Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


Leave a comment

Where is Farmer Christmas This Year?

This year Farmer Christmas has turned up in Vicars Orchard, miles away from the sheep in Upany where he spent the last festive season.

farmer-christmas-184

Photo by Emma Massie

Almost everyone has a Christmas Tree of some description over the festive season for a few weeks but Farmer Christmas is interested in trees the whole year round.

Especially the fruit trees in the Orchard where he has found more trees than he thought, maybe nearer 800 than 700 which means more work and hopefully more fruit in years to come.

So the children who come and visit Farmer Christmas are helping to keep him company and to help the work in the Orchard where each tree needs to be fed, protected, pruned and generally cared for through the winter months.

Some animals will hibernate and trees are very similar in that they have a rest and wait for the warmer days of Spring to get growing again.

This means that with no leaves or fruit or undergrowth in the way it is the ideal time to get on with those maintenance jobs you have been dying to do.  Stake the trees that need some extra support, repair damaged tree guards to keep the rabbits out, put cow manure around the trees to replace the nourishment that has been taken out.

That is 800 barrows of cow poo! A big pile of poo!  Luckily we have lots of cows.

Also we have lots of visitors who help support the farm and they have been finding trees and having their picture taken with Farmer Christmas and the tree that they have found.

15216242_10157765838500257_1853171659_o

Photo by Tom Large

It may be Apple or Pear, Quince or Medlar, younger or older, in sickness or in health – oops I think I just slipped into a marriage ceremony!  But the idea is to nurture and cherish the tree as far as possible, so that it too will nurture and cherish us in years to come with beautiful blossom in Spring and fruit in the Summer or Autumn. With a tree hopefully living for 25 years or more it is quite an interesting comparison to a marriage after all.

—Chicken Dave

 

 


Leave a comment

Bats in the Belfry

In Ardeley there is a Church and a Farm.  Bats may well be living in both.

All 18 species of bat found in the UK are protected, as their natural habitats have been disappearing.  As mature trees are cut down, these small creatures, the only flying mammals, need places to live which suit their natural behaviour.

 bat-in-hand

 A long eared bat eating a meal worm

Caves would be good and holes in trees are ideal so you can see how a large hole in a dark tower holding a bell might work.

As flying is such hard work a bat has to eat a third of its body weight each night to survive, and that might mean 3,000 midges!!!

As part of the conservation work on the farm, bat boxes can be seen and hedgerows still exist and provide plenty of food stuff for bats on their nocturnal ventures.  Bats can see, but they hunt at night and use echolocation to find their prey and avoid flying into trees at high speed.

Man has made use of this technique to develop sonar and has invented bat detectors which convert the sounds bats make, which we are unable to hear, into something we can hear.

Only three species of bats eat blood and none are found in Transylvania at all, so Bram Stoker may have made up some of his book involving a certain Count Dracula.  Thankfully, those three species are also not found in the UK, so those of us sleeping at the Farm can sleep safely in our beds!!!!!!

 

Chicken Dave

 


Leave a comment

The Tree of Knowledge

The second weekend in October saw our third effort at holding an Apple Day, and it was pleasing to see how things have changed over the last couple of years in terms of people’s interest and knowledge about this annual event.

apple-day-apples

A Display of Vicars Orchard Apples

Church Farm only started taking part in Apple Day celebrations in 2014 and have made great strides in popularising the Vicars Orchard supply.

In 2014, we were blessed with a lovely orchard and 700 trees as well as a guest appearance by a Japanese violinist and Geoffrey and Aimee.  A small display of apples was on view but no visitors to the Vicars Orchard.

2015 saw a beautiful Autumnal Sunday, a packed car park and Aimee and the Apple Jacks playing to a long line of apple pressing children and a Rural Care Harvest Party with a Goat.

We had a Radio broadcast, as well as the Offley Morris Dancers celebrating their 60th anniversary.

The Orchard had been tended and fed and was bountiful for the first time since its creation in 2008 and producing apples for the day and for the coming weeks.

