Rain, fat lambs and early starts
James Kightley - 21 June 2011
Second instalment of 'down on the farm' you again find me sitting in my caravan wondering how best to condense the last month or so of activities and life in deepest Somerset in to a succinct blog.
Firstly a big thank you for all the nice comments, encouragement and general positivity that flowed my way after the last blog, it really does help to know that people are reading and enjoying. Lots of people said how envious they were and I guess it may help redress the bucolic image if I give you a flavour of last Monday:
- 4.30am - Alarm goes off
- 4.45am - Drive 1hr15 mins from Bristol to Langport
- 6am - Pick 5 crates of broad beans, 1 crate of chard, 1 crate of perpetual spinach and 2 crates of baby spinach in the horizontal rain. (all the growers reading this are thinking - 'easy morning')
- 8am - Breakfast
- 9am - Pick 2 crates of carrots, more baby spinach.
- 10.30am - Hand weed dwarf beans, strim weedy paddock
- 11am - Coffee
- 11.30 - Scrape out chicken house, rotivate and rake over polytunnel
- 1pm - Lunch
- 2pm - Hand weed indoor beans.
- 4.30pm - Yes for two and a half hours - Finish.
See, it's not all woodpeckers and sunshine!
It has however been a great few weeks, the rain last week and weekend really gave everything a boost and touch wood will help all the seedlings we've planted out go from strength to strength. It's been a busy time planting and picking, both farms are enjoying good crops of spinach, indoor salads and both have planted out hundreds of brassicas and thousands of leeks. At Merricks the box scheme has kicked off for the season and so 6am starts are here!
On the animal front at Pitney we managed to sell quite a few lambs to Graig Farm which is great news when grass is in such short supply. Rob has ended up having to graze off some fields which were earmarked for silage which may make things difficult for forage later in the year, but has been the right choice for the lambs which are fetching good prices now.
I've been thinking about what my Apprenticeship project should be and so far have four ideas which I may use. The first is around sustainable water use and looking at seed selection, irrigation and planting to deal with what appears to be a new climate pattern - hot dry spring, late frosts, wet summers etc. The second is the use of horses in small scale organic production, there are some people already doing great things - I met Annkatrin & Ed from Chagfood at the recent, and amazing Green Scythe Fair and they really sparked my interest in horse-power. Thirdly indoor fruit tree production - Rob and Lizzie have an apricot tree in one of their polytunnels and while it hasn't done very well this year, I reckon there could be possibilties for local production of more exotic fruit. And finally developing a, I hate to use the words, 'marketing plan' for small scale growers using the tricks of the trade to help them be successful. It strikes me that growers have little time to focus on marketing their veg and I wonder if a guide or web service might be helpful. As you can see they are all fairly large in scope but hopefully I can narrow them down to an interesting and useful project. Let me know your thoughts, I'd be interested to hear any and all views.
To try and make blogging easier and to mark the passing of the year I've decided to finish every blog with the same six questions, so here goes:
- What's giving me blisters? - bashing thistles in the pasture with a big old mattock, but satisfying when you get a 'thistle in one'.
- What been blowing my mind? - ladybird larvae - thought ladybirds were cool? Meet their badass former selves.
- What's at the top of it's game? Broad beans, spinach and new potatoes, YUM YUM! Buy them now from your local organic farm!
- What new skills have I learned? - I can now use a rotivator, I can almost judge a lamb that's ready to go to market and today I learned how to stitch up wool bags to send off to the Wool Marketing Board.
- Who's the WWOOFER? Lovely couple called Steve and Lois who are thinking about starting their own veg business, Lois may become an Apprentice, watch this space! And Meryll a South African lady who is on holiday visiting her family in the UK, a Sports Therapist who has offered to 'fix' our ailments - happy days!
- What's the problem? Onion white rot, mangey pigs and pigeons - solutions gratefully recieved ( I can guess the pigeon solutions).
Thanks for reading, as a treat for making it this far I've tried to attach some photos I took when I started at Merricks Farm (that's my caravan on the left!), check them out, more current ones soon.
23 June 2011 20:15
Cheers Tim, It's just my Monday that starts like that, and I'm not a morning person!
22 June 2011 10:31
A 4.30 alarm call? Not sure how sustainable that's going to be in the long-run! But great to hear it's going well - and I think the marketing plan project sounds like a winner.
Post a comment