Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


Leave a comment

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.

newsletter snip

 

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.

IMG_0715

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.

IMG_1185

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.

IMG_2361

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

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Carrot Cake

Laura - carrot cake 2017

One of our Co-Farmers has been working in the Church Farm Café kitchen on Thursdays.  She especially enjoys making carrot cake and would like to share her recipe:

Carrot Cake

2 tsp cinnamon
300g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
200g soft brown sugar
4 eggs
250 ml vegetable oil
200g grated carrot

Mix all ingredients and bake at 180° for about 40 minutes. Top with your favourite icing, maybe cream cheese.

 

 


Leave a comment

Choosing the Right Ram for the Job

October was the start of our sheep year, a funny time to start a year you might think but for us here at Rural Care it’s the start of our breeding year and what we raise our sheep for.

By this time, the ewes have been on the summer grass and have reconditioned after lambing.  They are in peak condition, and their fleeces are starting to grow back from being shorn earlier in the summer. Their lambs were weaned, and they have enjoyed a few months of lush grass, warm weather with no hungry mouths to feed.

20150827_091613

Jeff

The Rams, having spent 11 months now away from the ewes, are also in prime condition.  They have had their full MOT—feet trim, teeth checked, weight monitored and resilience checked. We have our Suffolk Ram, Randy Dandy, who proved himself last year and produced some beautiful strong Suffolk lambs. We have also kept a shearling Ram who we have called Andy.  He was a lamb who was born here is the spring of 2015. He is a Lleyn-Texel cross and is a handsome boy.  He has a beautiful temperament and takes forward the strong  points from both breeds, the strong bones of the Lleyn, and the temperament and excellent mothering skills and strength, stamina and conformation of the Texel.

img_0694

Randy Dandy

The flock here at Church Farm started with the Lleyn, good sized sheep who make excellent mothers, and we still have some of the original flock amongst this year’s breeding ewes. They usually carry triplets, and big ones at that! They are old timers at this and know exactly what to do. They are large, heavy sheep and not the easiest to work with when you need to tip them to trim their feet. However their calm, sensible, gentle nature makes up for it.

lleyn

Lleyn Sheep

So October brought with it big decision making.  We retired our Black Welsh Mountain Ram, Jeff, this year.  After 6 years of service we felt he had earned his retirement, however we are not sure he is ready to retire! You should always have a reserve ram ready just in case anything goes wrong, and so we chose one of Randy Dandy’s lambs born last year.  He has all of Randy’s characteristics, and is a handsome boy.

On October 13th the boys or the ‘tups’ went in and the’ tupping’ began. Tupping is the term used when referring to a ram mating with a ewe.  The ‘tup’ is an uncastrated male sheep. It’s always an exciting but tense day, with overwhelming anticipation the boys fly around the field, smelling the air, the girls in a flurry of excitement.

The ritual  of tupping is a polite one, which may surprise you. The Rams will seek out which ewes are in season, the ewes will come into season every 17-21 days. The odour of the oestrous ewe stimulates the ram, although it is the ewe who seeks out the ram and stays close beside it. The male responds to urination of the oestrous female by sniffing, extending the neck and curling the lip. This is the flehmen response. The tongue goes in and out and the male may bite the female’s wool, and raise and lower one front leg in a stiff-legged striking motion. If the female is receptive she will stand for copulation.

Once they find a ewe in heat they stick with her for about 8-12 hours, sometime longer.  There is a courting ritual, as ewes typically stay in heat for 6-18 hours. (Allowing just enough time for dinner and a night out!) They talk to each other in a low chattering type bleat, the same affectionate voice the ewe uses with her new born lambs.

After the first 24 hours we start to get an idea about how the tups are doing, as they wear a coloured crayon called a raddle on their chest. We are then able to see which ewes the tups have seen. The field is usually a sea of different colours.

sheep-bums-cropped

Bums for inspection

Randy had made it around about 10 ewes by the morning, and Andy, with his more polite approach and being a first timer, had seen 2. Unfortunately Randy overdid it in the first 36 hours, pulling a hamstring and had to be pulled out (with much resistance) and rested for a week. Luckily we had his 2016 lamb in reserve and our old timer Black Welsh Mountain Ram Jeff was on hand to muck in!

The tups remained with the ewes for 5 weeks, and they are now recuperating in the R&R field.  They lose a lot of their condition through tupping, often forgetting to eat or drink and need to be monitored closely. Randy is on the mend but he will need some physiotherapy on his leg and warm up exercises for next year!

big-eyes

Say cheese!

