Seaweed Time

It’s seaweed time!

Seaweed time, you ask? Yes. It’s the time of year when the Erraid Community gathers seaweed from the beach and spreads it on the vegetable beds. Seaweed is an excellent fertilizer and even repels slugs. It’s also free, and if you live on an island, it’s relatively easy to obtain. We take around 10 trailer loads of seaweed per year, which feels sustainable in relation to the amount that washes up.

Erraid lore is full of tales of long days hauling seaweed up from the beach to the gardens and then labouring to spread it on the vegetable beds. Today, we are thrilled to use technology, in the shape of the trusty tractor, to make the job a little easier.

Seaweed time begins in late autumn/early winter when vast quantities of the stuff wash up on shore. So a couple of days ago, our trusty tractor man Steve checked out the tractor’s scooper. It was stuck. No going up, no going down. No scooping. No scooping of seaweed. Visions of forking endless streams of seaweed into the trailer haunted us.

The men of the community could be seen hunched over an iPad showing YouTube videos about hydraulics. How sweet, I thought, as I carried on with the dishes. (Do we have gender-stereotypical roles around here? Well, yes. And no. Today I decided that if I wanted my male colleague to carry on whipping up that chocolate pudding for dinner, it behoved me to apply that plunger to the blocked drain myself.) Later, YouTube abandoned, Steve could be seen hanging from the scooper in a vain attempt to get it to shift. Still later, Steve could be seen carrying a can of hydraulic oil. Voila, the scooper scoops. Whew!

And so the next day, Steve assessed the tide, ignored the drizzle and set out for the beach in the newly-oiled tractor. Some of the rest of us trailed behind, not wildly inspired by the day’s task, it has to be said. Myself, I had indoor work to do. Important work, of course. I promised to help spread seaweed later on.

Tea break arrived along with the damp seaweed collectors, who brought tales of adventure: of the tractor losing power, of the tide coming in, of an urgent message to the builders on the island, who have big machines, to help move the tractor before the tide got it. And Steve, in his own words, ‘like any good mechanic, checked the diesel. There was none.’ And so, happily, another machine-related crisis was averted. Even more happily, the tractor duly dumped two full trailer-loads of seaweed at the bottom of the garden, saving a few backs for the next task of forking it onto the vegetable beds.
There’s nothing quite like the endorphin rush that accompanies repeated forking and wheelbarrow-pushing in the rain with one’s dear fellow community-members, rain and sweat dripping down one’s glasses and face.

Today, it all happened again, except that it was a beautiful sunny day, the tractor made three trips, we called all hands onto deck, and I documented it.

Seaweed-spreading is an aerobic sport, as demonstrated by the lovely Arjette Kasperts.

Now that’s a pile of seaweed, and this is after half of it has been spread. Luckily we’ve got a good crew to tackle it…

…because there are a lot of vegetable beds. Here’s one garden of four:
The best thing? Apart from the tractor working and the rain holding off, that is. The best thing is that one trailer load of seaweed almost perfectly fits into one vegetable bed. I wish I could say that we planned it that way, but I think we just got lucky.

Arjette knows that people eat seaweed…

Julia borrows a little seaweed to attend to her complexion…