Tag Archives: Education

Why doesn’t my spell checker like welly whanging?

Simultaneous with the volunteers yesterday, we had a group of kids for the afternoon. They did a noisy nature walk, had a welly whanging competition, a festival of shouting and made bug hotels. When all that was over, we made butter.

Thirty hyped-up kids, screw-top containers, double cream, shaking…

What, as they say, could possibly go wrong?

Apart from one kid throwing up, one turning green (we blame the jumping up and down technique of shaking for this) and one lid leaking – nothing.

You can’t count the kid that sprayed himself in the eye with the automatic air freshener because that wasn’t caused by butter-making: that was, I confess, caused by me forgetting to screw the air freshener to the wall out of the reach of kids.


Bug Hotels


Butter. I felt the need to explain that because it does look like er…not butter.

We then pass to Men in Sheds. We made more signs and welded up a bracket. We were also commissioned to build an adaptor to fit a square heater to a round tube in the grain dryer. There’s a song about that, isn’t there?

Actually, when I check the lyrics, there’s one line about that – There may be trouble ahead…

The rest of the song, with it’s moonlight and music and love and romance doesn’t really match with my experience of Men in Sheds.

Most memorable moment of the day was the one where the Man welding up the bracket turned and said “I’ve just welded it to the vice!”

It soon came off, with the help of an angle grinder, as we all tried to keep straight faces…


One bracket, welded to vice.


One angle-grinder in action.




Whatever happened to Poets day?

By “Poet’s day” I refer to the “Push off early, tomorrow’s Saturday” variety (and its less polite derivatives), not National Poetry Day, which is something completely different.

What starts with preparing a set of international breakfasts (England, Scotland, France, Germany, USA) and ends with preparing for apple pressing on Saturday? That’s right – Friday.


International breakfasts

The kids, as usual, voted for the German Breakfast – salami, cheese and rye bread. The French (pain au chocolat), was second along with the American (pancakes and honey). English (toast and marmalade) and Scottish (overnight oats with fruit) came bottom.

I could have added a further breakfast by doing toast and Vegemite and calling it an  Australian breakfast but it didn’t work out well last time we tried it.

They may not be the best examples of national breakfasts but we have time and cash constraints with these presentations. I’m not about to cook a dozen Full English breakfasts, for instance, and last time we made proper Scottish porridge the kids put so much sugar in it the healthy eating message was well and truly buried under a heap of calories.

So – shopping, breakfast for 12 kids, Men in Sheds (where we had tools, mugs and jam jars donated), back for apple pressing demo, replace fuse in electric scratter, press juice for someone in return for donation of apples and pears, clean up, blog, get ready for tomorrow’s pressing, set Saturday Cafe up, make overnight oats for cafe, home, sleep in front of TV. I think that’s all.


Routing the arrow signs for the footpaths

I’m slightly worried that things are going too well.

Weekly round up

Well, it’s been a reasonable week.

We had a review of one of our clients and when we sat down and talked it through we had to say that although they have problems, three years with us has made a big improvement in manners, use of mobile devices and willingness to work outside. I’m not saying everything is perfect, because none of us are (not even me, and I have the advantage of writing only the good things about myself) but we’ve definitely made a difference.

Whether it’s a warm glow of satisfaction at a job done well, or just a touch of false pride, I couldn’t say. However, for now I’m feeling happy.

We ran out of eggs today because so many people bought them yesterday and the chickens failed to turn up the production overnight couldn’t take the shine off my good humour. Though when the volunteer cook melted the egg poacher I did feel a momentary wobble in my good humour. She boiled the pan dry, wasted four precious eggs and melted the plastic pots you poach the eggs in. Then she threw the pan away. As I said, pulling it out of the bin, it will clean up and even if it isn’t fit for kitchen use it’s good for garden or farm.

Reuse, repair recycle. We’ve been doing it on farms for years. I’m going to send her one of these as a gentle reminder.

I’m sure Men in Sheds will have a use for it.

