The first Seminar, enthusiastic tupping and squashed chicken... : Latest blogs from @SoilAssociation

The first Seminar, enthusiastic tupping and squashed chicken...

Emma Heseltine - 20 November 2011

This weekend I have been to the first of my apprenticeship seminars at Carey Organics in Herefordshire. It was a long trip but worth it. It was great to meet my fellow apprentices and see round another organic farm. The apples from Carey’s make a very nice cider and we were very happy to sample it. Aside from the socialising and wide ranging discussions on farming in the pub (always a good place to put the world to rights) we covered the living soil and organic principles, standards and conversion. Both very interesting days and sparked much debate. I look forward to a few weeks time when we all meet again.

At Willowford we have to reapply the raddle on the boys who are now out with their different groups of ewes. Magnus has been on top form and has already tupped 20-odd of his ladies; Bob and Geoff have done about 8/9 each. Magnus even jumped the wall and saw to a couple of Geoff’s ewes. Such enthusiasm for his job is very encouraging but it seems like he has slowed down now. I’m not surprised he needs a rest. The other two have some catching up to do.
There are some leaks at Willowford. There is a trough with a pipe puncture and a suspicious wet patch in one of the front fields. The trough is a fairly straight forward fix, it has a hole in anyway so we switch off the water and put in a new one. A nice flat surface is prepared with stones, it’s a little bit crazy paving but the trough doesn’t wobble when I’m done. The pipe is trimmed and reattached to the trough. After turning the water back on a disappointingly slow stream of water flows out to fill the trough, it’s going to take a while but there doesn’t look to be a leak anymore. The wet patch is another matter. It could be a field drain again or maybe a pipe between the troughs. We dig some random holes and some drainage channels to try and get a look at what is going on. It seems like we have found a spot where water is bubbling up but there is far too much water to see. Hopefully the channels will clear the water and a few dry days would be nice please…

Kevin of the Wildlife trust has come to tell us about a chicken problem, ‘one of your chickens is trying to Spatchcock itself…’ The lambing shed is full to the roof with hay and the chickens just love to get in there, poke around and lay their eggs in inappropriate places given a chance. Trouble is this one has got stuck down the side of the bales and is clucking pathetically. It was only spotted because the wall is slatted, its feathers were poking through a slat and Kevin saw it wiggling. I get a torch and crawl along the gap between roof and bales, easy for a chicken, tight squeeze for a human. When I get to it I can’t reach so have to pull out a few bales and give it a leg up. The chicken is very happy to be rescued; it lets me carry it out to its perch-mates without a fuss. Now I know it’s not injured I can have a good laugh at it.

Emma completed a degree in Creative Imaging at Huddersfield University before working for a photography studio as an editor. Taking a break from the office world she worked in outdoor education for several years, climbing, abseiling, shooting, trampolining and even life-guarding with children of all ages. When Emma found out about the apprenticeship scheme with the Soil Association it seemed the perfect chance to do something worthwhile and fulfilling. After much searching and badgering farms in the North of England she found a position with Hadrian Organics and started in July 2011. So far it is living up to her expectations, every day is a new challenge and every day is different.

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24 November 2011 18:54

Thanks, I think after 2 years these blogs will add up to a book!

Tim Perrett
24 November 2011 13:08

Hi Emma, great read - think there must be a book in you with these experiences expertly described with good humour :)

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