Tag Archives: OPen Farm Sunday

Open Farm Sunday (2)

It’s moving into evening now and things (including me ) are slowing down.

Even now I can’t believe how smoothly the day went, though this is probably just setting me up for a horrible surprise next year.

One child bumped his head during the course of  a trailer ride.

We lost a number of our salt dough flowers. You could consider it theft or you could consider it a compliment.

Somebody asked for their money back because they didn’t like the pizza (and it wasn’t me cooking this time!)

There were several complaints at queues for food.

As far as I know, that’s the lot.

I feel it’s a little ungrateful to complain about queuing for food.

The kitchen team gave their time for nothing and several of them also gave a couple of days to preparing food. Considering our limited facilities I think they did a brilliant job, and so did many of the people who provided feedback. People also liked the education/activity area and despite my record of upsetting parents and teachers I survived the day unblemished.

We have a list of things needing improvement, even if none of the visitors spotted them – number one being more paint on the bread-shaped shed, which looks a bit anaemic. However, when you consider that Men in Sheds did the bulk of the work in one afternoon, and still found time to make the finger posts and various other things, it worked quite well.

We used over 300 salt dough shapes and 120 spoons for scarecrows, so guess what I’m making on Wednesday?

Tomorrow? Day off. ūüėČ

NEWS FLASH: all three eggs we put in the incubator have now hatched. All chicks now doing well despite my misgivings about one of them.




Open Farm Sunday (1)

Well, it’s done for another year, and although I enjoyed it I can’t say I’m sorry it’s over.

It looks like final numbers will be well up on last year, with numbers about the 1,400 mark, which is four hundred up on last year. The cafe numbers are up too, and we sold all the extra ice cream we laid in.


Without being smug, I thinks it’s true to say that we have improved steadily year on year and we delivered a good day. Most of the feedback forms were positive, and I’m going to compost the ones that weren’t.

Not much time for writing just now, as there’s tidying to be done and I’ve been tasked with eating the last of the strawberry and marshmallow skewers before they start to wilt in the warmth. I would show you a picture but I managed to eat it one-handed whilst typing with one finger of the other hand.

I am a man of many skills…


A day to remember

Subtitle: In which I meet an award-winning journalist and set fire to my own hair


I’m moving in rarefied circles these days. I’ve also learnt how to spell rarefied, I think. If you search for rarified it also seems to exist. Does anyone know which is right? If I’m moving in those circles I should at least be able to spell them.

Yes, award-winning¬†journalist Andrew Cowper has been down to the farm to film an item on healthy eating. It seems that kids in Nottinghamshire are 38% heavier than kids in the rest of the East Midlands. Clearly, as obesity is thought to be a Bad Thing, I wasn’t going to feature heavily in the filming. I left that to Julia and Gail the Bread Lady.

I was allowed to construct the figures “38%” in salt dough and to load up the pizza oven. That was a drama in its own right. First of all it burned too well (which is unusual) and second, it set fire to the oven door. When I came to rake the embers to one side there were too many of them so I had to push them all round the perimeter, which prevents convection currents moving round the top of the oven chamber.

This led to burnt pizza, pizza with ash on it (though that was my fault due to inept handling of the peel) and pizza that wasn’t cooked in the middle. ¬†It also led to pizza that was all three. As events have shown over the years, there are few faults that I cannot produce when left alone with a pizza oven and a load of dough.

Despite this, everyone ate their pizza and said they loved the outdoor pizza experience. In the interests of accuracy I have to report that the ones who had theirs done in the electric oven seemed pretty happy too, and didn’t have to spit as many bits of ash out.

It wasn’t all drama, of course, there was comedy too. I have no hair on my arms now (a sign that the oven has reached 600 degrees Centigrade. I have also managed to get rid of the bushier bits of my eyebrows and make the quiffy bit at the front of my head look even more ridiculous. Tonight I will be shaving my head.

That’s about it.

