Thursday, June 30, 2005
Late spring days to those of early fall, witness the passing of the Shepherds and their flocks of up 500 sheep. Accompanied generally by two Catalan sheepdogs - Gos d'Atura Català, though often these days, the dogs may be mongrol. The shepherds walk up to 20 kilometers per day, guiding their charges as they forage on the grass and weeds which sprout between barley harvests, or along the hedgerow. In their wake they leave a carpet of droppings which look like someone spilt a tin of giant sized caviar. Older gardeners swear by sheep droppings as fertilizer for tomatoes. Mayby I should follow in their wake with by brush and pan
We invited Francisco one of the shepherds to graze his flock on our land. We thought that in return for the free grass they would take care of the weeds for us; and fertilize the land with their droppings as they walked.
Francisco explained that the sheep could not graze on the land because of the pinchon , a yellow coloured flower on a mass of prickles. So we had the arduous job of hand weeding the pinchon, to make matters worse we are unable to burn the weed because of the fire risk.
Although these very particular sheep would not co-operate by eating our weeds, they eat all of our potted plants and seedlings. Including my prize Ginger plants.
The prospect of 14,000m2 of hand weeding was a nightmare. So we purchased a McCullough strimmer; and hoped that by cutting the weeds down before they reached the flowering stage we would prevent seed formation and ease the burden for subsequent years.
We faced two further problems; though the strimmer was excellent for cutting through the weeds, amongst those weeds were large field stones. The sort of stone used to build ancient chuches and settlements. Each stone had to be dug out with a pick or mattock, collected and then barrowed away and there were literally tons of them, it must rain stones here. The stones will be used to construct garden features in the near future, although it appears we may have enough to build a small basilica.
The second problem we faced whilst cutting the pinchon, was that they seemed to harbor the worlds collection of caragols or snails. If like me you find the thought of eating them abhorrent then strimming is not for you. By the end of any period of strimming your clothes are covered with debris from the snails. Try it without a face mask and you will find that your eyes become magnets for the shells, whilst the soft parts find their way into your mouth. You can tell a happy strimmer, by counting the number of dead snails on their teeth.