Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Modifications to the truck

We recently scrapped my old Renault Trafic Van, long wheel base, carried 1.4 tonnes. The only vehicle we have now is the 1 tonne D22 Nissan, used for beekeeping, markets and moving livestock.
The sides are shallow so we are always limited to what we can take to market. The plan was to extend the sides to take a more vegetables and sheep whebn needed but also be easy to take off the truck when used for beekeeping.

Above you see the truck half way through construction. The sides stop level with the top of the cab so to reduce wind resistance and keep the vehicle stable when fully loaded.
First used in anger, it's doubled the volume, solving our transport problems in the short term.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Bees moved

Just got back from moving some bees, they were the remnants from hives we had on an oil seed rape site. Mainly nuc hives we hadn't got round to moving.

This is the latest we've moved bees but I was concerned because they were very exposed to north winds and at over 650' ,generally not thought to be good wintering conditions.
They are now at 400' south west facing and will I'm sure winter much better.

Moving bees is said to stimulate brood rearing which could use up winter stores, so to be safe we'll feed them next week to keep them topped up.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Market update

This week we attended Ludlow Farmers market selling mutton and Shrewsbury retail market selling vegetables.

The demand for mutton seems to be increasing from last month and I sold out at Ludlow using our mobile chiller. Beef sales have been slow but lamb and hogget sales have doubled on last month.

Comparing Shrewsbury takings this week, with last year shows that sales are about 4% down year on year. 2007 when compared with 2006 was 3% down year on year.

Next week we have Moseley Farmers Market traditionally our best market of the year. The other Moseley Markets have maintained income on a par with last year, so it will be interesting to see what happens on the 20th Dec.

When all the seasons figures are in there will be a better comparison to tell how the markets are going.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

New Ram

This is our new ram he is a six year old Lleyn who was till this week living on an organic farm at 1300' so he will feel quite comfortable now he is only at 600'.He has good feet and teeth so we will hopefully get at least three season of work out of him.

Monday, 8 December 2008

New Ram arrived

We brought the new ram home today in a hired trailer fancy loading ramp and all.The intention is to use this lad for two or three years to produce a new crop of ewes as replacements then buy in a younger ram we can use for up to five years on the replacements.

He is a pedigree Lleyn six years old, not in the first flush of youth but hopefully a good couple of years left in him. We have a small flock so won't be asking too much of him.

By the time we got him back it was too dark for decent photos of our new stud, so will post them in the next day or so.

Hopesay Glebe Farm in the frost

We had a heavy frost last night so I went out with the camera.
North facing bank, this bank of trees stops the worst of the South Westerly gales but does mean that the western part of the holding is shaded 20hrs a day during winter. The trees (not owned by us) are now getting so large that even in summer large parts of this area are unsiutable for growing vegetables.
Looking east to wards Hopesay Hill, the frost here will stay all day.
The western corner of our holding where the sun doesn't shine much in winter. The hens are still out on the range but are now even more enthusiastic about their hot mash feed.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Shrewsbury Farmers market

In the ongoing campaign to sell organic meat to the good burgers of shropshire we attended Shrewsbury Farmers Market. It was not the best day we have ever had and in because of the high stall fee we came away with no profit. As you can see it rained all morning and was cold which kept the crowds away. We will have to see if we do it again, it fits well with other markets but at over £70 the stall fees are prohibitive.

Next week we have the regular produce market in Ludlow, so the animal we had slaughtered for this market will be available for Ludlow.

There is a definite interest in Mutton recently both from young people trying something new and for older people who remember eating it when they were young. It's important that the animals we use for mutton are of high quality and are not too old. This maintains the quality of the meat and will hopefully sustain demand.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

New Ram

We have been to look at new ram this week, he is about 6 years old so will do us for two or three years including this one.

We will select the best ewes he produces, these will be our replacement breeding ewes, after three years we can buy a young ram that will last for a few years with our young replacement ewes.

