Saturday, 25 September 2010

Farming for a Future

We have just said Au Revoir to Thomas, an absolutely brilliant Belgian WWOOFer who worked tirelessly and autonomously despite not having any other WWOOFer company. In the time that he was with us he really became like a member of the family and I think the boys thought of him as a big brother. R and B cried when he left and he leaves a big space in our lives, not just because we don't have anymore WWOOFers for a whole week, but more because he was genuinely interested in what we are doing here. He and I talked endlessly about where the world was going and the unsustainability of it all. He learnt about Emilia Hazelip and helped us to begin converting the potager and polytunnel over to her style of land-management. If you would like to know more about Emilia Hazelip, one of my permaculture heroes, watch this

I have been agonising most of the summer over the sowing of our wheat crop, or rather, the preparation for the sowing. I look at the piece of land that we did have ploughed (see this post) and right next to it, the other half unploughed. In the 'cultivated' bit we are overrun with nasty pernicious weeds, in the uncultivated piece we have just grass and a few wild flowers. The ploughed land gave buried seeds the light of day and also gave advantage to strong weeds in the absence of grass. The more I have read about no-till farming where the land isn't ploughed, the more I believe it is the right way to go but it is brave step to take to just go out there and sow onto grassland.

Thomas left me with a copy of a BBC documentary called Farming for a Future. I watched it with R after he left and it made me cry. How can we have gone SO far in the wrong direction? And we just keep on going! I made the decision after that film that I was NOT going to have anymore land ploughed here and I feel as though a burden has been lifted from my shoulders now that I have made that choice. So, in the late autumn we will go out and sow right on top of the grass.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Rain Water Harvesting

We have been victims of our own success - or rather of Ben's success with a little help from the WWOOFers. The old lean-to veranda at the back of our barn has been undergoing complete renewal, guided by Ben, and it now looks really good.

The roof of the barn is connected to the roof of the veranda and all water is collected via one main guttering system and downpiped into water butts. However, we have had so much heavy rain today that the water butts have filled up in half an hour and have then overflowed all through the barn, making streams of water flow all over everything we didn't want them to flow over. Ben is now working on linking lots of butts together and raising them so that gravity will hopefully feed any excess off into the solar tunnel. I'll post a photgraph when it's finished.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Bread and Honey

I just love this poem that I recall from my childhood. Everytime I walk past the beehive or see the bees busy at work, or smell our fresh bread, I find myself repeating this...

Of all the meals you can buy for money
Give me a meal of bread and honey.

A table of grass in the open air
A green bank for an easy chair.
The tablecloth inwrought with flowers
And a grasshopper clock to tick the hours.

Between the courses birds to sing
To many a hidden shining string.

And neither man or maid be seen
But a great company of green
Upon a hundred thousand stalks
Talk to us its great green talks.

And when the merry meal is done
To loiter westward with the sun
Dipping fingers ere we go
In the stream that runs below.

Of all the meals you can buy for money
Give me a meal of bread and honey.

And of course this is the exciting time of year for sustainable beekeepers as it's around honey harvest time. Some conventional beekeepers might be surprised at that and declare that Spring too is harvest time, in fact that any time is harvest time if there's honey in the hive. But no, I believe strongly in sustainable beekeeping, beekeeping for nature's sake and not for greed nor commercial reasons. The bees need 12kg of honey to get the colony through the winter, any extra is a gift to the beekeeper. You can only ensure that the 12kgs is there by waiting until the end of summer. If you take honey before then, there is a chance that the bees won't be able to make enough to get them through winter and many will die. Of course, conventional beekeeping will feed sugar water when they have robbed the hive clean of honey but that isn't what the bees need. Nature meant the bees to have honey to eat - maybe the humans could have the sugar water!!

There is a lot of talk in the media at the moment about the loss of our honey bees and many blame it on pesticides or virilant bee diseases but I think we need to ask ourselves if the conventional/commercial way of beekeeping is actually significantly contributing to the losses. Harvesting too much honey is only the tip of the iceberg. See this video if you'd like to know more -

Friday, 10 September 2010

Wonderful WWOOFers

We are really enjoying being WWOOF hosts and have met many interesting people. Most have worked very hard and been keen to learn what it is to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Here are a selection of WWOOFing photographs that show some of those who have been here this summer and some of the jobs they have done (in many cases this 'job' may well be playing with the children!).

Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Boars Have Arrived

On the 1st of this month the muscles of four of our current WWOOFers, Noam, Fidi, Kiera and Johanna were employed to carry in 50kg of new piglet material (with B and Calyx in a supervisory capacity). Yes, two more little piglets have joined the farm - Max & Co. purebred Gloucester Old Spots. Max is our new boar who we hope will service one of the sows in the Spring, and Co is a little castrated male who will keep Max company whilst they are little and have to be separated from the girls. We were told that if they were in with the big girls from the start then Max might be so frightened of them that he'd be afraid to do 'the business' with them when he was mature. We were slightly dubious but erred on the safe side and got Co. To start with we did indeed put all of them in together but Rimmel terrorised them and bit them so we were glad that we heeded the advice and separated off the boys in a pen next to the girls where they were safe.

They seem to have settled very well and are proving themselves to be great tractors, better than Maybelline and Rimmel. As you can see, they still have to have the riot act read to them occassionally.