Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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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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Dr. Finlay’s Walking Stick

It was a Thursday at the end of April when the stick fell out of the sky bashing Dr Finlay right on the head.

“Ouch” he cried looking around to see what had attacked him without warning.

A long brown stick lay at his feet looking a little guilty.  “Sorry about that” said the Stick but I became detached and couldn’t help myself.

“Don’t worry” replied Dr Finlay, perhaps you would like to attach yourself to me instead and we can go walking together?

“That would be wonderful” said the Stick, I have always looked down from above from the same place wondering where all those two legged people, some of whom had sticks like me were going and what adventures they might have.”

“Well that is decided then, let us go forth together for the Month of May and see what adventures can befall us.  I will call you Dr Finlay’s Walking Stick or perhaps Fin for short or maybe Stick, which would you prefer?

“Fin is short for finger and we branches and sticks sometimes think of ourselves as the fingers of the trees when they come to life so Fin it is for me.”

So this is how it all began.  The merry month of May would see Fin and Dr Finlay getting out and about joining in the National Month of Walking.

Dr Finlay
May 1st 2017


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Wildlife at Church Farm

Hertfordshire National History Society is inviting participation in a new wildlife survey.  According to their website, “The last organised county survey was started in 1970, and resulted in the publication of Michael Clark’s book, Mammals, Amphibians and Reptiles of Hertfordshire, in 2001. “  This is a joint project and the team also includes the County Mammal Recorder, University of Hertfordshire, Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, Hertfordshire Environmental Records Centre, and the Herts Amphibian and Reptile Group.  The website details how residents can also get involved and submit data for the survey.  On the Mammal Atlas Page you can see the data recorded so far.

On the 14 and 15 May 2016, licenced surveyors undertook a survey of the wildlife at Church Farm for this project.  Using five traps for small mammals, and observation, the surveyors recorded:

Common Shrew (10)
Wood mouse (9)
Badger (4)
Field Vole (1)
Pygmy Shrew (1)
Bank Vole (1)
Great Crested Newt (1)
Smooth Newt (1)
Fox (1)
Grey Squirrel (1)

At Church Farm it is important to us to farm in a way that enhances the beauty of the countryside and the conservation of wildlife. We have 5 badger sets on the farm as well as barn owls and red kites living next door. Furthermore, last spring, a group of ornithologists spotted over 30 different species in a morning. For five years in a row now the grey partridges have successfully bred and the local wildfowl population is booming.

The idea of an ecological approach to farming is to have intimate diversity of all species. At times we have hosted bat walks this year, as the farm is alive with bats at night. All of this is down to providing hedges, beetle banks, new woodlands, wildflower mixes, pollen and wild bird seed strips.

—Aimee

 

References:
http://hnhs.org/article/mammals-reptiles-and-amphibians-new-countywide-survey
http://mammal-atlas.hnhs.org/

 


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Scanning Day for Ewes

Scanning day is always a big day here at Church Farm, the ewes are scanned using a mobile ultrasound  machine. They are marked with colours to indicate how many lambs they are carrying, blue is 1 lamb, red is 2 and orange is 3, an orange line on the top of the head is empty. With anticipation we gather the girls for the big scan.  It’s a tense moment when the first one goes through, and this year the girls were not behaving and avoiding the scanning crate at all costs. We eventually got the first batch through, but with all the commotion I missed the first 20 or so. As things started to flow I looked over at the ewes that have been scanned and can just see a sea of orange. My heart sinks, I immediately think they are all empty, our worst nightmare. I look again only to realise they are all triplets, and the panic sets in again!! 15 sets of triplets.

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Overall we are due 149 lambs, with 48 sets of twins and 15 sets of triplets, and the rest singles. A busy spring is ahead of us, but we can’t wait for this magical time of year,  looks like we chose the right Rams for the job!

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If you would like to join us for this special time of year we are running several experience days from family days to overnight experiences. If you have ever been interested in lambing this might be the perfect opportunity to tick something off the bucket list!

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With the 15 sets of triplets we are expecting we will have an awful lot of extra mouths to feed this year and will be offering bottle feeding session from the 25th March.

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Please visit our website for further details or to book one of the lambing experience days or bottle feeding lambs, places are limited so get booking quick!

Rozelle

 


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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.

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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.

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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

 

 


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A Day to Remember

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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