Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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From the Farmer

  • Wet and cold spring has delayed cultivations, planting and the cattle going out into the fields.
  • 6 calves have been born so far this year, and there are 34 more to come!
  • It has been a great month for piglets – 3 litters of 8 going strong. One litter from a 7 year old Berkshire Sow.
  • Once the ground dries up, we will move pig pens to fresh ground.
  • Potatoes were in this time last year. We have two acres still to plant of Cara and Maris Piper.
  • Onion beds are ready and 2 acres to plant by hand soon.
  • We have finally started the planting of 500 summer raspberry canes at the bottom of Vicarage Field.
  • Everything is budding, and hopefully reports of hard late frost are exaggerated like most weather reports seem to be.
  • Unbelievably, its time to order turkey and goose chicks again.

Tim

 


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A Night in the Lambing Sheds

Our ewes have always been kind to us during our lambing season and for the most part lambed during the day.  7.30am breakfast usually kicked things off, and we would have a couple of lambs just after 9am. The 4pm feed would induce the same. This year however, it seems they have decided night time lambing is the way to go. I think the weather has played a part in this decision!

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On one of these nights I take over from another staff member at 7pm. A ewe expecting triplets is lambing. She has the first lamb, and an hour later the next one follows, a very small lamb who appears quite weak. The temperature is dropping and I hope mum can get them cleaned up before they get cold. Its now 9.45 and she delivers the 3rd lamb, this one a little bigger, although it strikes me how small they all are. Its now a fight against time for mum to get all 3 clean and up, colostrum in them before the frost sets in. It’s an anxious time and mum still seems distracted—something isn’t right.  She fusses over them but then keeps walking away and laying down. My first thought is she is tired, or perhaps low in trace elements, something that can occur after lambing. Another hour passes, the longest hour of the night, and I am willing her to get these lambs clean.  If I interfere at this stage it could break the bond. Its 11pm, and I start to wonder if there is another lamb, as the first 3 are small, and she is still distracted. Mum is protective of her brood, but she is tired and lets me have a look—there is a lamb laying in a breach position. She has been unable to deliver it because of its positioning, and it’s a big lamb and needs a bit of encouraging out. Quads! Now it is a race against time to get them all dry and warm, and mum seems overwhelmed.  I help her dry the lambs and get hot water bottles, as their temperatures are dropping and the 2nd lamb is going into shock. The first lamb is up and looking for milk, 15 mins later the 3rd is the same. Lamb number 2 is still down struggling on his front legs.

It feels like we make hundreds of decisions in a day, and I have come to realise that decision making is 90% of what a lambing season entails. The decisions are often hard, sometimes made with your head but more often than not, with your heart, and they are not always the right decisions, but you learn from them. I don’t know what the next 24 hours will hold for these lambs—it’s going to be a struggle.

I sit in the back of the lambing shed, I look to the left in awe of this ewe and her quads, immediately devoted yet overwhelmed.  To the right there is another ewe who is quietly delivering twins, murmuring to them as she delivers. One of my favourite ewes comes and lays down next to me, and I look up at the clear sky and see it’s full of stars.  It’s now midnight, it’s absolutely freezing, but I wouldn’t be anywhere else.

Rozelle

 


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Claire

dsc09879.jpgHave you met Claire?  She is embracing Church Farm with enthusiasm and passion that is contagious!  Growing up on a farm in the Scottish Highlands, where as she says, “rain and snow is every day weather,“ and the first vehicle she ever drove was a tractor, she is feeling right at home here.  Before joining us at Church Farm, she worked for 20 years as a wedding planner.  She adores  her three cats, and enjoys travelling, especially to Costa Rica, as they are 98% sustainable using the rain, volcanoes, rivers and sun, and they produce amazing coffee.  Claire says she loves working here in the fresh air alongside “so many dedicated and hardworking people.”  And so far, her favourite animal is Mike the rabbit.  She has also lived in Gibraltar, and is looking forward to the sunny days, as well.

 

 


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What’s Growing

Eva, who leads our horticulture team, sat down with me, Moles seed catalogue in hand, to talk about what’s growing at Church Farm this year.  As winter might hopefully be drawing to a close, it’s time to get excited about plans for new crops and setting seeds.

This year promises new varieties of traditional crops, Jerusalem artichokes and lots of colour.

At the end of March, Eva and her team had already set 2000 leek seeds and many spinach seeds, had two varieties of mange tout growing, and were ready to begin setting tomato seeds.  Eva says we are a bit behind last year, due to the lingering cold and snow we have had.

Mange tout, the year’s first crop, will come in green and purple.  There will be three varieties of beetroot grown—one in traditional red/purple, a golden one, and a red and white striped variety called Chioggia.  This year’s French beans will be green, yellow, some climbing and some dwarf.  The team will be planting cherry tomatoes (small) and beefsteak tomatoes (large).