Will post a photo when he arrives, probably Monday.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Market report, Shrewsbury

The weekend we did the usual friday and saturday market, they are improving a little after the slump of 4 weeks ago and although we are £60 to £70 down per week we are seeing a market improvement in footfall.

Many small businesses are talking about a small downturn in sales but so far it is limited .

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Organic Inspection

Friday just gone we had our annual inspection. This involves checking our records and stock to ensure that we have been doing all things organic. Such as using organic seed, organic fertility building, proper rotations and only selling organic produce.

The whole process takes the best part of a day including the inspection of the land and buildings.
In the end we had no problems and were not issued with any non compliance forms but it is still a nervous time and good to get out of the way for another year.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Old man Roddy goes to the ewes

We have four old ewes and an aging Ram Roddy, before we send the ewes off and retire Roddy we decided to give him one more chance. Hi genetics are good but at his age 7yrs I 'm not sure if he has any lead in his pencil.
It would be useful if we could breed some replacements from these old ewes and Roddy so they can be used with the new ram we are hoping to buy in two weeks time.
So what do you think, satisfied and resting or tired and disinterested? Well time will tell at any rate we will be replacing our ram and reinvigorating our small flock in the near future.

Leek transplant trial

Back in the summer I started a trial on module verses bare root transplants for leeks see
We are now harvesting the resultant crop, the module plants were planted in early june while the bare root transplants were planted mid june. The two trial batches were the same variety and were in adjacent beds.
The untrimmed plants show a difference in the quality of plants, the bare root transplants are on your right as you look at them.
But the trimmed plants show the real difference, again the bare root transplants are on the right. The bare root plants are bigger with significantly longer shanks. Considering these were planted later than the module transplants, the advantage to us of using bare root plants seems obvious.

This doesn't mean that we are abandoning module leeks entirely, I intend to sow some early under lights by early February so they can be planted with the onions so achieving an early crop.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Presentation Notes at Soil Associations Conference at the Passenger Shed in Bristol

The room prior to the workshop Agri-culture where four of us explored topics such as Art in farming, master class training days, school visits and mobile bakery for demonstrating bread making in schools
For my short presentation the notes are available if you click on the title above. The Plenary sessions are available on the soil association website now.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

New chiller unit at market

The chiller unit we bought the other week has seen its first service, we unvieled it in alls its glory at Ludlow Farmers Market, it comes on its own trailer which is boxed in when you set it up on site.

We are using it with Clun Forest Organics Farmers, which is a group of four local farmers selling our meet cooperatively across a number of outlets.
The chiller was set up next to a stall also selling our vegetables and Trevor Wheelers (pictured below) potatoes, carrots and swedes.
It was a reasonably successful day especially considering the weather and that this was our first attempt. Our intention is to continue to attend on the second Thursday in Ludlow, then try Shrewsbury Farmers Market on the first Friday and to attend Bishops Castle Farmers Market on the third Saturday of the month.

All our meat is killed at the local abbatoir Griffiths in Leintwadine and is butchered by Welsh Farm Organics or Golden Valley Organics.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Leek Crop

Leeks are one of the most important crops for us, they usually get a good price, are in steady demand throughout the winter and will stand through hard winter frosts. The crop this year is just about ideal. the individual plants are not too big but have nice long shanks giving a good balance of size and flavour.We have almost cleared the early season crop seen below the two central beds. These will not take frost as well as the blue green cultivars which should stand through the hardest (almost) winter.
The only year that I have sen significant winter loss of leeks was a few years ago when there was an extraordinarily mild autumn and early winter. which was followed by a hard frost of minus 8C. It appears that the plants were growing soft and a heavy frost damaged them before they could harden up.

