soil, muck and money
On a cool November day 29 crofters and land managers gathered in Elphin for a workshop organised by Soil Association Scotland with help from CALL. Around half were crofters from the CALL area, others having travelled from Gairloch, Ardgay, Brora, Croy and the Black Isle. We learnt that soil is a living thing and has to be nurtured in order to get the best returns – be that grazing for stock, trees, or fruit and veg production. We heard about grass and clover management, and about FYM – that’s farmyard manure – and other ways of feeding the soil. The two guys leading the course were very knowledgeable and patient with our many questions. All this was helped by the excellent lunch (including yummy and very local pork) provided by the Elphin hall team. We ventured out in the afternoon, luckily between sleet showers, to visit Tim and Wendy’s croft where we gathered round to hear from James as he dug soil pits to look at structure and organic content – Wendy looked pleased to be told that it was the best soil he’d seen all week!
We also admired the productive vegetable garden – protected from the winds of Sutherland by ‘baffle’ fencing – a great set-up. Then it was back to the hall for a warming cup of tea and delicious cake (with Elphin raspberries) and more time to chat. A convivial and interesting day which everyone enjoyed and could learn something from – if only that it’s essential to keep soil fertility up. Of course that’s one reason behind our aim of establishing more woodland in the area, as the deep roots bring up nutrients from deep in the ground and the falling leaves nourish the soil….as well as providing very welcome shelter. Viv