Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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Apple Day at Church Farm – 30th Sept

Apple Day

Vicars Orchard contains apples, pears, plums, greengages and damsons, crab apples, cherries, quinces, nectarines, peaches and medlars. Most are traditional varieties rarely available in the shops today. A lot originated locally, so there are many 19th and early 20th century varieties from River’s at Sawbridgeworth and Laxton’s at Bedford. Some like the Comice pear or the Mirabelle plum have been known since Neolithic times. There are approximately 130 different types of trees and over 700 individuals.

The orchard was laid out in spring 2008 and most of the trees were planted then. Most would have been two years old when planted here, making them 11 years old today. Most are grafts which means that the main trunk and root system is from a vigorous variety which would not have very interesting fruit, and the upper branches (and fruits) are from a more interesting variety which would struggle if planted in the soil.

This is an organic orchard. Instead of artificial fertilizers we use manure from the red poll cows, which over-winter alongside the orchard. No insecticide or herbicides are used and the orchard has resident bees: take care around the hives! Windfalls feed the pigs on the farm.

This is still a young orchard. In years to come when the trunks of the trees thicken and the fruiting branches are stouter and higher, it will be possible to combine fruit growing with grazing sheep or geese, allowing for natural fertilization and mowing, and then the trees will no longer be susceptible to rabbit damage which is a major problem at present.

pick your own

Make a Day of It—Saturday, 30th September 2017

Join in Apple Day Activities at Church Farm Orchard
Free Entry all Day and Free parking at Church Farm Ardeley

4.00pm Optional Farm Tractor & Trailer Talk & Tour (£4.50)
5.00pm Pre-Show Drinks in the Jolly Waggoners Pub (pay at bar) and
5.00pm Pre-Show Barbecue/Buffet & Bites from the Farm : Introduction (£5.00 )
5.55pm Walk to the Village Hall
6.15pm No Finer Life : Play Begins (Tickets £9 )
7.30pm Interval
7.45pm Audience with Graham Harvey, Author & Agricultural Editor of The Archers Q&A
8.30pm Retire to the pub : Cheese & Desserts (£5.00, pre bookable online)

Book online: www.churchfarmardeley.co.uk, Events (from the home page)

 

 

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Chips with Everything

No of course this isn’t about food. It is about trees and what happens to them when sadly they have to get taken down because they are diseased or growing in the wrong place.

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Dean, formerly of Capel Manor College, and now running his own tree business, has been donating his leftovers to Church Farm.

Now what can we do with wood chips on a 175 acre clay soil site!?! Firstly we can save ourselves and the Co-Farmers at Rural Care a lot of weeding by mulching the ground around their raised beds.

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Next we can pave the path through Home Wood so the Wood Dwellers don’t get muddy feet in the winter and the vehicles won’t get stuck.

Also, we can make Home Wood Play a safer and more attractive space by adding a natural flooring to save the floor getting squishy and muddy and meaning more time can be spent throughout the year gazing at trees and birds and playing on the lovely tractor that Dean carved.

No waste, no compacted soil, better surfaces, and decomposition will help the little creatures and the goodness will return to the ground.

Chicken Dave

 

 

 


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Pond Life, Potato Tunnels and Countryside Management

Church Farm has a new guerrilla Countryside Management team!! Trying to keep everyone happy or indeed anyone happy in the Countryside or elsewhere for that matter is a big challenge. However one small boy that loves a challenge is Josh. He has been out and about trying to help save the various different habitats he is finding out in the countryside.

It all started with the generosity of a well known and well loved music teacher who offered Josh her greenhouse for growing things. Pots of herbs are thriving and the tomato plants ripening beautifully thanks to his care and attention with a bit of help from mum and dad.

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From pots to ponds, and it was noted that the garden containing said greenhouse had a pond that was somewhat dominated by one big plant with no diversity of pond life to be seen. Indeed the water was barely visible.

Enter Josh.

Plants were identified and removed, transplanted or composted and a magnificent drawing of a pond created showing the place before and after.