This year Church Farm is expecting to produce more strawberries for a longer harvest period, due to last year’s planting.  This year, 500 new summer raspberries will go in, to increase the raspberry yield in coming years.

Last summer, Eva learned about Jerusalem artichokes from an enthusiastic chef in the Jolly Waggoner and will be growing them this year.

Jerusalem artichokes are sweet and almost garlicky and mushroomy and gorgeous. Although called artichokes they’re actually tubers – like rough and ready potatoes. You can scrub and roast them whole like mini jacket potatoes and split them open, drizzled with a little chilli oil. You can even use them in a salad with smoky bacon. A Jerusalem artichoke’s best friends are sage, thyme, butter, bacon, bay, cream, breadcrumbs, cheese and anything smoked.”

—Jamie Oliver

Hopefully, you will enjoy something new this year, alongside the mainstays of lettuce, carrots, parsnips, cucumber, broad beans, runner beans, and courgettes.  Would you like to see these things growing?  Be sure to include horticulture and the polytunnels on your next walk around the farm.  Are you having a weekly delivery from Church Farm?  You can – it’s easy, at churchfarm.shop.

Aimee

veg pics

Photos from Moles Seeds, with permission.


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Farm Shop

Our Farm shop has had a facelift and injection of new stock over the past 2 weeks. The refurbishment work is nearly finished and is part of a bigger project to create a farm shop that offers a little something for everyone.

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We are looking to offer more of a range of local seasonal products as well as unique fine foods and traditional nostalgic treats. As an organisation we are looking at ways to reduce the plastic going into landfill. We are looking to source products that use less packaging or use more sustainable alternatives. We are going to encourage all of our customers to bring their own bags and in addition we will provide a biodegradable alternative. We have sourced some lovely local products such as Wobbly Bottom goats cheese from Hitchin, Biggleswade sweet chilli crisps and glass bottled soft drinks from Cambridge. We are on the lookout for more local products to stock. Do visit us and browse our newly refurbished shop and stock—we have a wide range of jams, chutneys, sauces, and meat accompaniments as well as our own free range meat, eggs, vegetables, logs and more. We also have speciality breads available on the weekends, sourdough, ciabatta and baguettes.  These sell out fast though, so get in early!

We hope to see you soon.

Rozelle

 


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Easter Holiday Activities

Lamb Feeding
We are lambing now. If you would like to help us bottle feed them you can book online. A lamb feeding session lasts around 45 minutes and you will hear from our experienced staff all about the lambs you are feeding and the latest details about how the lambing season is progressing. A wonderful experience for all ages, bottle feeding lambs is a wheelchair and pushchair friendly activity.

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Indoor and Outdoor Play, Feed the Animals, and Farm Trail
With your day pass you can spend time in the indoor play room, the newly redesigned Woodland Play area, feed animals around the farm, and follow the Easter Farm Trail to get a treat from the shop.

Egg Collecting
Egg collecting can be booked for 11:30 am and lasts approximately 1 hour.  Accompany one of our farmers and experience the free range hens close up, and take home a box of (6) eggs.

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Camping
Pitch up your tent under the stars and enjoy all the farm has to offer for a weekend or even a week. Church Farm is a great place for a glass of wine around the campfire to relax and enjoy nature as well as natural play. You can book to have an open fire. There are large straw bales provided for clambering on, which can provide young and older with hours of fun – but only under parental supervision. Basic facilities like compost toilets and hot shower cubicles are ready in the camping field. Camping prices include a free farm pass for every day you stay!

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Trailer Rides
Enjoy a trip around the farm on our popular tractor/trailer ride.  Book for 12:30, Saturday or Sunday.

Book all events online!

 

 

 


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From the Farmer

  • 2 tonnes of Seed Potatoes, Maris Piper and Cara and enough Onions have been ordered to plant 2 acres.
  • Soft Fruit pruning proceeds apace, with 800 new raspberry canes to plant.
  • Everything to paint, acres of painting / wood treatments to do, including 3000 posts to treat.
  • Trees to coppice (cut down) in woods, which we leave down on the floor for a year to dry and provide habitat for wildlife.
  • New log splitter at work.
  • Itching to plough. When will the soil dry out to plough this spring? – don’t think it will before March.FB_IMG_1518519025582
  • Greater numbers of cattle on Church Farm this winter as we have had young stock from Aldenham come over (12) in addition to 36 pregnant cattle and 40 plus young stock.
  • Feeding good quality barley straw as well as hay, and haylage to sheep. The breeding ewes still have a few more weeks good grass in Lowany
  • Geese and Ducks are a laying.
  • Rat control major priority over the farm at this time of year.
  • I can’t believe that someone is regularly chucking dog poo bags along the ancient green lane up the middle of the farm.
  • Lambing coming up in mid March.

Tim