Category Archives: Farming

Julia’s Excellent Day Out

Once Julia gets your email address you are doomed, as the secretary of the Flintham Ploughing Match found to her cost.  We do actually know her from our work on the farm (she used to give us apples and horse manure) so a request for freebies wasn’t totally out of the blue. Thanks to her generosity Julia ended up with free tickets for her Thursday group and two tickets for the VIP parking.

It was, by all accounts, an excellent day. The weather, which had been borderline at the beginning of the week, brightened up for Thursday so it was a great day for it even if it was soft underfoot in places. Generally the going was good, though they did have to close the second show ring because of drainage problems.

This is better than a few years ago when they had to cancel due to the weather. This year it is Southwell that has been cancelled. It’s a shame, because a lot of volunteers invest a lot of time in putting these shows on.The problem is that ploughing matches can really only take place at one time of year, and that time of year is prone to being wet.

As you can see from the photographs there was plenty to do and there was a display of old relics. I will say no more…

She brought several pies back – we will be eating them tonight.

Loose Ends and New Beginnings

I’m tying up a few loose ends today – you may have noticed a new, more accurate, subtitle (“Life after the Care Farm”) and I’ve added the latest news to the About Us page.

I’ve also added an update to the Ecocentre page.

They aren’t worth reading (being dry and, possibly, a little bitter) but if I add links it supposedly makes the blog more visible on the internet. It’s what they call Search Engine Optimisation. Like much of modern life I find it easy to ignore, but occasionally I like to give it a try.

It’s funny how the internet, whilst being ephemeral in nature, also preserves things.

Julia is taking the group from Mencap to see the Flintham Show. We’re just hoping the weather improves. It has generally been a good day out and the group is looking forward to it.  At least some good has come from our time at the farm.

They are advertising an education tent at the show – we have been replaced so easily. What hasn’t been replaced is the write-up that Julia prepared for the education tent several years ago. That is still up on the site, and is promising a number of things they won’t be able to deliver, including Connie the Cow, who is now living at a local school.

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Ploughing at Flintham Show  (2016)

Julia has just joined the Women’s Farm and Garden Association. It seems quite a go-ahead group of people, despite being formed in 1899, though the marketing could do with some work: we didn’t even know it existed until I saw one of its badges for sale on ebay.

Perhaps ebay is a force for good after all.

 

 

 

Little Grey Fergie

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The title sounds like it should be the opening line of a pastoral poem or a well-loved folk song about a faithful little tractor, but as far as I know, nobody has written either. Who knows, after reading this someone may be enthused to do so.

I’m probably influenced by this song of my youth, though it isn’t about tractors.

Ah, it now looks like I’m going to have to eat my words. According to the internet there is a folk song, and a children’s TV series. It’s amazing what you can learn on the net.

They were also the first vehicles to reach the South Pole. As you can see from the picture, they were modified for the trip, but that’s definitely a Fergie snout poking out.

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The men in sheds are currently restoring a little grey Fergie. It looks to be in pretty good condition, with good tyres and quite a lot of good paint. The brackets for the mudguards have rusted and the hydraulics need attention but apart from skimming the cylinder head there is no major work to be done.

To put it another way – it was born in 1952 and despite being older than me has coped better with the ageing process.

We went to visit for tea and biscuits this morning, where I took the pictures. I’ll go back in a few weeks to take more and see if there is any progress.

Partridges, Photographs and Pheasants

After dropping Julia off at work (she works at one of the few centres in Nottingham that wasn’t closed today) I went to look for a sunrise. There was a small one, but as I chased it down it became duller, smaller and less impressive, so I didn’t bother.

I did manage to get a picture of a Red-legged Partridge in front of a backdrop of oilseed rape.

In some ways it’s a picture of all that’s wrong with modern farming – a non-native gamebird against a background of monoculture. As it’s the only decent photograph I’ve taken in the last seven days I’m not going to dwell on that thought. It’s a sign that I’m getting better and have now recovered enough brain power to spare some for photography.

I accidentally photographed a pheasant and missed a hare too.

I spent most of the rest of the day back in bed sleeping (I’m still convalescing, after all) and when I finally got up Number One Son made me an excellent beef and horseradish sandwich using meat left over from tea last night.

We aren’t popular: it seems Julia had earmarked that for tomorrow night’s tea.

If you think I’m unpopular now wait and see what happens when she examines the biscuit barrel.

Tree, rapeseed and a pheasant

Can you see the pheasant?

Thoughts about renewable energy

I watched The Apprentice last night.

At one time I used to watch in the hope that I might learn something about business. I’ve not learned anything I can use, though I do now know that every year proves there is a seemingly endless supply of idiots.

If I can find a way of converting idiots into electricity I may have found the next big thing in renewable energy.