All our leeks are grwon through a biodegradable sheet which looks like polythene but decomposes over the year. Between the beds we sow white clover which grows into the leek beds throughout the year giving some green manure to incorporate next year.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Shrewsbury Market

The weekend comes around that means its Shrewsbury Market Every Friday and Saturday we stand at the indoor market, and have for about 10 years.
In season this week are the jerusalem Artichokes and for the first time this year swede and parsnip. The winter seasonal vegetables are in demand this year as it looks like we are getting a seasonal autumn for a change.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Artichokes are in season

We reduced the tops of the Jerusalem Artichokes to make harvesting simpler and to prevent wind blow. When the plants blow over the tubers can be brought to the surface which will attract rabbits and pheasants which will happily eat all they can find.Gyp likes to inspect the work and make sure we don't miss any tubers

Our first proper crop of Artichokes this season,the crop is looking good..I guess the heavy rain in the summer wasn't all bad.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Final Master Class today

We held our final class of the year today. The courses have I think been a success and we are now thinking about developing the idea for next year. To see the notes for todays course follow this link: or click on the title above.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Going to collect the chill cabinet

We have bought a part share in a chill cabinet with a friend of ours who farms organically near Newcastle on Clun. It sits on a trailer which will transport it and will support it under a canopy. This means we had better get started on our meat selling enterprise.
We already sell every Friday at Myriad Organics in Ludlow as part of the Clun Valley Organic Farmers and this chiller will help with selling the meat to a wider customer base.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Markets in the current economic climate

In the past month we have noticed a downturn in our weekly market in Shrewsbury, while at Moseley market the sales are holding up, the pattern of buying seems to be changing. Is this the start of an ongoing problem or a reaction to all the hysterical "doom laden" reports in the media?
In order to maintain our business whatever the economic environment we have decided to expand the meat retailing part of our business.

The plan so far is too increase production of Mutton and start producing pork both for direct sales. To that end we have a part share in a second hand chiller unit and trailer, bought on ebay this week. I will post some pictures when we pick it up.The pigs I think be weaners bought in and fattened for a few months, mutton will continue much as before but we may well change to Hebridean sheep as these are known to make good Mutton
Moseley Farmers Market is doing OK but other retail outlets are suffering slightly

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Notes for Gardening Master Class

Click on the title "notes for gardening master class" for a copy of my detail outline for the Organic Gardening master Class held here at Hopesay Glebe Farm on the 12 and 2 Nov 2008

Friday, 10 October 2008

Gyp working hard

Gyp seen here conserving her energy for the big push.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Last checks before winter

I had hoped that today would have been the final check and feed before the bees were ready for winter, however on visiting a site with 10 hives there were three that had lost their roofs due to recent strong winds. The bees in each hive seemed OK but the stores in the top of the frames were depleted presumably due to robbing. As you will see below I replaced the roofs and placed enough weight on top, to keep them down until we move them.
I gave each colony a frame of food and will have to check again in a week to give more stores if needed.

One thing I did notice inside one of the hives was this queen bumble bee, she presumably got in the hive when the roof was off and the bees killed her before she could escape. She was wedged between two frames and the bees had pulled all the hairs from her back although there was no other sign of damage to limbs or wings. Why she couldn't just fly away I don't know as with no roof, the top of the hive was open.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Onions and Salads

The onion crop has been reasonable this year despite the cold wet summer, last year we lost most of our crop due to flooding on the growing area. this year we have moved our veg growing area so to avoid floods in future.

These onions are in the tunnel drying off , we leave the tops on until they dry off then we trim tops and roots.We are loading these for the Moseley Farmers Market they are all trimmed and will be sold loose, direct to our customers.

The last salad crop to be planted in the frames is being harvested, all salad crops planted before next spring will now be grown in the tunnels.
We sow direct into the frame, as a result there is no transplant shock and the young plants grow vigorously right from germination through to flowering, when the frame is cleared.

This last frame crop is looking good and will be picked for a few more weeks yet.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Second Masterclass

Our second Poultry and Beekeeping class was held last Sunday, another great group, lots of questions that really make you think about what we're doing .Seen here the group disrobing after looking through some of our bees.

