Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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From the Farmer

  • Coppicing of Squitmore Spring Woods and thinning in the 5 new woods will be 20180116_131924going on in early February.
  • 90+% of species in woodland live on dead wood. Leaving brash and lumps to rot is essential to the bugs.
  • Planning Hedge Planting Days in February – volunteers are welcome as we aim to restore Lowany End Field hedge.
  • 100s of field fares in Upany. Covey of 12 grey partridge hanging out in Lowany End wood. Fallow Deer visiting at night.
  • Snow melt led to huge rise in the water table and all ponds full to brim as of new year.
  • 1880 field drain that runs into the lane from Upany is still running well all these years later.
  • 1940s ditch dug by Italian prisoners along long bottoms is overflowing.
  • One acre of new Summer Raspberries to plant as soon as it dries out.
  • Cattle are doing well in winter quarters. The new roof is making a good saving on straw.
  • Little Trumpeter and all the male cattle are separated till breeding season starts again. Ditto with the rams.
  • Rams have to wait 11 months for conjugal visits – is that a word? –. The bull we will let in again with the ladies in August.
  • The two Large White Boars however spend all their lives with the ladies who are remarkably receptive from about 6-7 days post weaning of their litter.

—Tim

 

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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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The Magic Ponds

Josh is a young boy (6) with a great enthusiasm for the countryside and Chicken Dave is, well, Chicken Dave.

Together, along with Josh’s mum and dad, Harriet and Chris, they were going to explore the world of ponds with a little help from one or two people along the way.

The first magic pond belonged to their friend Aimee, the local music teacher who was teaching Josh how to play the piano. After his lesson he would meet Chicken Dave in Aimee’s garden and they would begin to explore ponds.

Thanks to the people, and especially Candy, at the Hertfordshire and Middlesex Wildlife Trust they had a guide to tell them about a healthy pond and what should be in it.

There were 14 things on the list and in Aimee’s pond they could see only one. It was an enormous Yellow Iris.

by Josh and Chicken Dave

 

Chicken Dave and Josh#

Josh and Chicken Dave try to see Aimee’s pond!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Josh and Chicken Dave try to see Aimee’s pond!


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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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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.

grader oval

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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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