On the natural history front we’ve had a good flush of butterflies this week in the late sun, with Speckled Woods putting in a strong showing on every day. You’ve seen enough of them on the blog so I won’t add another photo. I don’t know if it’s fact or just my observation, but they do seem keen to get themselves trapped inside. They did the same thing last year – coming in, perching on ledges and eventually dying.

Apple pressing went well with plenty of bottles on the shelves;apple sorting went less well so we admitted defeat on that and just put them into a big pile for pressing.


One of the few that went right

There are some truly beautiful apples amongst them. Speaking personally, if I was Snow White I would eat some of these apples even if I did suspect my stepmother. They are just so appley.

That’s not a word according to my spell-checker. Let’s say that they look like the very essence of appleness then. No, that’s not a word either. Ah well…

The plan was to pick them and to bag them up with a note of the variety so I could photograph them for the website.

It didn’t quite work out that way. Hence the big pile.

The group that visited us on Friday still enjoyed the apple pressing even if I couldn’t identify the varieties so it doesn’t really matter.

Finally, I started another of my ill-fated experiments. I have three jars of carefully weighed apple waste and water. With luck it will become cider vinegar. Regular readers may recall that my experiments often fail to work, often because I forget about them,so we will have to see what happens.

There are three jars – one has cores in (which should take a couple of months to become vinegar if the internet is to be believed), one has apple pieces (which should take longer) and one has pomace from the pressing process, which is a bit of an unknown quantity as we’ve already squeezed a lot of the goodness out of it. If it works, it will give us an alternative to feeding pigs with the apple pressings.

If it doesn’t work I will merely have expanded my repertoire of disastrous experiments.


Apples, cores, pomace. Yes, I stick labels on later

To get the right conditions of reasonable cleanliness, freedom from interference, darkness and temperature, I’ve hidden them behind books on the bookshelf in the office.

What could possibly go wrong?

After the ups and downs of the past week – currently standing at two Goat Escapes and one pig escape – it was nice to get back to the even keel of a school visit.

We picked a salad from the garden, and the only traditional ingredient in it was rocket which has self-seeded itself from last year. It was fat hen, chickweed, mallow, nasturtium, rose bay willow herb, dead nettle, borage flowers, chive heads and the petals of daisies and marigold.



In the absence of a salad spinner (which seems to have fallen victim to “tidying up”  (I hate shared kitchens!) I had to use the old tea towel method. Only problem was that I’d forgotten how much water I was about to drive off…

Fortunately there was no damage done apart from a bit of mild surprise and a slippery floor.

Unlike the nettle soup I made with the same class last visit, most people seemed to try a bit of the salad, even if they didn’t all like it. I don’t mind that, it’s when they won’t try that I grow frustrated. Last time only one would try the nettle soup and only two tried the leek and potato, despite the familiar ingredients. I think it’s the fact that they see it being made that seems to put them off. It can’t be good for you if it doesn’t come from a factory…

We still have  along way to go in food education.

Looking on the bright side they were good at the difficult questions (eg why didn’t Henry VIII eat chips?) and the best class I’ve ever had for cleaning up afterwards.


Open Farm Sunday 2015

Sorry I’ve been away – we’ve been getting home late, eating, sleeping and stating again to prepare for Open Farm Sunday. In the end, despite the weather, the tent collapse and various other minor troubles, it all worked out well. That shouldn’t be a surprise because things normally do work out well.

In the end we had great weather, plenty of people and two proposals for the farmer. One was from a lady in the Kenya group who proposed during the barn dance and one was from a lady at the Question and Answer session, though she was asking on behalf of her mother. I don’t know what they see in him, though if anyone had been able to put their hands on two cows at the barn dance the whole weekend might have taken on a different aspect.

Due to TB regulations we weren’t able to have cows visiting for the weekend, so we will never know what might have happened.