Talking of which, we drove past another solar farm today.  It seems like every time we drive north from Nottingham we find another new field of black panels. Land use has changed considerably over the last ten years in North Nottinghamshire – first we had willow, then we had miscanthus. Currently we seem to have a small forest of wind turbines springing up and the latest fashion seems to be to cover acres in photovoltaic cells.

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Solar farm in north Nottinghamshire

When I see that I feel more comfortable about using electricity, but then start to worry that we won’t need it, because if we cover the land to generate electricity there will be no food to cook.

I’m a bit worried about food, after listening to a radio programme tonight. In order to halt global warming we need to scale back on meat production (mainly on account of the methane produced by cows) and would, they calculate, only have 19 grams of meat a day. That’s 133g a week, about the weight of two moderate burgers.

In the Second World War the bacon and ham ration ranged between 113 and 227 grams. However, there was also a meat ration, controlled by price – between 1 shilling and 1 shilling and two pence (5 – 6 pence in modern terms). I’m struggling to find a comparison of prices – one I found suggests that could be about £1.50. It’s not a lot, but compared to 19 grams a day it’s a positive feast.

To add to the complexity of looking into the future it also seems that grass fed beef (as generally reared in the UK) is worse for the environment than intensively raised beef fed on maize and soya (as raised in USA). It’s not about the method or the food, it’s about the fact that grass fed beef takes longer to grow to full weight, and thus spends more time emitting methane.

Now, methane is the main component of natural gas, so is it just me, or are other people thinking that some sort of gas-collecting nappy on a cow might be an alternative to fracking? Ah, just me…

That’s not the end to it of course, there’s also milk to consider. If they were telling the truth (and I fear they are) we will only have enough milk for four cups of tea a day.

Four cups of tea a day?

I could see myself as a vegetarian, but I don’t see myself cutting down to four cups a day.

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Under threat – my cup of tea

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One door closes…

…and another door opens.

Warning: This post may contain rancour and traces of bitterness.

Three months ago we were informed that because the farm is not making money, we would have to vacate the Ecocentre (which would be rented out as a commercial property) and use either the kitchen or a barn.

The barn, being badly lit, leaky, windowless, unheated and infested with mice, was deemed unsuitable, despite promises to make it right. We’ve been promised things before.

The kitchen is a bit on the small side for the group, particularly when you get two electric wheelchairs in there, but it is better than the barn. We looked at alternatives, but there really wasn’t anything suitable, so we agreed to go into the kitchen.

We did, however, ask if we could lease it on a three year rolling lease and run it as a social enterprise because we wanted security for the group. We also wanted to be in charge as we are having a lot of trouble with another kitchen user at the moment (the farmer’s sister and her chintzy Saturday cafe).

Meanwhile, these are the pictures I prefer to remember.

 

He needed to think about our request.

Four weeks later, three on holiday in Nepal and one spent avoiding us, he finally gave us the answer.

It was an emphatic no, and in addition he withdrew the offer of the kitchen because two of the people who were interested in renting the centre also want to rent the kitchen.

We have been told to vacate the premises by 31st December.

I would offer him a set of moustachios to twirl as he throws seven vulnerable adults out in the winter snow, but experience suggests that he doesn’t have enough brain cells to count his money and appreciate irony at the same time.

I will now end on a song.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flintham Show

Well, after days of baking and making salt dough shapes the show finally arrived, as did busloads of kids.

Apart from salt dough and bread tasting we had the bread story,  corn dollies (with paper straws), the bread shed, adverts for our two new educational units (Festive wreaths and the Great War), the famous Ecocentre bread-plaiting roadshow (modesty prevents me telling you which charismatic,  bearded fat man runs that) and Julia’s two pig sculptures made from straw bales..

Of course, with all the good stuff, we also had a helping of adversity. One of the wheatsheaves, having dried badly, developed cracks before falling apart, and Julia’s pigs suffered from an outbreak of vandalism. They were popular all day, but for some reason we kept having to retrieve the snouts and ears from various souvenir-hunting children.

In a short break I managed to knock up a small wheatsheaf loaf to check how practical it was as a group exercise. It seems OK in terms of scale and time, though I couldn’t get anyone to give it a try on the day. That’s one for next week. Note the decorative charring to the smaller loaf – a feature of all our bread on the day.

Fortunately the day, which started cold and drizzly, was dry and sunny by the  time the gates opened and all the hard work of the show committee paid off. The photos don’t do it justice, but it’s hard to fit it in with the other activities. By the end of the day all I wanted to do was sit down – one bread roll a child for 80 children is works out at about 12 sessions and 6 kilos of dough, all mixed by hand.

The results of the Bread Test were:

  1. Home baked white
  2. TESCO cheap white sliced
  3. Home baked brown and shop bought seeded brown  (a tie)

We’ve run this session a number of times and it’s always the same – a narrow win for home made white over Chorleywood white sliced with brown, seeded and sourdough lower down. So I won, but it’s depressing.