This year over a hundred people made it out to the Orchard, Aimee sent a band called Mosaic, including a harpist, and Geoffrey made it three years out of three, despite his budding music teaching career.

apple-day-geoff

 

 

 

Local musician Geoffrey entertaining outside the Garden Room

 

Apples were pressed almost non-stop by Austrian and English alike and we ran out of apple juice and sold out of toffee apples by lunchtime.  The weather hadn’t been as kind on the day, but the interest in locally grown fruit and vegetables certainly seems to be a rising trend and nature’s bounty continues to provide us with fruit from just 500 or so yards away for the Farm Store, Café and box scheme.

Comments from those tasting their freshly pressed juice included “the best apple juice I have ever tasted,” “much better than from the supermarkets,” “mmmmm,” “good,” “lovely.”

When asked whether they enjoyed drinking the juice or making it more, children seemed torn between the two, perhaps “making it” just shaded the result.

Maybe the growing popularity of allotments, of visits to farms and of an interest in home grown food is coming home to roost and Apple Day is becoming a measure of how this movement is progressing.

Thank you to everyone who came to the farm again this year for Apple Day with big thanks to Mosaic and Geoff and everyone else involved.

apple-day-3-generations

Three of the Beauties of the Farm
A Three Generation Family enjoying Apple Day

 Chicken Dave

 


Leave a comment

A Day to Remember

orchard-roger-wheelbarrow

November is the month when we traditionally remember the people that went before us, and is a good time to reflect on a day back in April.

In April this year we planted 32 trees in memory of my late husband, Dan Gomm, and in 2017 we will plant the same amount again to replace some of the trees that have died.  60 friends and family came together and dug holes, planted trees, put in tree stakes, manured around them and erected benches.   The children also made some lovely bug hotels.  After that we ate a lovely stew.

orchard-planting-scene

The trees are traditional varieties of fruit trees and were purchased from the Brogdale Trust, the national fruit tree collection.  Some of the trees  are so rare, that they have to be specially grafted for Church Farm and are only available in 2017.

Darren, our Church Farm orchard expert, made sure every tree was planted to the correct depth and with the required care to ensure their best chance, whilst Roger and Mary Gomm, my parents-in-law, painstakingly mapped out the grid of where the trees were going. Roger has also engraved up to 300 labels for the fruit trees on permanent aluminium labels, giving a new sense of energy to the orchard.

Why Church Farm?  Church Farm orchard seemed an obvious choice in the end.  Dan loved apple trees, we got married at Church Farm during his illness, Mary and Roger lived locally and volunteer on the farm, and I set up Rural Care and spend most of my life here.

orchard-ann-and-parents

There were no flowers on Dan’s grave, instead people donated money towards the fruit trees.  He will get blossom every year in the spring from now on, and apples, nectarines, pears and gages in the autumn.  And heaps of wild flowers and wild life!  Just as he would have liked.

orchard-roger-and-anns-dad

Maybe the orchard will become a place to remember all of those who we have lost at Church Farm, like Roger Waygood, Wendy’s dear husband, Tim, Adrian and Jackie’s father; Tim Monohan, the Co-Farmer; Kevin Doires, a dear volunteer; Jason Kay, the butcher; and Terry Lauezzari, a dear neighbour and friend of the farm.

Planting the trees in memory of Dan was an amazing day, if not physically and emotionally exhausting! But it was very much a positive action to take in memory of him.  For anybody who knew Dan Gomm and would like to help with planting the rest of the trees in memory of him, the next tree planting day will be on 25.03.17 from 10-3.  Please RSVP with me at ann@churchfarmardeley.co.uk.

orchard-lea-and-andy

If anybody would be interested in a similar event and plant a (few) tree(s) to remember a loved one please contact darren.edwards@churchfarmardeley.co.uk or charlotte.smith@churchfarmardeley.co.uk.

—Ann, Manager, Rural Care

Photos by Nick Hooper
www.nickhooperphoto.com

 


Leave a comment

Graduating from the Farm

Many people come and go from the farm, some having stayed for a short time and some for much longer.  Something brings them and perhaps something else takes them away.