I will be watching Notts TV tonight. I won’t be making the 5.30 show, but 8.00 or 10.00 could be a possibility. I’m a bit hazy on details but it will be a short excerpt followed by something more substantial next week when they can get hold of a local councillor.

I’m tempted to end with a note about broadcasters who keep their promises (like Andrew and Notts TV) and those that don’t. But that wouldn’t be nice, would it?

Anyway, I have burns to see to and a head to shave…


Open Farm minus 4, and counting

It’s beginning to feel like we’re running out of time, and levels of suppressed panic are rising.

There’s a logical explanation for this phenomenon, of course; we are actually running out of time, and we are really starting to panic.

It doesn’t actually help when Julia keeps inventing new jobs. She’s had me making ginger bread men out of salt dough this morning. She wants them for the TV on Friday. The yellow ones (for which I used yellow food dye and the normal cutter) represent normally-sized people. The blue ones, which I cut by hand, are bigger and represent the obese children in the latest study).

The yellow ones look quite good. The blue ones have turned grey as they have dried out. Next time I colour salt dough I will try paint, but in the meantime I will pretend that I meant them to turn grey.

Later I opened up the new ¬£5 glue gun and stuck the salt dough flower shapes to the bamboo skewers. The result was surprisingly flower-like, though they are a bit top-heavy, even the thinner ones. With a touch of colour and a solid anchorage I’m sure they will form an adequate flower bed for our bread-themed centre piece at the weekend.

We have a new (athletic) scarecrow, progress on the pigsaw, and a group of new spoon scarecrows.

Outside we have a group of complaining goats (it’s a bit too windy for them), the new pigs are refusing to come out of the ark and the chickens are standing behind any shelter they can find. Open Farm Sunday Forecast – sun, 19 degrees Centigrade and a stiff breeze. Two out of three ain’t bad.

Finally, if you stand by the nestbox outside the centre you can just hear the chirping of newly-hatched blue tits. Watching them puts things in perspective. I think I’ve been working hard, but the blue tit parents haven’t stopped all day.







I knew it was going to be windy today because it was windy all last night. I know this because  the wind was coming from the north and my bedroom faces north.

This week last year one of the tents blew down as we prepared for Open Farm Sunday and our runner beans were ravaged by the Arctic blast. This year we have paced ourselves better and won’t be putting the big marquee up until Thursday. We have put the awning up in front of the kitchen, and that is firmly tied to the verandah of the centre and variously weighted down with breeze blocks and gas bottles. Despite this it’s still showing ambitions to fly.

As for the beans, I haven’t even put one out this year.

As you can see from the main picture, the bird feeders have been swinging at some strange angles and feeding birds have been clinging rather than perching. Even they had it easy compared to one of the farmyard poultry, though I didn’t mange to get a picture, so you’ll have to imagine the picture.

Think of a chicken making its way across the yard as a gust of wind catches it. Then think of tumble-weed. Put the two images together and you are close to what happened. Fortunately nothing was injured except for a little avian dignity.

As for other matters, we had a visit from a teacher (who seemed to like us), we have four new pigs, a tail on our pigsaw and I have just completed an internet training course on COSHH in a Food Environment. That’s Control of Substances Hazardous to Health in case you were wondering, and no, it doesn’t include my cooking.



Here today and scones tomorrow

It was scone day today and we now have several hundred scones cooling in the kitchen. Later we will vacuum pack them and freeze them ready for Open Farm Sunday. I can recommend them highly because I’ve been helping to dispose of the “rejects” and had the opportunity to check several.

When refreshed by a few minutes in a warm oven on Sunday 5th June they will be superb.

Once again it’s a case of thanking the volunteers, some of whom will be away on the day so won’t even get to eat one. Without the bread group we would be a poorer place, both morally and financially, as the tea room they run is our big earner on Open Farm Sunday.

My contribution was limited to photography and gluttony.

I’m currently finishing off the drying of a hundred salt-dough animal shapes because we’ve used all the 65 I made last time. It seemed like a good idea at the time but I hadn’t realised how much time it would take. I am, however rolling it thinner. The hundred have come from the same amount of dough that only made 65 in the previous batch.