The ewes are pregnancy scanned early in the year and we will find out who is carrying lambs and how many. Fingers crossed their hard work has paid off and we will have a successful lambing season. Here’s to the start of another sheep year!

Rozelle


Leave a comment

Harmony

When I think of harmony, I think of an orchestra all playing well together.  Although this is not the strict musical definition of harmony (thank you Aimee) it is perhaps the understanding of harmony that many people have.

Trying to keep everyone together and at least reasonably content is the lot of parents, team captains, bosses and politicians as well as world leaders.  It is certainly not an easy thing.

When there is plenty, harmony seems easier to obtain and when resources are short it would make sense that it is more difficult.  However if we look at more difficult times it is often at these times that some people pull together for some greater good.

 Harmony - Lorraine Gemma Hannah

Lorraine, Gemma and Hannah from Rural Care

 

Sharing is certainly not something that comes easily to many people and in some ways it feels unnatural, our instinct for personal survival kicks in and yet as the saying goes “if you travel alone you travel faster but if you travel together you travel further.”

Nature seems to cope very well with harmony, balance and equilibrium despites man’s efforts to intervene nature can adapt and correct itself to cope with much that is thrown at it.

Often when I am pottering around doing a bit of work here and there, I know that cutting a branch will have consequences not only for the tree but for the whole ecosystem that it belongs to.

If I upset one person there will be a ripple effect and if I make a person smile this too will resonate further than its initial impact.

Harmony - football team

French/Anglo relations developing on the football pitch, straw bale and beyond

 

Chicken Dave

 


Leave a comment

Horticulture and Harvest

Sun, Rain, Sweat and Weeds  DSC08286

At Church Farm in horticulture we are outdoing ourselves. We come into a glorious time of the year when just about every seasonal fruit or vegetable is available, or soon will be available, naturally grown. With a kitchen garden, five polytunnels, five acres of soft fruit and heritage orchard, and over five and a half thousand square metres of field crops, it is truly a pleasure to meet the challenge of serving the Church Farm Store, Café, Jolly Waggoner Pub Restaurant, Aldenham Country Park and over 100 Farm Box customers. As we draw breath, we do it with thanks to the small group of amazing dedicated staff and interns from across the world. We couldn’t do it without you.

DSC08285Church Farm is unique in that we invite you to come in and explore where your food comes from; a working farm in a relaxed atmosphere. If you like your fruit and veg we invite you to come and take a tour or simply come in for a wander and see for yourself.

Darren

 

Autumn and an Interview with Eva

Holly and I talked about Autumn and the harvest and interviewed Eva, who works in Horticulture at Church Farm.  Eva says the harvest is starting now.  Look for Church Farm produce in your box or in the shop.

Aimee

We will have a harvest for the barbecue party and DSC08291to play in the leaves and the leaves are dancing in the wind with the birds flying in the strong wind and they do art with the leaves in the craft room. To harvest the strawberries and fruits and the vegetables in the box to delver to everyone in the village and round the farm and be careful of the fence with the wire when it windy and
chilly and strong wind. To change the menu for autumn and to harvest the potatoes and to dig DSC08298up the soil with the potatoes in the bucket and the leaves are falling down from the trees and to put the leaves in the compost for the gardening on the allotment and to rake the leaves up in the Autumn and lots of fun and lots of colours on the leaves are beautiful in Autumn and less of flowers in the winter.

Get more vegetables in October and they do harvest celebration and they cut the DSC08300pumpkins open and the pumpkins turn into orange colour in October for the treats. They have got red currants and pears and all veg everyday a lot of tomatoes and salad and veg for the whole project for a long time in the big garden to prepare the box full of fruits and vegetables for the delivery round the farm.

Holly, Co-Farmer and Reporter

 


Leave a comment

Football, Farm, Fun and Fundraising-July 30th 2016

A once in a lifetime opportunity to remember something special brought together a gathering of footballers from 11 different countries to prepare for, play out, and support a friendly match against a local village side.

Cottered Chairman, Alan Chamberlain brought his team over to take on the Rest of The World and it was a classic mix of think Global and Act Local.  (Friends of the Earth motto).

1966 shirt handover

Chicken Dave and Alan swapping shirts.
 Will with World Cup Willy and Grace with the Jewels Rhyming Trophy

Of course with players from all over the world to choose from The Rest of The World ran out winners but only by the narrowest of margins 2 – 1.