There is a time though that pre-ordained or not lets them know that their time is coming to an end and they will reflect on what they have seen or been a part of and look forward to what is to come. Memories of difficult times will take on a softer hue and impossible situations seem hilarious with the benefit of distance.

Friends may have been made from different cultures and first time experiences will have been shared many miles from home.  Different foods will have been tasted and different ways of living lived.  England may not be Church Farm but Church Farm is certainly part of England.

Now the summer is over people will be returning home with tales to tell, Nutella to look forward to and a chance to speak to people in their own language again.

This year for example we have enjoyed Anna’s company who has now applied for a job in the Caribbean and is currently picking grapes with her family in Sicily.  Ana from Spain is back to her studies in Barcelona along with all of our French visitors including Hanna.

grad-javier-and-anna

Anna and Javier

The lovely Amber has got herself a job with a university having found out that people more than plants were her thing and Eva has enjoyed a trip to Greece and to see her beloved family.

grad-hanna-and-ashley

Hanna and Ashley and a Chicken

 Su will soon be off on her travels again leaving Dejan and Javier to look after the Cupcake Café where Pauline spent her first visit to England with Anna.

Merrick is doing loft conversions and Carl has returned to the world of advertising while Stuart continues to caramelise onions and Drew entertains and feeds the people of Guatemala.

grad-stuart

Stuart in his whites, and blacks

 Texas Tom will soon be returning to the US to get married and leaves behind another array of remarkable pieces of carpentry that will provide comfort and shelter for those he may never get to meet.

Ashley will soon be in the Navy and Ben may never get back on his bike again.

Julia returns to Germany and may even stop on the way back to take another look at St Albans!

grad-three-girls

Hungarian Bori, German Julia and French Elina sharing a sofa.

How she will miss English rural transport and perhaps baked beans and tomato ketchup!!

Chicken Dave

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Tyler by Day and Night

The tiny robin looked around for breakfast and found some berries.  Wary of the kite above and the pig below he pecked at the fruit before chirping his way off into the fields for hours of play upon the breeze.  Hopping from tree to tree, from ash to oak he spotted his oddball friend the white bluebell amongst its more homogenous (same) brothers and sisters.

We can’t all be the same he thought and admired the will of the flower to be different.  More fields of wild flowers to explore and admire, bees within and around them and acres of blue sky to dive into.

With little mouths to feed and nests to repair he couldn’t play all day but remembering Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Richard Bach) he knew it was a good use of some of his time.

The big ball in the sky was falling and the smaller one coming over and it was time to tuck his head under his wing and rest.

Tyler has just completed his time on the farm and these photos are a testimony to his love of nature, his own quiet nature and the peace we can sometimes find around us amidst the noise and haste. (Desirderata).

Chicken Dave


Leave a comment

Harmony

When I think of harmony, I think of an orchestra all playing well together.  Although this is not the strict musical definition of harmony (thank you Aimee) it is perhaps the understanding of harmony that many people have.

Trying to keep everyone together and at least reasonably content is the lot of parents, team captains, bosses and politicians as well as world leaders.  It is certainly not an easy thing.

When there is plenty, harmony seems easier to obtain and when resources are short it would make sense that it is more difficult.  However if we look at more difficult times it is often at these times that some people pull together for some greater good.

 Harmony - Lorraine Gemma Hannah

Lorraine, Gemma and Hannah from Rural Care

 

Sharing is certainly not something that comes easily to many people and in some ways it feels unnatural, our instinct for personal survival kicks in and yet as the saying goes “if you travel alone you travel faster but if you travel together you travel further.”

Nature seems to cope very well with harmony, balance and equilibrium despites man’s efforts to intervene nature can adapt and correct itself to cope with much that is thrown at it.

Often when I am pottering around doing a bit of work here and there, I know that cutting a branch will have consequences not only for the tree but for the whole ecosystem that it belongs to.

If I upset one person there will be a ripple effect and if I make a person smile this too will resonate further than its initial impact.

Harmony - football team

French/Anglo relations developing on the football pitch, straw bale and beyond

 

Chicken Dave