Tomorrow I have to produce at least another 100 is we are to have anything like enough for Open Farm Sunday.

Have I mentioned Open Farm Sunday? It’s on June 5th and it’s a good day out.

Email office@farmeco.co.uk for details of the day. The Bread Group is doing ciabatta in two weeks if anyone fancies popping along – use the same contact address to check we have room.

Our new invention – the Pigsaw


I admit that there’s an element of ambiguity in the name, as it could possibly be a new butchery tool, but if you look at the pictures all will become clear. It’s a pig jigsaw but in the modern way (think Brangelina or spork, or even blog) I thought it would be good to coin a new word. Shakespeare¬†invented 1,700 new words so I thought it would be good to have a go. Only 1,699 to go. Sadly, looking at the web, it seems that someone has already come up with pigsaw.¬†I thought I might try a witty sentence here, using some of Shakespeare’s 1,700 words, but after having my new word snatched from my grasp I have lost heart.

It’s been a team effort – idea from Julia, drawing from me, cutting out by Men in Sheds and painting by the group.

The main debate is now what we put behind the pieces. We were originally going to cut up a poster showing joints of pork but we’re now thinking that it might be better to use interesting pig facts. It’s more educational that way, and less traumatic for vegetarians and small children.

We have now launched the first stage of the new blog pages – one for each member of the group. Go to the “Individual Pages” tab and select a name. So far I’ve only put a photograph on each one but next week we’ll be adding some text as people decide what they want to discuss about their time on the farm.

Finally, we wrapped up the day with a meeting for the volunteers who will be helping on Open Farm Sunday¬†and a quick trip to Nottingham for a second meeting. I didn’t have to go to the second one, I just dropped Julia off. She has more stamina than I do.


Only two points of interest today.

Julia went to the physio today – they say it’s just a sprain, but she can go back in a few weeks if it doesn’t clear up. We’ve heard this before, so we’ll see.

On a brighter note, the touch pad on my computer is now working again. Sometimes computers can be quite perplexing.




More parcels!

As I took things out of the car this morning Julia unlocked the centre and called across to me. I wasn’t able to hear her because of the noise from singing birds and bleating sheep. That’s not a bad start to the day.

What she was trying to tell me was that we have had another parcel delivery. We now have our Open Farm Sunday posters and volunteer badges, which is a mixed blessing. On the one hand it’s good to have the resources, but on the other it’s a wake up call. We now have two months to go and I haven’t started getting ready yet. I’m doing the poultry display in the education tent, the Scarecrow Competition, helping with Breadfest and, as of yesterday, designing the traditional fete games for Men in Sheds to build. Thinking of it, I’m not actually sure why I’m writing this instead of getting on with my other jobs.


The new posters and badges

Of course, things never run smoothly and within minutes I was on toilet duty. The farm is concentrating on lambing and nothing else gets done, not even emptying the toilets. I will spare you more details. Let’s just say my day failed to live up to its early promise.

At least it didn’t get any worse.

On a more appetising note, yesterday’s group session went well – with 18 children plus carers having a great day out in the fresh air and making pizza. There’s an inevitability about making pizza when you come here. Actually, 17 of them had ¬†a great day out, one spent most of the time asking when they could go home and why the day couldn’t have been organised at a theme park. There’s something about teenage girls that doesn’t work well with a day on the farm. We had some eggs left over, as you can see.



The Year Ahead

I had my annual check-up today, but that couldn’t dampen my good mood at missing the forecast “arctic blast” and driving to the appointment in lovely sunshine. It’s a ¬†once a year thing, the GP practice seems to like doing it, and it amuses me to see them try so hard to avoid using the word “fat”. For despite modern words and modern concepts of patient dignity the truthful, accurate and short description of me is “fat”.

I have turned down the offer of swimming as therapy because I’ve seen what happens when people like me go swimming.

