Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Learning from a chicken

As we think about teaching and learning, and as I battle heroically with the seething mass of paper that is my Permaculture Diploma work, I am thinking, what can we learn from chickens?

I can come up with quite a lot of important information I can teach about chickens.

We can learn how they eat, how they breed, how they act naturally. All kinds of scientific things can be learned about them.

We can learn about their history, and their part in our history.

We can learn about environmental considerations to be born in mind when we buy eggs, or eat chicken.

However, today, what I can learn from chickens - is the same as I once famously claimed to have learned from Andy Murray. Maybe I forgot. Maybe the FreshStart girls came to remind me.

The last point is behind you. There is nothing you can do about it. Only the next point matters. Make it count.

Our lovely, sweet, ex-caged hens are the tamest, most friendly, cuddliest hens we've ever known.

'Why on earth would that be?' asks Sasha.

After all, they've had the rottenest lives of all of them, been quite roughly handled, and narrowly escaped mass extermination.

It doesn't matter. Today, the sun is shining, and they are pecking around in the nettles. They are happy and thankful, and gearing up to laying their finest egg ever. That's what they do.

That's what I've learned from chickens. If you think you'd like to learn about chickens, that's another matter. Watch this space.


Monday, 28 July 2014

Taking care of the pennies

The week of being the face of farming on Twitter has ended, and it was fun, if a little nerve wracking.

The many amazing things I hoped to do and show in the week were somewhat stalled by the baling and subsequent endless carting of the hay, which in itself at least gave us something to tweet about.

Needing something to fill the gap and with lots of new ideas about to be put into practice, I've decided to join the Yakezie Alexa challenge, to see if I can grow the blog, and win more support for our ideas.

School holidays now so I'm two fab part time farmers up on the work rota, and we're concentrating on the csa veg garden and our new ideas for outdoor  learning.

To live our dream is a real step outside the norm - and the budget is key. We have to be creative at every turn to stay out of debt,  and build financial security for our one day farm, so as we take up new ideas, I'm going to have to accept that challenge.

penny pinching

I always value comments - please stop and say hello if you are doing something similar, so that we can pop over and look at your work too!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Blaze of Glory

Term is ending, sun is shining - it really feels like a proper summer. It's too hot to do much in the middle of the day and I'm retreating indoors to sort indoor stuff then, and venturing out again later.

The hay is cut, but will likely not be baled until Thursday morning, and we're forecast some rain on Thursday evening. Last year for the first time ever (and last by the sound of it) we collected hay leisurely,  over two days, with no threatening rain clouds chasing us.

This year it could definitely be back to late night, moonlight, hay hauling.

The middle field that I tidied up with the scythe is all over thistles and nettles again. It really needs close grazing and keeping on top of. The garden is also baked and nettle covered once again. We sometimes appear to be fighting a losing battle - but we will get there.

Next week the older breeding ewes will go off to a rare breed sale - and then the young ewes will come into the flock, and off we will go again.

I'm enjoying tweeting as @FarmersOfTheUK, although it's a bit compulsive.

I've been trying to introduce some permaculture principles into the tweets. It's struck me as I write that I am standing with a foot in each camp, and I can see so much of what farming and permaculture could do for each other, how much they have in common.

Yet I'm feeling like I am bridging a yawning gap and neither side thinks the other is good for much.

I'm working through Holmgren's principles, so I guess I should build up to 8: Integrate rather than Segregate. So much to offer each other, so much to share.



Sunday, 20 July 2014

#parttimefarmers of the uk

An exciting week as we take over the @FarmersOfTheUK Twitter account.

This brilliant idea has been going for a while now - a different farmer takes over the account each week, and followers get to learn about all aspects of British farming.

I think we might be the smallest,  part time farmers to take the account so far.

Hopefully we'll give a good picture of what it's like to be a small, part time, family farm.

Follow @FarmersOfTheUK on twitter to see what's going on.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Farm News Friday - Yes, Minister. Or Not.

The big news this week has to be the cabinet reshuffle and the sacking of Owen Patterson as Environment Minister, to be replaced by Liz Truss.

On balance, following a completely unscientific shamble through my facebook contacts, the Farmers are sad to see Owen go, and the Environmentalists are dancing on his grave.

However, the Farmers are also open to giving Liz a chance, she seems like a possible good egg, they feel. And the Environmentalists are just kind of preparing to dance on her grave.

I have to hand it to the Farmers on this one, seeing the best in people and trying to work with them, and to be honest, with this reshuffle, I've been SO FED UP of the Green lot and Teachers banging on, and on, and on, about their respective Ministers of State.

In the end, you know what? I don't reckon it makes much difference*. It's not as if the new minister - be it at Defra or  Education - is a free agent,  likely to go off at a tangent and do something Big Dave wasn't expecting.

Ministers will come and go.  They will do some good stuff and some bad stuff. Unless you are an Environmentalist or a Teacher, in which case they will personify evil and populate your facebook statuses with spluttering indignation for years to come.  However, if my daughter comes home from school yet again having learned why her teacher doesn't like another  Minister for Education, rather than actual maths, I will be pitching a fit.

Maybe it's being used to long hours and a lot of manure, but I think the farmers have got the right idea.  Just get on with your job and try to make the best of it, folks.  Rise above them. It shouldn't be too hard.


*even I do not pretend this is an original idea. Keep Calm, They're All the Same.


Sunday, 13 July 2014

Caught Red Handed

Well. Life is never dull for part time farmers.

Last week, we sent off three hoggets - they go to a very local abattoir, and on to the butcher in town to be parceled up for sale or trade.

This time, it all went a bit wrong. The hoggets went off alright, and ended up in the butcher's chiller, but then the butcher went out of business, was locked out of his own establishment, and our sheep - two of them pre-sold to customers - were locked in.

To cut a very long story a little bit shorter,  Neil managed to get in touch with the tenant of the flat above the butcher, and he managed to get a key (which is just as well, because his electricity meter was in the shop and he was 12p from darkness)  and we rescued them and got them off to our dear neighbour and onetime butcher, across the field, who with remarkable restraint and not too many 'I told you so's undertook to finish the job.

In their removal from the aforementioned premises, Neil and his new chum from the overhead apartment did the weight lifting, and I was left outside, in the street, by an estate car, with six half hogget carcasses. I was covering them with sheets of catering plastic, to keep them clean and safe, as they came out, and in order to do that, I was wielding a knife.

Stood lookout, like a low paid, half share, accomplice, on a quiet street in a market town. Armed with a knife and a giant roll of clingfilm. Just a run of the mill kind of day.

I understand and respect the decision some people make to be vegetarian. In general, the one position I can't relate to is the one where people choose to eat meat, but are squeamish about how it gets on their plate, and prefer it square and cleanly wrapped from a supermarket, and actually often have the cheek to disparage people who *are* involved in the raising, killing and processing of their own meat.

Today, for one brief moment, I could almost kind of see their point.

In the end though, even looking like a member of a criminal gang, which after all is a one off - or it had better be - is worth it in the interests of eating meat we have met. Our hoggets are between one and two years old - they have always seen a summer - and raised on good downland grass and fresh air.

Now that we are back with our old butcher, it is safe to say, we have a few more ready, so please contact me if you'd like to stock up the freezer with ethically produced, sweet Jacob lamb.