Replicating the World Cup Final of 1966 the red shirted players from the farm conceded first and then went on to equalise thanks to Guillame and the winning goal came from Dejan shortly before half time.

1966 teamwork

The International Team’s goalscorers working in tandem.
Guilliame and Man of the Match Dejan

 

Resisting a lot of pressure in the second half and defending the smaller goal the reds held on to a welcome victory in a match played in the best possible spirit.

Even Pickles lookalikes were amongst the WAGs (Wives and Girlfriends) on the sidelines and for those of you who didn’t know Pickles was the name of the dog who recovered the World Cup when it had been stolen from an exhibition.

1966 Sid Pickles

Pickles (Sid) in a remake of the search for the World Cup

This exhibition of football with an age range of over fifty years from youngest to oldest had strong defensive work from butcher Chris, who didn’t live up to his occupation, alongside the French connection of Theo and Antoine, creative attacking play from Will and Grace aided by the winged wonder Archie and all held together by good team play in the middle of the park from our Argentinian maestro Javier, (No hand of God on this occasion) it was perhaps though the game of the century on the Farm with many thanks to all who got involved one way or another including seamstresses, charity shops, supporters, organisers, farmers and of course the players themselves.

1966 international team

The International Team

Well done England and the Rest of the World, especially Ireland, (Paul) and a huge thank you to Cottered FC for being such good sports.

Her Majesty the Queen was on other business and so Princesses  Su and Emily presented the trophy and the teams are pictured below in front of the Royal Tractor.

1966 teams and royal tractor

Bobby Moore (Grace) with the World Cup Mascot and Trophy

 

N.B. Proceeds from the Quiz raised over £120 and this money will go towards replacing the damaged goal posts at Ardeley St Lawrence Primary School who are training up the next England World Cup winning squad with help from Stevenage Borough.  This scheme will also be supporting numeracy and literacy skills at the school.

1966 french award

Grace presenting Pauline and our French visitors with a different style Jules Rimet Trophy

Thanks to the teams from Wood End, St Martins Wood School in Stevenage who ran out the winners and everyone who helped us enjoy the evening and raise some funds.

 

“They think it’s all over…. It is now.”

Commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme who also flew 100 missions as a WWII pilot!

1966 teams and trophy

They think it’s all over……it is now.

Cottered and The International Team and the famous Coq au Biere Trophy

with World Cup Mascot, Larry The Lion and Grace (Captain for the day).

 

Thank you to:

Tim:  Wembley Owner

Will:  Groundsman

Grace:  International Team Manager

Alan:   Cottered Team Manager

Aimee:  Photographer and Numberer

Javier:  Shirt Supplier

Paul:  International Liason

The Players:  For playing

The Supporters:  For supporting

The Sun:  For shining on us


Leave a comment

We’re Off the Bottle

20160524_134733If you live within a 5 mile radius of the farm you may have heard that we are weaning our hand reared lambs.  Their bleats for milk can be heard far and wide! Weaning is the practice of removing from lambs the milk diet provided by the ewe (or a milk replacement diet).  From the milk diet, lambs are moved onto forage or grain based diets.  The separation can be stressful for ewes, lambs and those of us who are caring for them.

Weaning age varies greatly in the sheep industry. Lambs have been weaned successfully as early as 14 days, while some lambs are allowed to wean naturally, staying with their mums for 6 months or more.  Hand-reared lambs can be successfully weaned from a milk diet at 25 to 30 pounds body weight or when they are 30 to 45 days old. Weaning abruptly is better than offering a diluted milk replacer the last week.

Our hand reared lambs are now 3 months old which is when we usually wean them.  They have had access to grass to forage from the first few days of being alive and have been introduced to grain from a week old. 3 months of feeding 6 times a day is a huge commitment for all of our staff, co-farmers and volunteers and it’s a relief when we make it through and feel confident that they can survive without the milk.

In a natural situation, weaning occurs at approximately 6 months of age, usually in the autumn when the ewes begin returning to estrus (the ewe reproductive cycle). Our male lambs with mums will be separated from the ewes and weaned next, but our female lambs will stay with their mums and wean naturally.

There are several advantages to late weaning. It is more “natural” and results in less stress for the ewe and lambs. There is less risk of the ewe developing mastitis since her milk production has declined significantly by the time the lambs are removed.

For now our lambs are learning to fend for themselves, it’s a tough lesson but their instinct and resilience will hopefully see them though.  In the mean time we have ear plugs on order!

—Rozelle