31st July 2016

Starter farm is up and running!

starter-farm-gallery02When I last wrote, the space designated for the starter farm was still a featureless bit of field covered in short wintry grass. What a change!

First came Sam with the muckspreader; then a local farmer with a plough, carving out two squares of brown earth in the expanse of green; then Sylvie and me with disk and chain harrows, preparing the soil for planting. With the help of our friend Jed, the bones of a small polytunnel grew out of the earth (having been leaning against the barn for many years undisturbed), and Mark and Page came down to help us skin it. As the bare hoops transformed into a propagation space – the heart of the new plot, where the seedlings start their life – I couldn't help dancing about, beaming and laughing...

Since then, we've planted out 2000 leeks, 500 squash plants, hundreds of lettuce, red cabbage, and chard seedlings; and direct sown ten beds of root vegetables, and two of dwarf beans – plus a row of sunflowers, for the bees, and for our eyes! We covered a quarter of the plot in phacelia, a green manure, which has grown well, and will be turned in in the coming weeks to make way for the brassicas (plants in the cabbage family). We've been sowing seeds in trays each week, and raising them in the tunnel; mowing the grass, which has grown tall and revealed scattered flowers; digging out docks, and doing plenty of hoeing (Shepherd's Purse seems to be our primary weed).

starter-farm-gallery01We now also have a tool shed, have made some sturdy benches for our trays of young plants, and have acquired a good number of the tools we need (though we're still nipping up to Hawkwood to borrow things more often than might be convenient for the SCA team!). Everything's been going pretty much to plan – there have been a few scary moments (seedlings dying of drought on a hot day; tender young squash plants getting a battering from the wind; the beans which as they emerged were pecked out by inquisitive birds) but they all seem to have recovered and be growing well. With each week that passes, the site feels more homely, as if it's developing its own character.

I've already learned so much from this experience! It feels like a great level of challenge, navigating a lot of the tasks we've never had to do as apprentices and summer workers – yet with Mark and Sam at the end of a phone, to help us out of perplexities. I think the plan's working...