Monday 29 December 2014

Horse Training, exciting days

From previous post you will know that we have started our horse traction project. Our training  progressed steadily from introduction to harness to pulling a pallet.
Then it got a little exciting, the mare got spooked I suspect by the pallet digging into the ground and jarring her back. She bolted and ran a few yards so developed a fear of things following her, Then she managed to puck up a gate the harness and went carousing around the field.

She eventually stopped after trying and failing yo brush the gate off round a tree. No damage done to her or the equipment but we do need to replace a couple of gate posts.
That was probably the most exciting day, now we are back getting her used to the harness and the sound of chains which she objects to more than walking through or past gates.

This was undoubtedly a set back but we have to just get on with it and work on her confidence again.

We have paid for the equipment from France and are waiting its delivery but this will be put to work in the spring.

Wednesday 9 July 2014

Progress in the tunnel

The dwarf french beans have come on well this year, we used trickle irrigation under the Mypex which so far has worked well.

The garlic is harvested from the tunnel and has been dried ready for sale, we do sell some as wet or fresh garlic but can't leave in the ground too late as the bulbs will split apart giving a blown appearance. the this last part of the crop has been lifted trimmed and cleaned ready for sale. 

 Fine beans developing nicely on the plants, the first harvest already sold

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Biodynamic Apprentice Scheme

We have decided to offer an apprentice place under he Biodynamic Apprenticeship Scheme this is a 2 year  scheme based at the training centre in this case Hopesay Glebe Farm and with off site theoretical training in week blocks and weekends.

We have looked at other schemes and WWOOF  volunteers but have decided on the Demeter scheme as it results in a recognised national qualification.  We were unable to get any response from the Herefordshire College about their scheme, perhaps we are too far away for them to bother with.

We hope to offer our apprentices experience in all aspects of growing organic amd  biodynamic produce right through the process from sowing the seed to selling on our regular market stall in Shrewsbury.
There is also the option of gaining experience in beekeeping, queen rearing and honey harvesting. The apprentice will also be able to participate in our move to horse traction over the next couple of years.

An advantage of working for a small farm like ours is that you can gain experience in a wide range of enterprises and tasks within enterprises. In our case Sheep, Chickens, Bees, Horses, Vegetables and Retail.

Anyone interested should email us or contact the BDA on the above link

Sunday 25 May 2014

Festival of the working Horse

At Daylesford Organics Farm summer festival they hosted the Festival of the Working Horse this year looking at horticulture. I went along to look at equipment available in the UK 

 While there I got the opportunity to try out the Prommata Kassine french equipment designed to be used with a single horse or donkey. I used it with a magnificent working stallion Brabant called Remco. He was very easy to work but toy could feel the power surge as he pulled into the collar, way over powered for our use but nice to experience.
Also on show was the only Pioneer Homesteader so far used in the country. Here demonstrated by the owner Ed Hamer from Chagfood CSA who has been a forerunner in using horse traction in the UK.

Beds formed using a combination of the Kassine, Homesteader and a borrowed roller seen at the bottom of the page.

 Then Michael went three up with Remco and his two cobs to demonstrate ploughing. With three Brabant he says he can plough Three acres per day, the traditional view is two horses can plough one acre per day. His Plough is Amish made like the pioneer based on an original British design.

Thursday 8 May 2014

More on Jethro

We had a visit from Roxanne who mans our stall once a week and she took this pictures of jethro and his Mum now a week old

Tuesday 6 May 2014

Changing climate affecting beekeeping

This year we are experiencing yet another change in weather patterns. We have had almost no frost and a season which has started 4 weeks earlier than average and is perhaps 7weeks ahead of last year. Colonies have been swarming in higher numbers and earlier than I have ever known in 30 years of keeping bees. When I lived in the South of England 20 years ago we were always surprised to see a swarm in April yet this years 200 miles north I have 70% of my colonies making preparations to swarm.
The lesson seems to be that we have to ready for any eventuality and that past experience doesn't necessarily give us any clues to future patterns. We wait and see what the rest of the season brings.

Another first for me, I was working hives in Herefordshire and I moved an empty hive with its floor went back to pick up more equipment and came across this

Its I think a smooth snake non verminous but that didn't stop him doing the full Cobra act as I got near, luckily he hung around long enough for me grab my phone and take the picture.

Monday 5 May 2014

Latest development of the farm

We've  have been off line for the past year while working out how to take the farm forward, we considered loads of options including concentrating exclusively on retail, just growing salad or using more labour and expanding what we already grow.

The final decision is to keep the sheep but reduce the number of breeding ewes, reduce the bees to around 25 colonies, maintain the laying hens at around 100 birds and to increase the range of vegetables grown including more direct sown crops. to this end we also decided to convert our cultivation from tractor to horse traction. 

This obviously cannot be done overnight so the plan was to keep the tractor for another 12 months while we train our working horse. But first buy your horse.

We spent many months looking at breeds and individuals with advice from multifarious sources. Sussesx, Comtois, Ardennes, Dales were researched and viewed until finally deciding on a DalesX 4 year old, untrained but very biddable.

Here she is, named Boo on her passport big chunky girl as you can see, this is more significant than we thought.

We get her home all is well we start researching suitable equipment and training methods.

Then one morning this happens

OK we did have an idea before little Jethro was born but it was am unexpected bonus, although this means there will be a delay of at least 4 months while our Mare is on maternity leave. We will update on Jethros progress.