I am sorry that this is such an overdue newsletter. Now we are at the height of the growing season time just seems to evaporate. Since we have started harvesting for the veg box I have been putting in some long days just to keep on top of things. It’s not all me though. We have a core of brilliant members who have been regularly volunteering to come down to the field and help; you are amazing people and thanks so much.
We are doing three sizes of veg box this year priced at £5.50 for a small one person, £7.50 for a medium two person or £12.50 for a large four persons. Delivery within a five-mile radius is £1.50.
It is important that we get more customers and members this year, so please tell your friends.
They can order a trial box and everything is explained here. Just forward this email onto them so they can find out more about us. If any of your friends want to get onto our email newsletter list, they can join here.
Some of our team of veg packers. Don't just think that helping out on the farm involves growing veg and weeding; there are many other tasks that you could put your hand to.
Veg Box Amnesty
Some of you may have had a veg box last year and have not returned the plastic boxes. To save us the expense of buying new boxes this year, please return them for refilling.
We are trying to do a few new things with the veg box this year one being a salad mix. This will probably vary from time to time but at the moment it will contain Mizuna, Rocket, Red Russian Kale and Red Mustard. You can have this mix on its own or combine it with your lettuce for a delicious green salad. We have also been putting in a bag of fresh coriander leaves which you can also mix in or use in oriental dishes. You could mix that in with your green salad as well. Pea shoots will also be making an appearance in some weeks.
Here is an idea for our salad leaves that came from Molly Jaeger this morning via Facebook as I am putting the final touches to this newsletter.
We don’t have any facilities for washing veg on site so please remember to always wash everything before eating.
Our member Molly has a new series of classes starting.
Soil Blocking Experiments
I am always looking for new ways to improve our growing techniques and I have been contemplating trying out the technique of using soil blocks to raise plants for some time now. The basic idea is that you form your growing medium into a small cube into which you plant your seed. If you have the right mix of ‘soil’ to form your block, the block will hold together into a solid form as a small self-contained unit. This has a number of advantages, the main one being that it takes up little room, especially in the early stages of germinating the seedlings. Seedlings start up in a ¾ inch block, so you can raise many in a really small space. Also, the soil blocker produces blocks in multiples of 20, so you can start off as many different varieties as you want, you are not tied down to a tray of 240 plants and the associated room that this takes up. What impresses me most though, is that the plants seem to like it; they grow so well and look really healthy.
Seedlings in the old modules grow downwards and then their roots spiral around and around, not being able to find their way out. With a soil block, once the tips of the root find air at the side of the block, they stop growing, and other roots develop to explore the rest of the volume of soil within the block. You end up with a plant with a good root structure that is ready to start growing vigorously when planted on.
For lettuce and other small seeds, I have been starting them in the small blocks (x20 seeds at a time) and, when they are ready, planting them on into a larger 2 inch block. This gives the chance for the seedling to reach a good size before it is planted on. Again, the seedlings extend their root systems until they reach the outside edges of the block and stop again. However, the large block gives plenty of room for the roots to ‘fill out’ and plants seem to grow really well. Comparisons with seedlings from the standard larger seed trays show twice as much growth from seeds planted at the same time as illustrated by one of the images below.
A feature of the larger blocks is that they can be fitted with large square pins that match size of the smaller blocks allowing for an easy way of transplanting the smaller ¾ inch starter seedlings.
The soil mix is a crucial part of getting this growing system to work. You cannot just dig some soil from the field or garden to use as a growing mix. There will be too many weed seeds in there and you won’t know what you are growing. Just using compost will give you blocks that will fall apart as you water them. You can buy proprietary soil mixes which we have experimented with but these may not have organic status. One thing that we have discovered is that we can mix a clay ‘slip’ with our standard organic compost mix to help it bind together. This creates a reasonably solid block which holds together nicely and has all the right nutrients to grow the plant on successfully.
The plant on the left is in a 2 inch soil block whilst the one on the right is in a module. Notice how the module plant has roots that spiral around matting up and growing in all directions. The soil block plant is much bigger and they were both sown on the same day.
I have been experimenting with these methods because I want to make sure that we have got a really good and robust method for raising plants successfully next season. Although this system seems a lot of work, it is flexible and allows a lot of amazingly healthy plants to be raised in a small area. In spring, space is at a premium and the tiny blocks allow for a lot of plants to be grown in a confined space.
Here is a nice little fruity montage taken by Graham Clarkson last week and posted on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/burscoughcommunityfarm/).