The scarecrow contest attracted some fine examples and the spoon scarecrow competition managed over 70 entries this year. A lot of people made leaf  masks from Woodland Trust print-outs, while others explored the tree that Bea made ( good old Shipshape Arts!) and a number of others ate garden weeds. We also had information from Open Farm Sunday, Kellogg, Frontier and the Home-grown Cereals Authority. All in all it was a good team effort.

I’ll leave you with some photographs for now as I have to get on with some work instead of enjoying myself blogging.









Scarecrows and free tea

It’s been a scarecrow day today, with advice (and stockinette) from Shipshape Arts we’re going to be turning out some professional looking scarecrows this year.

All my ideas have been shelved on the grounds of good taste, though I still say that the 100th anniversary of the Great War and the presence of a barbed wire fence in the display area is a sign that we should push the boundaries a little. Julia says no. Bea from Shipshape says no and my sister, my own flesh and blood, agrees with them. Typical!

Otherwise things are a bit slow – we have promises of three more large and twenty or thirty spoon-size scarecrows, meaning we are currently down on large and slightly up on the small ones. Everybody seems to be so busy this year they don’t seem to be able to fit scarecrow-building into the plan.

That’s where my readers come in – I need your photo entries for the competition. If you have children, or nephews and nieces, or can persuade a teacher or youth group leader to submit a few it would be great.

Details are here. We had a meeting yesterday and I have confirmation that the winning school or group and the winning individual (or maybe more than one) will be able to adopt a tree in our new woodland. True, the “trees” are mere sticks at the moment, but they have potential. They come with full information about the tree and the farm so it can be quite educational. As you may have seen from earlier posts we are measuring trees regularly so if you win we will measure yours every year and tell you what size it is.

If you want to sidestep the competition process we can provide you with an adopted tree and a certificate for £20 – all proceeds going towards the cost of maintaining the woodland.

If yopu do win one, or if you pass over £20, I will even offer to make you a free cup of Lapsang Screveton if you visit, providing my tea bushes are still producing. If not you’ll have to put up with mint tea (freshly picked) or maybe PG Tips.



Chocolate Mint

Progress, phythalis and pizza

The weather is returning to spring after a short diversion back into winter and things are looking up.

Teachers seem to be springing into life too and we have quite a few bookings in the pipeline, though it’s never quite as simple as it should be, as they all think that we have unlimited days available at their convenience. Having already had to wave goodbye to one booking I don’t want to see any more disappear, particularly as they are all schools who haven’t visited before. We have a 95% rebooking rate so it’s important to get people down here, both for the experience and for the repeat business. I may be in a touchy-feely profession at the moment but it doesn’t mean I can ignore business reality.

Just checked my figures – it’s actually 94.4%. Better be accurate when there’s teachers about.

Even the Cape Gooseberry (which has so many other names) seeds have finally started to break through after a worryingly long germination. The three year old plants are coming back to life too, with a few flowers already showing.


The kiwi berries are looking full of fruit after a three year wait so this year could be a really good year for odd fruit.


I’m starting a proper cuttings diary after last year’s debacle. It was my own fault for not paying attention so simply keeping a diary should help by making me focus properly.

Finally, a picture of pizza. It’s like cats, people always seem to like pictures of cats and pizza. I’m working on getting the two together but in the meantime here’s a picture of pizza – lovingly crafted by a group of 6-year-olds.



Another windy day

At least we know the polytunnels are secure after the work we did on them yesterday. temperature is 10 or 11 degrees Centigrade according to the weather station but it feels colder, and the wind, consistently in the 20 mph range, particulalrly when accompanied by showers, isn’t improving matters. I don’t mind the cold and I can tolerate rain but I don’t like wind. When I worked on markets we always noticed the same thing – people would come out in the cold and most of them would come out in the rain, but the wind really used to keep them at home.

We just had a short thunderstorm and I suspect we appear on this map. We’re one of the northerly yellow crosses.

