Ino Flail Mower Arrives

Having bought the right tractor (AGT 850) to work on our steep slopes it was necessary to get a mower/topper to deal with the overgrown grass, bracken and rushes on the land. At this stage things are not too bad, but the land has been let go for a while and if not tackled soon the pasture will start reverting to being overgrown with bracken and scrub etc..

Flail mower
John with the INO MMT Flail Mower on the AGT 850 Tractor

First decision was whether to get a rotary mower (less expensive) or a flail mower. The former is more usually used for simple pasture topping the later for ‘chewing’ up scrub and bracken. The former is generally much cheaper (and uses less fuel). However, the need to deal with some bracken and thick grass meant that I thought the later would be more suited (and also have better weight distribution when attached to the tractor on the steep land). The next question was what make to buy? There are numerous models out there; many now made in China some with what can only be described as ‘chocolate’ gearboxes. Good second hand flail mowers rarely come on the market and often the bearings and gearboxes have had a thrashing; hence it was a case of buying new again for this key bit of equipment

I settled on an INO flail mower which are made in Slovenia by a company that has been going for 20 years or so (they are also rebadged by other manufacturers in the UK and sold under their own trade names).

I purchased it directly from the importers (Willow Farm Machinery) who shipped it by carrier. Unfortunately the carrier’s lorry was too large to get down our lane! After some lateral thinking the driver delivered to a nearby agricultural dealer who kindly brought it here on a trailer for a small reward (drink!).

After hitching up to the AGT I had to cut down the PTO shaft which was too long; greased the bearings and off I went. We have had a particularly dry spell which is ideal (as working on our slopes in the wet could be suicidal!). The tractor and mower coped admirably on even the steepest bits. However, turning at the top of the steepest slopes looked a tad dangerous – so I dealt with these by reversing up and then mowing coming down. I did notice one or two local farmers slowing down on the road below to see what I was up to; most seem quite intrigued to see an Alpine tractor rather than a traditional tractor!

Once all the land has been topped (I didn’t get it all finished due to it turning wet) I shall use some Asulox spray to treat the worst areas of bracken as they start to regrow and probably also spray some of the rushes with Headland Polo. Once this has been done (perhaps a couple of times) I should not need to use chemicals much with an annual top with the flail keeping things under control.

Share

Alpine Tractor AGT 850

When we moved here we were hoping that we could use a normal second hand tractor like an old Massey Ferguson 35 or 135. Failing that a small 4 wheel drive might have been suitable. However, our land (17 acres of pasture and 6 acres of wood) really is very steep. The farmer who used to own it told us that he had had a few ‘incidents’ with a tractor on the land! John thus decided that buying the special tool for the job (even with the extra cost) was the better part of valour! Working a tractor on steep hills is one of the biggest causes of fatalities on the land and he has no plans to shorten his retirement unnecessarily.

AGT 850
At least the brakes work!

This led us to undertake a lot of research an eventually we settled on buying an ‘Alpine tractor’. This type of tractor with it’s low centre of gravity and with the engine weight over the front axle is very popular on small hilly family farms in Italy and Switzerland. They are not used much in the UK and indeed many farmers have advised us not to buy one as ‘they are an unknown quantity’. Actually their mechanical simplicity was a plus point for us in that any decent mechanic should be able to repair it without needing to plug his computer in or have access to the service error codes.

The downside is that they are very expensive (for what they are) and second hand ones do not come on the market very often. Thus our new AGT 850T was delivered today. This is the ‘non articulated’ version of the tractor; i.e. it does not bend in the middle (although the two axles can pivot in the horizontal plane for better traction). We’ve also specified wider and lower tyres and set them as wide as possible to give maximum stability. The engine is a 48 hp Lombardini engine. It has 12 gears and a shuttle box. The driving position is reversible so that you can swing the seat and controls round to face the other direction. This means that you can face forward with some implements. It has a single and a double spool valve on the hydraulic side of things.

As there is not much user information on the internet we are hoping that this blog will become a little review over time. As we use it more we will add information and give details of it’s performance and reliability etc.

