Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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New Chef, New Menus

Have you had a meal in the pub recently?  At the end of April I sat down with Aaron Clarke, the new executive chef for Church Farm, including the Jolly Waggoner, Café and Shop.  He was born and raised in Milton Keynes and came to us not long ago, and has brought along a team he has worked with for the past couple years.  He is producing menus for the pub and café, and producing food for the shop.

chef Aaron

His training has been on-the-job, including time with Michelin star chef Clive Dixon in Cookham at the White Oak and at the “best pub in England,” the Hand and Flowers in Marlow, and also told me that his brother, Shane, has been a huge influence on his career in catering. Aaron held a Rosette at the Deddington Arms in Oxfordshire.  He has been a chef for 10 years and has produced menus for seven years and comes to us with experience, enthusiasm, and a strong work ethic.

Aaron is confident that you will notice improvements at the Jolly Waggoner in the coming months, and would love to speak with you when you are in the pub.  His focus is the customer’s experience, and he wants you to have a good one.  He is committed to growth and improvement.

He wants everyone to know that the pub menu features produce from the farm and is the best it can be.  The quality of the ingredients in all our kitchens is assured, because we can see it all growing and grazing.  You will find a varied menu at the pub, with vegetarian and gluten free choices. He tells me there will be a new menu in the café soon, as well.

Perhaps I can tempt you with a sampling of items from the current pub menu:

Nibbles:  Lamb Scrumpets and Crispy Pork Bites

Starters:  Gin Cured Salmon and Cauliflower and Worcestershire Fritters

Traditional Classics:  Fish and Chips, and Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Pie

Mains:  Beetroot Rissoto, and Church Farm Loin of Lamb

Gin cured salmon

Gin Cured Salmon

 

Aimee

 

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Lambing 2018

There has been lots of activity down in the lambing sheds this year with 106 lambs being born! We officially finished the season on Saturday 21st of April with a lovely set of Suffolk triplets. It is always bittersweet when lambing finishes as there is no longer the anticipation, surprise and excitement of new arrivals each morning. But there is also relief as the long nights waiting and worrying about ewes in labour and newborn lamb troubles are over for another year.

Our public lamb bottle feeding activity has been as popular as ever again! Our Co-Farmers have really enjoyed feeding the lambs that were not fed during the public sessions, with many taking responsibility to make up the milk and making sure the bottles were cleaned after every use.

As we are a working farm it is never a good idea to have favourite animals but it is very difficult sometimes! A huge staff favourite this year is Swede. He was the first lamb to be born on our site this year and also the first Church Farm lamb who needed to be bottle fed! Swede’s mum was a first time mum, who can often have difficulties delivering and bonding with their lambs. She had delivered the lamb all by herself but another pregnant ewe came over and started cleaning him up. This caused Swede’s mum to become very confused and reject him! We tried all the tricks like rubbing Swede with straw, rubbing the afterbirth and fluids back on him but Mum still didn’t want to know. She ended up becoming aggressive towards Swede and the decision was made for us to remove him. He is now 7 weeks old and is the leader of all the bottle fed lambs! As you can see by the pictures he is growing into a big lad!

lamb photos for may

We now have the mammoth task of looking after 106 rapidly growing and ever exploring lambs! It is a good job we have the help of the Co-Farmers to assist us with this! At times it is very hard work and often stressful but when the sun is shining and 106 lambs are running and jumping around the field we look around and think—it wasn’t that bad, roll on next year!

Kelly

 


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He Did It!

Yes, he did it, and we are all very proud.  Tony Hopkins completed the hottest London Marathon on record with a respectable time and collected over £3000 for Rural Care.  Both achievements are very impressive.  Thank you, Tony!

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In Tony’s Words

I ran my fourth London Marathon on the 22 April, although the last one was 5 years ago!! I have been training throughout the winter and three weeks ago we even had snow, and yet it was predicted to be a hot one. As the big weekend approached, it look at if it was cooling down for the Marathon. However, in the morning the sun was out, with not a sign of any clouds, and it reached 24.2° C—the hottest London Marathon on record.

We were warned not to try beat any PB (personal best times) and take plenty of water.  There was extra showers put around the course and we were told to revaluate our race.

The race was started by the Queen and soon we were on our way.  Immediately there were people looking hot and complaining about the weather.  The sun brought the crowds out and I had the most amazing time being cheered on by the thousands of people lining the streets from mile one to the end.

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I was feeling strong and took the advice of water and didn’t even look at my time, however I was surprised I completed half by 2 hours 11 minutes. By the 18th mile there seemed to be people falling all over the place.  I witnessed 4 people lying on the ground with medical staff around them with oxygen which is scary to see, and then people being sick and people stopping as you were trying to run. This immediately had a negative effect on my mind set and although I was trying to stop those thoughts, I found myself starting to walk at this point. The crowds were fantastic and I managed to see many of my family and friends around the course which got me over the finishing line in under 5 hours.  Although I was, admittedly, a little disappointed with the time, I was proud of myself completing it and reflected on the money I had raised for Rural Care and how I felt so much in a better in myself physically and mentally.

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College Students Save the Day

shop outsideOn Wednesday 13th September, four North Herts College students had the opportunity to  run the farm store for the day.    They set to work straight away as there was much to do.  “We tidied the shop inside and out”, said Kelly.  “I fed the pigs and piglets with the fruit and vegetables that were out of date and they all loved it!”

Leon logged in the new product and stocked the shelves while Craig and Harry delivered bags of logs to sell.   The floors were swept, the shelves dusted, the windows cleaned, the fridge items date checked but most importantly the customers were served efficiently and with a smile.

“We had to sort the eggs out and log how many go to the café and how many for the shop.  Then we had to bring them to the café”, said Leon.  He added, “I really enjoyed working in the shop because I was able to be in charge of the shop.”

The jobs weren’t limited to the inside as Craig painted an outside door and Harry even unclogged the drains.  The shop has never looked so good!  The customers complimented the students on their helpful attitudes and friendly faces which gave them a great sense of pride.

So a BIG thank you to Craig, Harry, Kelly, Leon and the Rural Care staff on a brilliant job!

Please come back again  🙂

 

 

 

Jill

 


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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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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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Who Cares About the Countryside?

Over the last couple of months I have been working with other organisations whose role it is to care about the natural world and more specifically the countryside around us.

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Kenny Mackay is a wonderful man, full of fun and mischief and with an eye for doing things to help nature along the way. He works for the Countryside Restoration Trust, an organisation whose mission is to help nature and man live together in mutually beneficial ways. Kenny was a mine of useful information and the Trust support farms to fulfil their obligations to the natural world and maintain their own survival.

Remarkably, Kenny and I have both done the same training course with the lovely people at Capel Manor College, who run Countryside Management courses, which include the safe use of chain saws in their Forestry and Arboriculture schools.

Working in the heart of Panshanger Forest with ancient trees was a wonderful insight into the commercial usage of trees as well as the magnificent setting and integration of the mix of creatures all dependent one upon the other.

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An oak tree can support around 1,000 other species and I was fortunate enough recently to watch barn owls swooping down from their man made homes to devour voles which had come to live in the long grass left to grow on a privately owned piece of land.

An oak tree of course grows from a tiny acorn and this interest in nature, if sparked at an early age, can feed a person from the cradle to the grave, growing in its diversity, depth and appreciation.

Recently Rozelle and I have been invited to Hollybush School to watch their Farm Rap and this example of outdoor education for a group of 31 children from winter through to the summer has been an example of the impact this type of education can have. (see School Visit and Job Well Done)

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There are indeed lots of people out there who care about the Countryside. Thank God.

Chicken Dave