this house, but I know he would have smiled at the sight of Pablo’s tractor tyres. PG dragging tyres3 12-7-135 to remember
economico/a – thrifty
la Segunda Guerra Mundial – Second World War
la improvacion – improvisation
el premio – prize
el envase – container