The Green Fair at Ashurst Beacon has been cancelled again this year due to the site being waterlogged. This is unfortunate as we were going to hold a stand at the event and use it to promote the farm.
With the cancellation of The Green Fair, our attentions shift to another event, Celebrate Skelmersdale. We have quite a few members in Skelmersdale and have the potential to find more.
Here is a press release from the organisers:
On Saturday 30th of July between 11am and 3pm, Skelmersdale will be celebrating its diverse community and showcasing some of the fantastic clubs, groups and activities that are available for people to take part in. With everything from stalls to demonstrations from some of the groups working hard to make the town a great place to live there is sure to be something of interest for everyone who comes along.
The exciting showcase event will take place at the Evermoor Hub (Birleywood WN89HR) and will include; the massively successful Men-Aces Football team, Martial Arts demonstrations, Song and Dance, activities from the West Lancs Allotments Federation,Refreshments, the Fire Brigade and Police, along with opportunities to sign up for activities taking place across the town throughout the week-long celebration.
Vice-Chair Rita Newby says, “I often hear people say ‘there’s nothing to do in Skem’ but that’s just not true – there are so many activities that the reality is it can be hard to choose which ones to take part in once you know what’s out there! With the fantastic support of Hotter Comfort Shoes, Tawd Vale Lions and Farmfoods we are looking forward to showing everyone just what this town has to offer.”
The celebration, organized by a group of Skelmersdale residents and local Councillor Claire Cooper, will culminate in an event at the E-Rooms music venue on Friday 5th August. More details can be found on the Facebook page (search “Celebrate Skelmersdale”) or on the website: roncooper66.wix.com/skelmersdale1. Any local companies or individuals wishing to donate prizes or other support can get in touch with the organisers by emailing Claire4birchgreen@gmail.com.
We have a general meeting scheduled for Sunday 28th of August. This gives you the opportunity for having your say and influencing the direction that Burscough Community Farm is taking.
Long before I became an organic veg grower, I had another eco-passion; cycling. I am not a lycra person though. For me, my bike not a piece of sporting equipment only to be ridden at high speed when wearing all the right 'gear', it's a sustainable means of transport that also happens to put a smile on my face and makes me feel good. In my book, you should be able to jump on your bike wearing ordinary clothes to do ordinary stuff as an alternative to reaching for the car keys.
Is there anyone out there who feels the same?
I would like to start a local group to support like minded people which is centred at the farm (which happens to be on a well used cycle route; I know, I see them cycle past every day). I believe that the aims of such a group would be compatible with Burscough Community Farm's sustainable ethos. We could meet up for group rides, knowledge sharing, bike repairs or just hanging out. What do you think?
If you are interested, know anyone else who might be or think you can help in some other way, let me know. email@example.com or 07803 925446
We have loads of Radish at the moment so expect some good quantities in the veg box. Don't feel they are just for salads though, you can cook them in all kinds of different ways. On saying that though, here is a recipe for a salad that we tried.
Radish and feta Salad with Garlic Vinaigrette
For the vinaigrette
150ml olive oil
150ml white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ - ½ tsp herbs, such as dill or basil (dried or fresh)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the salad
225g radishes, thinly sliced
225g Feta cheese, crumbled
225g black olives, pitted
3 spring onions, or 1 small onion, finely chopped
1. Place all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a jar with a lid and shake vigorously to mix well.
2. Place salad ingredients in a bowl, mix well.
3. Add vinaigrette and refrigerate before serving.
Recipe taken from The Boxing Clever Cookbook by Jacqui Jones and Joan Wilmot
We really enjoyed it but we didn't use all that vinaigrette on the salad. We saved it in a bottle in the fridge for more salad encounters.
How To Store Your Veg
The best way to store your vegetables if you want to keep everything in good condition until you get your next veg box:
Potatoes don't have to be stored in the fridge but do have to be cool and dry, they must be covered to avoid light or they will turn green.
Onions and garlic like airy conditions, hang on ropes or in nets.
Veg that like to be stored cold and dry either loose in the fridge or in a brown paper bag include courgettes, cucumbers, broad beans, swedes and beetroot.
French beans, fennel, celery, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, salad leaves, lettuce, carrots, turnips, parsnips, spring onions, leeks, radish and cabbage like to be stored damp in plastic bags in the fridge (take out of any paper bags, mist with water before putting in the fridge).
Welcome to all the new readers of this newsletter. If you want anything including in future newsletters or have any queries or ideas, get in touch with me through the email or mobile number listed above..
With kind regards