Further afield a larger pond was discovered near the potato tunnels (polytunnels for the more formal amongst you) with no water in it at all.

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Plans are now afoot for more transplants and water replenishment after consultation with Tim the Farmer.

Meanwhile the herb garden needed some more TLC, which it has started to get from Polly and Clare and more identification again to help with tastier dinners and lovelier smells.

Whilst the amazing horticulture team are doing this on a bigger basis to feed the farm and its guests, Josh and his family are digging in to help all creatures great and small.

Chicken Dave

 


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Agri-Cultural Exchange

I have been an intern at Church Farm for almost half a year now, and one of the reasons why I chose this place is the diversity. You can find a variety of domesticated animals, except dairy cows.

Back home in the Lower Rhine Region of Germany, dairy cows are dominating my life. I adore them since I started to work on a family owned dairy farm. It is a place where tradition and new technologies go hand in hand. Although it is a conventional farm, it is managed sustainably and animal welfare is a priority. Every cow, and there are around 80, has a name, and Eduscho is my favorite. She is 11 years old, which is quite unusual for modern dairy farming. There is so much I could tell you about these cows, but since it is summer, let me tell you how Eduscho is spending hers.

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Eduscho‘s optimal outside temperature is about 15°C, so you can imagine that summer isn’t her favorite time of the year, when the temperature can climb over 30°C. During that time Eduscho could become poorly due to the heat stress her body is suffering from. She has the chance to go outside onto the grassland, but when it‘s getting too hot she prefers to stay in the stable.

There she can cool down her body while having a cool shower. Above the eating grid there are little sprinklers that help her to feel more comfortable. On top of that, water nozzles behind huge fans are cooling down the air before it gets sucked in. If Eduscho wants to go outside she has to pass a gate which won’t open if she hasn’t been milked for a while. The responder around her neck is passing on the information to the gate. Then Eduscho will go to the milking robot, where she gets some special cow candy. A robotic arm moves under her udder to clean it with brushes, then a laser appears that tells the robot the location of the four teats, and the arm places the the cups onto the teats so the milking process can start. During that time there is an exchange of information between the robot and the responder.

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After the milking Eduscho will be able to pass the gate. The responder gives data about the rumination rate to the robot that also collects data about body temperature and the conductivity of milk. This data helps to analyse her overall health status. Before she leaves the robot she gets a little treatment for her hooves, you could call it a pedicure. Now after milking she might be in the mood for a nice back rub. She just has to push against one of the brushes and it starts to spin automatically.

Then she will head straight outside to eat the fresh grass. Standing next to Eduscho on the grassland you would observe that the agricultural land is surrounded by conservation stripes that offer habitat for wild animals. In the old barns where the calves are being raised, you can have a look at the busy swallows feeding their offspring. And as Eduscho is enjoying the twilight with its dropping temperature, you might be lucky and see the barn owls leaving their nest boxes under the gable of the barn.

Angelina

 


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No Finer Life

Join us on Saturday, 30th September for No Finer Life: A Farming Story, the one act play by Graham Harvey, followed by an audience with Graham Harvey of the The Archers. 

Set in the Oxfordshire countryside at the end of World War Two, No Finer Life is rich in tradition and full of vivid, memorable characters. But this is no nostalgic, bucolic ramble.

This is Elizabeth’s story…Finer Life

What inspires a young Somerset land girl to set off in search of a best selling author in the darkest days of war? The story moves between the 1940s and the current day, reflecting that the love of the countryside and the need to protect it are timeless.

Graham Harvey, for twenty years the Agricultural Story Editor of The Archers and writer of more than 600 episodes, brings to the stage the true tale of an unlikely Cotswold hero and an enduring romance.

A townie by birth, Graham has had a life-long fascination with the countryside and those who live and work within it. As a student, he stumbled across a battered copy of George Henderson’s book, The Farm Ladder, and it has been an inspiration ever since.

