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A Week on the Estate: A Fodder Crop, An Unblocked Culvert & A Lucky Horseshoe

The cool, damp aspect of our summer persisted this week, and the land continued to thrive on it. It’s hard to believe how quickly the seasons have rolled along this year. We’ll soon be thinking about the harvest.

Our pea and barley mix is certainly getting close to being mown and baled. The under-sown grass and clover will soon get more sunlight, which will help to fix some free nitrogen. Pea and barley together form an arable-break fodder crop, which we’ll feed to our finishing cattle as it’s high in protein and a more sustainable option than buying in grains or soya. The combination also improves the nitrogen for the next crop and, because it’s cut early, helps to suppress weeds and reduces the need for spraying.

At The Lodge Cottage, Ajet Drain Services of Horncastle worked hard to clear out a blocked culvert pipe.  We now know how deep we need to go to clear the ditch. We also have some brickwork repairs to look into as part of the next phase of re-building the old culvert wall.

Daniel Perkins has been working hard to make The Old Rectory picture-perfect and spick-and-span, ready for its new role as an elegant and secluded holiday rental in the tranquil heart of the Lincolnshire Wolds.

Paul Barnes is feeling lucky. He unearthed an old horseshoe during work at Lodge Cottage, a small but fascinating piece of our landscape’s history.  For almost as long as horses have been domesticated, horseshoes have existed in one form or another. The Romans are thought to have used protective leather ‘hoof boots’, an evolution of the rawhide coverings used on the steppes of Asia long before.

The nailed, metal horse-shoe has been with us for about 1,000 years. Initially, these shoes used bronze, giving way to iron in the 13th century. The horseshoe in its modern, nailed form uses a variety of modern alloys depending on the work required. Race-horses may be shod with ultra-light aluminium shoes, while working horses benefit from hard-wearing steel with protruding caulks for traction.

Theories abound as to why horseshoes are considered lucky. One theory features Saint Dunstan, an ironworker before he became a 10th-century Archbishop of Canterbury. According to legend, he was asked to shoe the devil’s horse one day. Pretending not to recognise the dark lord, he nailed a shoe to the devil’s foot and only removed it once the devil had promised not to trouble any household with a horseshoe nailed above the door.

Other historians favour a more practical theory. Refined and re-workable iron was a precious commodity in a pre-industrial age, and in medieval Europe horseshoes were often accepted in lieu of coin. If a peasant – usually dependent on crude wooden tools to work the land – came across a piece of good, refined iron lost by a mounted knight in a hurry, that was indeed a piece of good luck.