Anyway we unloaded the red tractor today and  after filling it up with red diesel John took it for a spin up some of our ‘lesser’ slopes. It seemed to cope with things pretty well. We’re hoping to get a pasture topper, transport box and set of chain harrows in due course.

Another reason for choosing this tractor is that we will need to get up into our wood to start pulling out fallen trees. This tractor will hopefully be ideal for working in such an environment on the side of a slope. A number of people use them with a forwarding winch for extracting wood out of forestry land.

As said we’ll keep the blog updated with how we get on with this machine.

Share

Corofin Festival 2011

After our trip to London to Ecobuild the day before we set off for Ireland. The Stena ferry for Rosslare left at 2.30pm so we had to leave at about 11 am as we needed to pick up some food for the journey as we did not want to pay ferry prices. The drive to Fishguard only takes about one hour and a half as the roads are pretty good. We were quite surprised how pretty Fishguard is. Stena actually own the ferry terminal the rest of the harbour is a small fishing port surrounded by a small picturesque town and beautiful coast. The railway station stops quite close to the ferry terminal making it convenient for foot passengers. We  met some people who had travelled from Bath with only one change at Cardiff.

The journey to Ireland is about three and a half hours. The England v Ireland cricket world cup was on live so that passed the time. Ireland won!

The drive the other side to County Clare is about three hours. We got off the ferry at about 6.20pm and were in Peppers Bar by about 10pm. Peppers is a famous music pub in Feakle. As it was a Wednesday evening we were expecting a session but it was very quiet as everybody was at the festival in Corofin. We went on to our friend’s B+B Clondanagh Cottage near to Tulla. Clondanagh cottage is situated in peaceful countryside on a donkey farm and overlooks Clondanagh Lake. Dorothy is an amazing hostess and she and her husband Michael and their two children make you feel very welcome. The B+B is very cosy with lovely bright rooms and super ambience.

Dorothy certainly spoils you with her lovely breakfasts which set you up for the day.

Irish Breakfast
Full Irish Breakfast at Clondanagh Cottage

The area is famous for the fishing being in the East Clare Lakelands. Dorothy, who herself is a keen fisherwoman, can give advice and hire out tackle and provide a boat for Clondanagh lake where there is private lake frontage.

McGlynn
Arty McGlynn one of the Best Guitarists in Trad Music Playing at Corofin

This area is also very famous for Traditional Irish music which is the reason we started to visit. We decided to go to Corofin festival this year as this is the first opportunity we have had (a big advantage of being retired). Corofin is a small village just on the Burren only about a 45 minute drive from Clondanagh Cottage. Corofin together with Tulla and Feakle are hugely important in the traditional music of Clare (and Irish music in general). If you want to hear the ‘real thing’ as opposed to a tourist pastiche this is the area to come.

Mick Leahy
Mick Leahy Playing with John Blake and Lamond Gillespie at Corofin 2011

The festival itself was excellent. It is quite small but very well organised. We had specifically gone to see Lamond Gillespie, John Blake and Mick Leahy of Traditional Irish music of London and Humours of Highgate fame. They rarely play together and were brilliant giving a lesson in how to play traditional music – perfectly together without being over the top – letting the music speak for itself. True masters.

In fact there was excellent music the whole weekend. We will certainly go next year as well if we are not travelling.

The Burren is  a karst landscape area in Northwest Clare and is famous for its biodiversity and it’s archeological sites. As we were exceptionally lucky with the weather, dry sunny and quite mild for the time of year, we decided to explore a bit more of this beautiful area and take a few photographs. We eventually found, the very well preserved dolmen, Poulnabrone (well we didn’t have a map!). The name means the hole of sorrows. John managed to take some good photographs at sunset.

Dolmen
Poulnabrone Dolmen © John Burton

We had a quiet day on the Saturday, when John helped Michael building some sheds that Dorothy is going to use for fishing tackle and then went to at Macks Bar with the Healy brothers later that evening. They were brilliant as usual.

On Sunday we had to come home as there is a lot of sorting out to do  with the house alterations. The journey back was all right. We managed to find a 24 hour Tesco in Clonmel which is useful to know about for a break, especially if we ever used the late ferry. The ferry arrived on time, in fact, it may have been early.  We arrived home at about 1-30am.

Share