The wonder of drains

When I first moved to Fife and we would be involved with helping on the family farm, I have to be honest and say that field drains did not excite enthusiasm or passion in me. Drainage work nearly always seemed to coincide with school holiday times, with the Christmas holidays being a particularly favourite time of year to start. Day after day of the festive season would be spent on ‘the drains’ and any dreams I had of long walks in the crisp air and cosy family time in front of the fire were quickly laid to rest. Instead, we would focus on lunch breaks, when we would set off across the fields to find the grafters down very large, mud filled holes and pass down flasks of hot soup and bags of sandwiches, all amongst yells of ‘digga digga’from my son, who was desperate to get involved in any way possible.

However, in recent years I have come to appreciate the brilliance of drains to turn a waterlogged, unusable area, into something workable. Now, when I’m passing a fertile field I imagine the network of drains running under the ground and creating the usable land you see on top. This is particularly pertinent to Lochaber farm which is mainly clay soil, and although preferable to sandy soil, you have to work hard to stop it becoming waterlogged and unusable.

Last time we wrote we mentioned that we suspected we hadn’t really scratched the surface of the required drainage work – it’s safe to say we were right. This past fortnight provided perfect ‘drainage work’ conditions, a mixture of downpours followed by clear crisp days. Thanks to all that rain from Storm Doris we were instantly able to see the areas of the farm that are most in need of drainage work. We decided to tackle the roadside ditch next to the farm entrance as a priority and it didn’t take much excavation to discover the problem – the original drainage pipe was in bits, and about as much use as a sieve. In some ways this was a blessing, there was no hope of a patch and repair job (which can be a lot more fiddly and time consuming); this was a fairly straightforward case of laying a new pipe and backfilling the hole. Our repair was put to the test by the Scottish weather a few days later and we’re happy to be able to report that the new pipe is working a treat.

In the kitchen I’ve been trying out sourdough – something which has flummoxed me for a while (I now realise I was probably being too impatient). The whole process of making sourdough takes time, but each stage in the process only requires a small amount of time, so it’s easy enough to fit around whatever else you’re doing. I have now successfully baked my first batch, one loaf of which was proved and baked in a loaf tin and the other freestyle on a baking tray – the tin version (pictured below) was definitely superior in both appearance and texture…more to come over the coming weeks and months.

There was great excitement in St Andrews this week when our local supermarket had 1kg of lemons on offer for 50p! My mind raced with ideas of what to do with them – and I settled on a recipe for Bramley lemon curd taken from River Cottage, you can find the recipe here – to me, it is the taste of Spring.


In other news it looks as though the new neighbours have moved in before us; gaining planning permission and a building warrant for sheep is obviously a quicker process than for us humans.


And…lovely Jock the bull seems to be suffering from an identity crisis:


Until next time.

2 thoughts on “The wonder of drains

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  1. I consider myself educated! I had no idea fields had to have drains. Are these for crop growing fields or all types that have drainage issues? And how was the sour dough? Taste test needed! There was a fantastic prog on BBC a few weeks ago which included an article on sourdough. It used to be the staple bread stuff in the UK, much easier to digest than others, until highly processed took over. It’s here:

    1. Not all fields do, it very much depends on the on the field (the topography, the soil type etc are factors that affect drainage) and what it will be used for. Yes, that’s what I’ve read myself about sourdough, I’m finding the science behind it quite interesting. Michael Moseley talks a lot of sense, I’ll need to take a look at that.

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