I have however, accepted the offer of being weighed regularly and being given vouchers to join a slimmers’ organisation – I forget which one but can feel my body bunching up ready for flight at the mere mention of the idea. Sometimes you just have to recognise the inevitable. If I wish to live and irritate my wife until I am in my eighties I am going to have to change my ways.

In many ways this belongs on the other blog (www.sherwooddays.com) but I’m telling you here because it leads on to other things.

Due to the unexpected excellence of the weather, and the desire for a nice cooked breakfast after a discussion of my weight, we went out for brunch. I think using a two meal strategy and eating beans, tomatoes and mushrooms is a sufficiently healthy start to my new weight-loss programme.

The best bit was the planning session. We have a number of half-formed plans but nothing definite on paper yet. Released from the tyranny of meetings and the need to involve idiots we now have several pages of notes relating to schools, education, the Open Farm Sunday school days, a poetry competition, salt dough work, a grant application, getting men in sheds to build us a display, Flintham Ploughing Match education tent and (as they say) much, much more.

The advantage of our system (Julia talks, I write) is that it cuts down on discussion and saves time. If anything goes wrong it also means the blame sessions are simpler as it’s all her fault.

The disadvantage, of course, is that she’s now given me a list of jobs to do. A long list.



Beware – introspection in progress!

I suppose it’s time to admit a few things.

The willow water, for instance, has not proved to be a success. I took two sets of mint cuttings, putting one set in water, and one set in willow water. After around five days the ones in willow water started to look a bit sickly. When I took them out, the bottom couple of inches had been eaten away. I’m going to say that my experiment indicates that standing in willow water doesn’t make mint cuttings sprout roots quicker. The ones in water were much healthier and hadn’t been eaten away at the bottom.


One on the right is Willow water

It might be too strong, as I’ve just seen someone recommending that it should be diluted to half strength. I’m going to try this when I take cuttings on Monday. This time I’ll use rosemary.

I’ve also managed to kill the kiwi berries and badly scorch the tea bushes; it’s just been too hot in the tunnels and I haven’t been active enough in shading things.

Finally (which isn’t the final confession – just the last one I feel like making¬†at the moment) the accidental permaculture bed is having problems. You may recall that we improved half the bed by layering it with pig manure, wood chippings and used paper towels. The half that was treated has grown a massive crop of fat hen, which is now interfering with the beans. The half that wasn’t treated has grown a sparse crop of fat hen and allowed room for self-sown rocket. The beans? So far the runner beans have been uniformly poor due to a week of cold winds that coincided with them being planted out. We probably put them out too soon, but we wanted a good show for Open Farm Sunday.


Broad beans and French beans have been good

Actually – more confessions while I’m in the mood – the New Zealand spinach I used to fill gaps all died in the cold wind and the four-year-old runner bean plant is looking sickly, as are the year one ¬†plants (see above comments on cold winds).

My experiment design skills are clearly leaving something to be desired.

However, it’s easy to be negative. And it’s easy to take the wrong attitude about failure.

I don’t want to get into pseudo-science here but¬†I know people who are frightened of failure. To me it’s either of no consequence or it’s a step on the way to something else.

As Edison said:

‚ÄúI have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.‚ÄĚ

He has so many quotes on persistence listed that I don’t know how he found time to invent things.

I have failed many times. The failures listed above don’t even begin to cover the mistakes I’ve made. Occasionally I have a night where I can’t sleep and all my failures come back to haunt me, many in painfully sharp detail.¬†A few dead plants don’t even make it into my top thousand failures.

I learned a long time ago that it’s better to think about the future than the past. I’m going to plant beans later next year. I’m going to move the kiwi berries outside. I’m going to design a new willow water experiment.

Not only that, but I’m going to plant wild garlic this autumn, get some peach trees and train standard gooseberries.

I’m going to spread my wings and do a thousand things, including misquoting lyrics from musicals.

And I’m going to concentrate on remembering the things that went well. Like the good beans, or visitors who think we’re doing a good job.


Smiling visitors mean we’re doing something right