Sorry but this newsletter is a little overdue. It has been a mad busy time on the farm. The cold spring has put us back so now we are having to pull out all the stops to get us back on track. This is my favourite time of year with everything growing like crazy and the growing season is so full of potential. Now we are well into May, our tender crops such as Courgettes, Pumpkins and Runner Beans can be grown (hopefully) without any fear of frosts. The first of the potatoes are well above the ground and I have even seen our first tomato formed.
The Beltane BBQ last turned out to be a success with over 60 people and raising us £274.00. We owe thanks to all those that helped make it happen, but especially to our cooks, Andy, Terry and Shane, Geraldine and Susan for making the salads (with some of our own rocket) and a special thanks to Ruth who organised the raffle and playing card draw.
It is the first time that we have ran an event where we charged a ticket price and organised our own catering so I would be interested in your opinon on how you think it went. Should we organise more events this way; please let me know?
Bryan enjoying a burger with our cooks Shane, Andy and Terry (L-R)
Poly Tunnel Overflowing
We have just about reached the capacity of our poly tunnel with seedlings literaly hanging from the rafters (its a good way of keeping them our of reach of the slugs). It has become a plant production line, getting seedlings to germinate and then grow on. When big enough, they move onto the cold frames and finally out into the market garden.
It is a very satisfying process to raise something from a seed into produce that you can eat. It is a process that we take for granted and one that I feel priviliged to be a part of every day. Growing food teaches you about life and about nature and I wish more people could take part in it first hand; this planet would be a much better place.
Making A Difference - The Wheel Hoe
Anyone who has visited the farm recently will have witnessd me in an almost giddy state of enthusiasm, a state that has been brought about by the wheelhoe. This tool can be set up in many ways, but it has the prime function of clearing weeds effectively and efficiently. Hoeing a 100ft row of crops or pathway takes a few minutes and the whole plot can get hoed in a few hours.
These particular wheelhoes were made in the 1940's and 50's, a time when market gardening provided so much of our fresh food. It offers an amazing human powered solution to keeping large areas of vegetable beds free of weeds.
The battle against weeds is never over, but at least I now have a fighting chance.
The Trees Are Dying
Well, thankfully only parts of them. I went through the Alder coppice the other day and noticed that as I walked, hundreds of lower branches were snapping off as I brushed past. The trees have decided which branches are not getting enough light and not producing enough of a return energy wise. These lower branches dry up and wither off so the tree can put all it's effort into growing upwards to reach the light. This is great news for us, as areas of the Alder coppice are growing tall straght poles which will be of great value to us in construction projects in the future. Where the Alder are more generously spaced, lower branches are retained to gather maximum sunlight.
New Cloches Are A Success
The new cloches supported by the blue water pipe seem be the answer to our brassica growing problems. They provide a great environment for the plants to thrive with protection from a long list of things that want to eat them before we get the chance. The main benefit though is the ease of access we get to hoe the crop. This wasn't possible with the large sheets of wondermesh that we had layed out over several rows. Pulling the sheets off to hoe was a major job, hence it didn't get done enough and crops got lost in weeds.
This system is designed to fit our 30inch beds and is quickly set up and stripped down at the end of the season so it can be moved on to different beds. Thanks to Lancashire County Coucil for providing some of the funding for this.
An Area For The Children
Molly and Barnaby have been busy at work, putting together a growing area especially for the smaller children. It will be surrounded with a 'growing wall' made up from living willow and recycled pallets. I think it meets the approval of the two 'overseer's' sat chilling out in this picture. Molly and Barnably could do with a hand if you fancy lending one. They are creating a great resource for bringing little ones to.