Spring Farm News
It's official, spring is here! We had our first lambs on Thursday 16th March. For me this is a real sign of spring, along with flowers on the Hawthorne and the grass beginning to grow in earnest. I have to remind myself it is still just March! We have also had a litter of piglets born down at our Brookthorpe farm. We used a new breed of boar this year, he was a Duroc and is deep red colour, this meant our piglets came out for the first time with a colour other than black and pink! They are incredibly varied, we have spotty ones, ginger ones, black ones and a couple with a white strip over there shoulders like their mother. They are growing fast and enjoying the spring sunshine in the orchard.
The cows are still in the barn eating hay and silage. They are in the barn for a couple of reasons, not because they can't handle the cold and wet, but because they are big and heavy and their hooves would churn up the pasture, damaging the soil. Also their precious muck makes wonderful compost for the veg and hay meadows.
For many years on the farm for one reason or another we managed to get by with some pretty old and basic equipment and whatever we were missing we borrowed from our neighbors. However recently we have decided to invest in some new equipment. One of these machines I'm really exited to now own is a fence post driver that goes on the back of a tractor. It might seem like an odd thing, but when you take into account all the old and dilapidated fences we have, it will make repairing them a much easier job.
We are also investing in a comb harrow, this is used on the grassland to scarify the land, pulling out dead grass and moss and stimulating more grass growth. It can also be used to lightly cover freshly sown seeds, and even used as a weeding tool in some veg crops.
From April we will be trialing an arrangement whereby you can select meat from the fridge at Hawkwood when collecting your veg. It will be re stocked twice a week and will work on a first come first served basis. If there is something in particular that you would like, or a large amount of something please get in touch with me and I can make that available to you. This method was stopped previously due to break ins and theft. However with a new door and lock I am cautiously optimistic it will work, and hopefully increase meat sales. I would welcome any feed back you might have on the meat, and please, try a joint now and then, they are really delicious and not difficult to cook!
Farmer Sam Hardiman
Spring news from the Veggie Fields
As I write this in early March, the weather feels very spring like, the tree buds are swelling, the grass is growing, and many of the vegetables still left after the winter are putting on a new spurt of growth. But the weather can be fickle, particularly at this time of the year, and farmers very prone to worry (at all times of the year), and we could yet get a return to winter. It feels like we have had a proper winter this year, a relief after so many mild and wet winters, and everything has grown well on the farm. We still have plenty of cabbages, kale, parsnips and leeks left. We may all be a bit tired of those winter stalwarts but this is Britain, and this is local food grown on our own farm. To brighten things up though there is also plenty of chard and mixed salad in the polytunnels, and purple sprouting broccoli in the field to come later in the spring.
We have had one of the best crops of carrots ever this year. We are now lifting the very last of them but there has been little loss from carrot root fly and rots that we often get over the winter. I can’t remember the last time we were still able to harvest carrots in March. We will soon have to buy some in, stored UK carrots to begin with, and then usually new season Italian carrots as the UK ones run out. This then heralds the beginning of the “hungry gap”, that time of the year when all of the winter crops have finished but the new season crops have yet to reach maturity. We will have to buy in more and more imported crops as we go through May and June, before our main season crops are ready to harvest. We try to get produce from as local as possible, and we are fortunate that there are some local organic growers who grow in heated glasshouses, but we will still have to buy produce that comes from afar afield as Italy and Spain. Crops produced in our polytunnels will help to bridge this gap but there is still a fairly limited supply and variety of them.
In anticipation of the coming warmth and light we have sown thousands of seeds into trays in the greenhouse in the walled garden at Brookthorpe. These trays are kept on heated benches to keep off the worst of the cold. The peppers and tomato seedlings are grown under artificial light on their own heated bench, covered with plastic, heated to 20 degrees C. All of these seedlings will be planted out in the polytunnels and fields at Hawkwood as the weather warms and the soil dries out. The first crops sown directly in the polytunnels in February were the carrots and radish. Let’s hope for a continued warm and dry spring