Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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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

 


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Around the Farm

It’s the 1st of June and we have just planted two acres of “pollen & nectar mix.”  At Church Farm our logo is a bee. Bees need all the help they can get so we have planted…

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Red cloverbee clover
Alsike clover
Phalecia
Sweet Bottom Clover
Sainfoin
Birdsfoot trefoil
Lesser Knapweed
Musk Mallow

 

 

 

Strawberry season has begun. You might have received strawberries in your farm box, already, and some have been available in the shop.  The early crop is  being harvested and there will be more to come.

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Little Farmer birthday parties are great fun!  The Little Farmer Birthday Party package can include a tractor and trailer ride, or egg collecting. Woodland wild parties and little farmers bespoke parties can be arranged.  Our Wild Party packages are perfect if you love the great outdoors and you want to have a completely different kind of party.

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Don’t miss a thing:

Church Farm Website

Church Farm Blog

Church Farm Store

Rural Care Blog

 

 

 


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Saying Good-bye to Su and Darren

In May we said good-bye to Su and Darren.

 

Su worked for five years in the Café, cooking breakfasts, and baking cakes, and also making ready meals and jams and chutneys for sale in the Farm Shop.  Her steady presence and friendly greetings welcomed everyone.   You might also have seen her walking her dog, Sid, around the farm.  Su has moved to Derbyshire to work in catering for a wedding venue.  We wish her well!

 

 

Aimee

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Su & Jam

Darren, the man who fell in love with Vicars Orchard.

About 3 years ago, Darren was mainly working in horticulture and coordinating the intern program. He took a well-deserved break and went to visit his family in Australia. On that trip he decided his time had  come  to return to Australia for good. He came back to sort everything out after living in the UK for about 10 years. One evening he strolled around the farm and ended up in Vicars Orchard in bloom and witnessed a beautiful sunset.  The beauty of the orchard and the potential gripped him and he decided to stay.  The ticket to return home to Australia (not a cheap affair) was left unused and Darren started sorting out the orchard that had been mainly left to its own devices since 2008.

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Darren passion for the orchard and knowledge inspired others to get involved and Vicars Orchard in 2017 is definitely something to be proud of!

Ann

 

The Quiet Aussie

Quiet he may have been, but his presence is missed, not least by the Horticulture Team.   Darren took over from me as Leader in horticulture last July, where he used his considerable experience in several countries to continue and improve what is grown in our tunnels and fields;  he nurtured the orchard with knowledge and passion.   Darren’s innate caring nature encompassed all at the farm, with particular emphasis on the interns for whom he felt a sense of responsibility which included  irritation at their untidy habits!

My lasting memory of Darren is our ‘walk and talk’ times when we took the two dogs belonging to Emma and Tim and my black lab for a wander in the woods.   Our conversations went beyond horticulture and we got to know each other in greater depth, and to talk about Oz where I used to live too.  Darren had to leave his lab behind when he first came here and Daisy and I hope he will get another companion soon.

This picture shows how stressful our weekly coffee and cakes meetings were!   Eva has now taken over as Leader.

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Good-on-ya Darren, Eva and I wish you well.

Anne 

 

 

 

 


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Bee Stings

Chicken Dave experienced a rite of passage which most would choose to avoid.  Dave had volunteered to help beekeeper Euan replace the pallets the beehives sit on in the orchard apiary.  It is a job for spring when the winter honey stores have run low and the hives are lightest in weight.  It is a job best done on a cool evening when the bees are not buzzing.  Instead, Euan chose a beautiful spring evening and the bees were inquisitive!  It cost Dave his first ever bee sting – times 2 in fact.  Everyone seems to love bees these days except perhaps when contact is too close for comfort – stings do hurt.  Euan accepts 2 or 3 stings a year as occupational hazard (but could probably exercise more caution and avoid even those).