This morning we potted up parsley (flat and curly leaved) and tarragon, an endeavour that started going noticeably quicker once we turned on The Jam. You need something that moves the job along without causing too many spillages.


The tea plantation is moving ahead nicely – new leaves are appearing and that first brew can’t be far off. I would invite you all for a taste but it’s unlikely to make more than a couple of cups to start with and it wouldn’t be worth the trip. You may notice that there’s half a leaf missing; it came off in my hand while I was admiring the soft new growth. I ate it to see what it tasted like because james Wong has a recipe for tea leaf and cucumber sandwiches. It didn’t taste of much but I wasn’t surprised as his recommendations have a habit of sounding better than they taste. It may be that I expect too much, or that I have no taste buds, but I have a growing suspicion that I am merely a gullible dupe in a global marketing operation.


Apart from that it’s been a day of mixed fortunes. We’ve done quite a bit of tidying up but it’s been at the expense of planting and admin so the feeling of achievement is diluted by a vague feeling that i could have done better. One school has emailed to confirm a visit, and another has called to cancel because they can’t get buses on the days they want. Despite there being thousands of buses in the country and 365 days in a year schools seem to run their visit policy  on tha basis of limited dates and even more limited bus companies. This isn’t the first time we’ve had this problem.

For me it’s frustrating, and I imagine it’s worse for the teacher, who has just put a lot of effort into organising the trip. As for the kids – they will just have to stay inside instead of coming to the farm to hunt insects and bake a pizza for lunch.

That is life on a care farm!

The postman calls

Big news of the day is that the tea bushes arrived. For the moment “bushes” might be an expression of hope rather than fact (as you can see from the picture) but I have confidence. As usual I have the plants well in advance of knowing how to look after them. I vaguely remember they need ericaceous compost but can’t remember much else. I should have learned from the Great Gimger Debacle but I didn’t. One day my polytunnel will pulsate with exotic life.


For the moment, in the exotic line, it has nine tea twigs and some sorry looking bits of ginger in it.

We had a birthday party today, launched a massive attack on the garden weeds and planted more seeds. Now that my French beans and multi-coloured carrots are coming up I feel more inspired to plant more. The rhubarb seds are coming up too, but the comfrey has still to appear. We also had three more bookings for school trips – 180 kids, some as young as five, spread over four days. Let’s just say that everyone has their own personal hell. Mine features five year olds. They squeak. They fill each others’ pockets with stones. They don’t listen. And you feel guilty when you threaten them.


That’s all for now – I have to set up for tonight’s visit from the Young Farmers’ Club and then we’re going out for a meal with the kids to celebrate having time to go out for a meal when all four of us are available.

Ours is a life of simple pleasures.


An Ambassador calls

THis is a picture of Sue, who is the new Health and Wellbeing Ambassadoer to the High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire. You can tell she’s an ambassador because she arrived with a box of Ferrero Rocher. If you live in a country which doesn’t use an ambassador for advertising this reference will probably mean nothing to you.

This is the ancient and revered office of High Sheriff rather than the Sheriff of Nottingham who is a sort of second mayor and not at all as posh. This year’s High Sheriff attended the ceremony in full ceremonial regalia and a turban, which looks a lot better than a cocked hat. I’m told (as I don’t get invited to such things) that as it was conducted in a Sikh temple and that the male invitees (including a judge and a Bishop) had to wear blue handkerchieves on their heads. I’m put in mind of a blue hankerchief looking like a do-rag . I may be wrong, but you can never tell.

The High Sheriff, when chosen, is pricked with a bodkin, though (disappointingly) it’s really only a parchment that gets pricked. It would be much more fun to stick a needle into the actual High Sheriff and watch him jump.

However, eschewing all comedy, and banishing thoughts of Alan Rickman, this is a serious matter. We’re going to be part of a big push to make Nottinghamshire a more healthy county, and it all starts here! It’s a case of one step at a time but with Sue driving it and taking a group of enthusiastic volunteers with her I’m sure we’ll be seeing a change by the end of the year.