Late queen mated

Last week I found one colony with queen cells and a number of colonies with drones, whereas I would normally have united the colony with cells the warm weather encouraged me to leave them for a week and see what happened.
Today i checked again and we have a laying queen, good looking girl but no way of knowing yet, if she has mated properly but she is looking good so far.
If she produces viable brood that would be the latest I have seen a queen mated in 23 years

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Treating for Varroa

This week on Wednesday I worked all my colonies checking stores and treating Varroa, number two out of the three required treatments. The sun was out and bees were bringing in basket loads of pollen. These particular bees are working a field of Mustard next door.I am seeing a lot of drones in colonies this year which at this time of year may mean queenless colonies. I have checked all those with drones and with only one or two exceptions they are all queenright with plenty of brood. Maybe they know we are in for an indian summer and they have an opportunity to spread their genes around a little more.
There was one colony with hatched queen cells, I would usually unite these with a queenright colony but I have left them to see if they can produce a laying queen.
Last week I gave all colonies a pound of pollen substitute to improve the quality of winter bees. On checking I see that all have taken the feed with the exception of this colony who have just a little left to clear up. For future reference its useful to know that it takes the average colony about a week to consume a pound pollen patty.

Most of the colonies look like this and have cleared all the patty.

Winter lettuce germinated

The third batch of winter lettuce has just germinated under lights in the growing room. The first batch and second batches have been planted in the tunnel are established and starting to grow away.
The germination is reasonably even under the lights although these will go in the tunnel next week to grow on.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Chicks at Nine weeks

We've moved the chicks into a full sized ark with a small run at the moment to get them used to moving in and out without being bothered by the older birds. They are 9 weeks old now and could survive happily without their foster mums. But until we release them to range they will stay with the chicks. After they have access to range some mums stay with the chicks all the time and some leave straight away and move into another ark.

Having older birds and chicks together can give rise to bullying by the older birds but we have found that the cockerels will step in and stop any hen pecking. You can see here the adult hen next to the 9 week old chicks. They are developing well and are on course to start laying at around 26 weeks.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Checking sheep before putting to the ram

We are checking the ewes before the ram goes in, a couple looked thin, possibly due to age (poor teeth) or perhaps in need of worming. These two will be taken out and fattened up before going to the butchers. The rest looked in good nick and should have no trouble getting in lamb.
Here he is our ram, a pedigree Lleyn tup Roddy he is getting on a bit now, this will be his last year with the girls. He'll be retired, he was our first ram and will no doubt be kept as a pet.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Treating for varroa and feeding pollen patties

The cold summer this year has caused two problems one is a general lack of pollen the other is difficulty of using Thymol for Varroa control,

We addressed the lack of pollen by feeding pollen substitute patties, improving the protein intake of the bees. The hope is that this will produce good quality winter bees with plenty of fat bodies, fat bees winter better.

The pollen patty is 10% natural pollen the rest made up of high protein materials such as brewers yeast and soya flour. each colony was given about 1lb each placed on the frame tops and pushed between the frames. I would anticipate that they should be eaten in about a week.

The other problem with the cool weather is that the thymol we use for varroa control needs warm temperatures to work properly so these cool days are not ideal for thymol use. So this year we are using an Austrian control called Hive Clean it's applied between the frames directly onto the bees

Monday, 15 September 2008

First Masterclass

Our first Masterclass was held yesterday (sunday), there was the full compliment of twelve participants we covered the basics of poultry keeping including housing handling the birds, feeding and collecting and grading eggs.
We covered bees in the afternoon and where able to look at the principles of beekeeping and well as spending time handling the bees, finding queens, spotting eggs and assessing the state of development of a colony.
Some of the group are here relaxing after visiting the bees.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Green Manure growing well

This is the green manure crop I sowed on the fourth of August. It has grown well and should winter well and provide good levels of fertility for next years Alliums.From the image below you can see the make up of the green manure, there is Colts Foot Grass for green bulk, chicory for deep roots and clover red and white for nitrogen fixing. This mix worked well this year except that the chicory re-grew. Next year we will have to cultivate more than once to incorporate better.