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What to know about bee (and wasp stings): 

  • Worker-bee stings have barbs, which means they stay in the skin with the venom-sac attached, still pulsing venom.
  • A bee that stings leaves behind parts of its innards and will die soon after.
  • Stings should be scraped out with a finger nail. Pulling out the sting squeezes the entire content of the venom-sac into the skin.
  • Queen-bee stings aren’t barbed but are only ever used against other queen bees.
  • Male-drone bees are stingless.
  • Wasp stings aren’t barbed and one wasp can sting multiple times (but with decreasing venom impact).
  • Bee stings are acid and should be treated with an alkali, such as baking powder.
  • Wasp stings are alkali and should be treated with an acid, such as vinegar.
  • Proprietary treatment creams and sprays work better than homespun remedies.
  • Swelling and itching from stings lasts for 2 or 3 days but there is considerable person-to-person variation in the severity of reaction.
  • People who react severely to bee stings can be desensitised by administration of tiny quantities of bee venom over a series of injections (by qualified medical practitioners).

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When might bees sting?

  • Move slowly near bees (or wasps). Flapping arms will panic insects.
  • Don’t stand in the flight path of bees into and out of the hive.
  • Don’t wear strong perfumes near bees.
  • A bee caught in hair will panic and sting. A pre-emptive first strike to kill the bee is sensible, as a stinging bee will die anyway.
  • If one or two bees show too much interest then walk away slowly and stand in the shade until they lose interest.
  • Don’t run from bees. Bees can fly faster than Usain Bolt can run.
  • Bees get bad tempered when atmospheric pressure changes before a storm.
  • Bees see a different light spectrum and there is some suggestion that deep blue coloured clothing upsets them.
  • Working a single field crop (such as oilseed rape) can result in bees being less calm.
  • Bee colonies that are without a queen are more aggressive.
  • Older worker bees can be more tetchy than young bees.
  • Bees struggle to sting if they have a full stomach. Beekeepers smoke bees to encourage them to feed, in readiness to flee a fire.

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It is perhaps foolish to focus a news item on bee stings when we need to embrace these fantastic, beneficial insects and besides it has been suggested that bee stings are beneficial in preventing arthritis.  Don’t let the very small chance of a sting put you off the joy bees.  It hasn’t put Dave off.  If you see him around the farm tell him he has been very brave!

Euan Brierley

 

 


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Vicar’s Orchard

Damsons, plums, greengages, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pears, apples and medlars: seven hundred and twenty trees in Vicar’s Orchard: mostly of local varieties. The orchard was first laid out and planted in 2008. Lots of local people came to help plant it. Next year we will be inviting them back to see how their trees have grown. It will be the tenth anniversary of planting, though the trees will be twelve years old. After planting, the orchard got a bit neglected and the labels on the trees wore off, so we didn’t know which was which. We had to recreate the grid on which the trees were laid out. We did this using recycled roof tiles painted with letters and numbers. Then we could match the printed plan to the actual trees. After that I inscribed 710 aluminium labels naming the trees, giving each of them an address and set them twinkling in the branches.

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Some trees had died, so last year we used a memorial fund for Daniel Gomm to purchase replacements in his memory. His relatives and friends came to plant 32 of them. Each tree has to be staked, fitted with a rabbit guard, swaddled with a mulch mat, manured and given a couple of cans of water, so planting a tree is quite hard work, and the orchard soil is often very stony. This year we planted another 12 trees and there are still a few gaps left to fill.

Under Darren’s guidance, Dave pruned the trees this year, and Mary and I scraped up the prunings. Many prunings on the ground had been gnawed, so we decided to pile them around the edge of the orchard, hoping that rabbits and voles would gnaw these rather than the trees themselves. Dave was awarded the title of Supreme Shit Shoveller of the Year, for barrowing over 700 loads of manure, one for each tree. Rabbit guards had to be checked frequently, leaning trees straightened with stakes, and weeds strimmed around the trees – and all this recorded in the orchard log which keeps track of each tree.

Shit award

Blossoming in the orchard starts with the damsons and plums, followed by the cherries, nectarines and peaches and by the end of April the apples and pears are in bloom. There’s some mowing to do but until fruit picking time it’s now mainly down to the bees.

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Roger Gomm

 


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Why Our Work is Important to Us

There is nothing that Rural Care isn’t involved in at Church Farm, we keep ourselves busy with anything from picking flowers for the shop to hanging a new door in the pub. Our days are diverse and filled with purpose, which is how we like them! Some of the roles we embark on at the farm offer us more than you may think and benefit us as much as the farm.