In the mid-1980s he joined the script-writing team of the long-running radio series The Archers, since when he has written more than 600 episodes. He spent twenty years as Agricultural Storyline Editor, creating some of the best-loved characters and most memorable plots.

His stage plays include The Shearing Gang, The Process, and The Darkness of the Sun, the story of writer Henry Williamson. For TV, he has written episodes of The Bill and the space adventure, Jupiter Moon.

Graham’s journalism includes writing for The Sunday Times, Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday, New Scientist, and Country Life and for three years he wrote the Old Muckspreader column in Private Eye. His books include The Killing of the Countryside, The Forgiveness of Nature, We Want Real Food and The Carbon Fields.

 

Make a Day of It—Saturday, 30th September 2017

Join in Apple Day Activities at Church Farm Orchard Free Entry all Day and Free parking at Church Farm Ardeley

4.00pm Optional:- Farm Tractor & Trailer Talk & Tour (£4.50)
5.00pm Pre-Show Drinks in the Jolly Waggoners Pub (pay at bar) and
5.00pm Pre-Show Barbecue/Buffet & Bites from the Farm : Introduction (£5.00)
5.55pm Walk to the Village Hall
6.15pm No Finer Life – Play Begins (Tickets £9 )
7.30pm Interval
7.45pm Audience with Graham Harvey, Author & Agricultural Editor of The Archers Q&A
8.30pm Retire to the pub : Cheese & Desserts (£5.00, pre bookable online)

Book online: www.churchfarmardeley.co.uk, Events

 

 


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New Grass Ley Planned for Lowany

Over the summer we will be breaking up 5 acres of old worn out grass, and docks. The reseed will be a mixture of different ryegrasses and white clovers, each variety having different growth habits. It will also contain “Timothy,” a great early spring grass which cattle love.Timothy grass

Timothy-grass (Phleum pratense) is an abundant perennial grass native to most of Europe except for the Mediterranean region. It is also known simply as timothy, meadow cat’s-tail or common cat’s tail. It is one of the Phleum genus, consisting of about 15 species of annual and perennial grasses.

It is probably named after Timothy Hanson, an American farmer and agriculturalist said to have introduced it from New England to the southern states in the early 18th century. Upon his recommendation it became a major source of hay and cattle fodder to British farmers in the mid-18th century.

Timothy-grass can be confused with meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis) and purple-stem cat’s-tail (Phleum phleoides).

Tim

 


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Spring Clean

This spring we’ve had a proper spring clean that hopefully will continue.

Farms and environmentalists are well known to do a spot of hording. Everything can potentially be repaired or re-used somewhere else, but also on farms there always is an enormous to do list and never any time to repair things.

In the tidy up of a container an old potato grader was found.

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It took a lot of indoor space so my initial thought was to dust it off and put it as a quirky exhibit outside the café. An initial dust off, a wash and a bit of linseed oil and the result is amazing.

I spent a few evenings doing research on the potato grader online and found a wealth of information and created a summary for the sign above it.

This machine is a Cooch and Son’s potato sorter, grader or riddler.  It was bought in 2014 and was used a few times at Church Farm to sort our potato crop. It is still in working order. From the research we have done the machine would have been built between 1906 and 1937.

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Cooch and Son’s were based in Northampton and were renowned for their agricultural machinery and even won prizes at the Royal Agricultural Show of England RASE with their potato graders.

Originally the potato sorter would have been operated by turning a wheel at the back by hand, which made the conveyer belt work and move the grates horizontally.  Later on the electrical motor from SEM was added to mechanise the process even further.

There is a nice video online to see the machine in action.

Now that I know the history of this machine, it might deserve a roof over it to protect it against the winter rain, which adds another job to the job list!2017_0401_ChFm17_0215

We would like to use some of the old machinery laying around the farm as historical exhibits to add another of layer of interest and educational value to the farm. If anybody would be keen to help cleaning up some of the machinery and help with some of the research to make this happen please contact ann@churchfarmardeley.co.uk.

Ann