We offer opportunities for a diverse range of individuals, all of whom have their own interests, strengths, skills and abilities. We are able to tailor a day where everyone is involved in their own way.

This newsletter this was published in has been contributed to by Co-Farmer Holly, then folded by some of the students in our group from Greenside school, some of them have been hand delivered by Co-Farmers who like a walk and are learning about being safe in the community.

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Here are how some of our bigger responsibilities on the farm benefit us and the farm as a whole.

Laying hens
The laying hens offer us routine, which is important to some people.  The job is relatively predictable, there are many tasks involved in completing the job, and everyone finds their role. Harley loves to scatter the food. Luke enjoys collecting the eggs.  Daniel likes to get stuck in mucking out and Sean health checks the hens. Each with our own role, we work as a team and there is a sense of satisfaction and achievement at the end of the session. That then leads onto processing the eggs.  Some people like sorting over a chat about what happened on Eastenders. Florence likes to grade the eggs. Matthew is a keen egg boxer.  Many of the eggs you have purchased from the farm might have been boxed by Matthew. There is a wonderful cycle to chickens and eggs.  We all play our part and the result is our lovely fresh, free range eggs for sale in the shop. All of our Co-Farmers in some way have been involved in the journey those eggs have made to get there. Those eggs for sale in the shop offer us independence skills, confidence, social skills, numeracy and writing skills and a sense that we are part of something that people appreciate.

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Sheep
Sheep are wonderful creatures for us to work with, they are relatively safe, very sensory and are a great platform for us to learn about behaviour, body language, spatial awareness, teamwork and communication. Again, as with the hens, there is a cycle to working with sheep. Their cycle is over a year and starts with the rams being put with the ewes (tupping). Throughout the year there are then numerous tasks such as foot trimming, shearing, lambing and worming. These become part of our own cycle. We know it is spring when the lambs come and we know it is summer when we shear. To work with sheep you have to be aware of their signs and signals, what they are telling us. This can teach us a lot about behaviour, observation and team building.

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Allotment
Rural Care has their own allotment garden.  The idea behind the garden was to grow food for the Co-Farmers to cook with. Each spring the Co-Farmers choose what they would like to grow based on what they like to eat. Throughout the spring and summer the Co-Farmers tend to the fruit and veg they have sown. This again offers many different tasks which altogether result in the fabulous produce they harvest at the end of the summer and early autumn.  Then comes my favourite part, the cooking, as we learn how to turn that variety of veg into something yummy. Again there is an annual cycle that is predictable, the tasks change with the seasons and there is a great reward and sense of achievement at harvest time.

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Our work is so important to us. It’s not just about getting a job done it’s about finding out people’s interests, strengths and abilities and matching them to a wide range of tasks that together make up the farming that we do.

Rozelle

 

 

 

Church Farm Shop

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Have you visited the farm shop lately? There are some changes afoot.  We know that what our customers want from a farm shop is to have unique local produce. With this in mind we are extending the range of products that are produced here on the farm.

As well as being busy cooking breakfasts and baking cakes, our café kitchen is also used to produce the food that we sell in the shop.  For several years we have produced a range of jams and chutneys, all made with Church Farm fruit and vegetables.  There are very few farm shops doing this.  Beware the mass produced jams which are overprinted with a farm shop’s name.  We also produce a range of ready meals which can be cooked straight from the freezer.  Unlike the frozen meals sold in many farm shops, ours are made in small batches in exactly the same way that you would in your kitchen at home.  You cannot get closer to a home cooked meal without the effort of doing it yourself.  We are now extending the range to include a number of desserts.  We have chosen traditional recipes including rhubarb crumble and bread and butter pudding, all enough for two to share.

We are also now selling a range of soups.  Again made in our kitchen using Church Farm vegetables.  These are for sale alongside our homemade sausage rolls and scotch eggs with plans to extend our range of homemade deli items available over the summer.

So whether you are local or a day visitor we hope that you will take home a real taste of the farm and something that you cannot get anywhere else.

Su

 

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