A Year on the Farm

Pauline Mostyn – One of the Diggers

The gardening year begins early – in fact you could say that it is a twelve-month activity!  There are always jobs to do – even through the winter: tools to clean, pots and seed trays to wash, planning to do and seed catalogues to browse.

My activity this year with the TiK Food Group down at Rectory Farm began almost as soon as I stepped off the plane from visiting my father-in-law in Australia over the Christmas period.  I arrived back at the end of January and already the volunteers were busy with meetings and activities they had been doing over the December/January period.

Our first task was to create a rotation plan, and plan the eighteen beds we have with the different crops we decided to grow.  We have adopted a four-year plan and use a ‘Sowing and Planting Guide’ which follows the ancient wisdom of the influence of the planets and moon.  We decided this so that we had a framework for our activities.  The guide tells the best days for sowing/transplanting leaf crops like spinach & lettuce and fruit crops like pumpkins and beans etc, and this has given us a structure to follow.

So in February we prepared seed trays and sowed seeds.  We set up the greenhouse with an extra shelf and before long the greenhouse was full of sprouting seed trays – or not, depending on how successful germination was.  Spring this year was very slow in coming and consequently many things did not get transplanted until a month or two after the packet said they should.

Other activities were in hand: new signs were being made for the beds so we could easily identify which beds were for which crops.  Gareth, our watering system engineer, was figuring out how to make life easier for us to get water to the beds without having to carry watering cans.

One of our first disappointments was the disaster of the kale crop.  We had a magnificent transplanting day when ninety-six small plants were put into the appropriate bed – a very satisfying morning’s work.  We all went home very happy and chuffed.  What a shock to come back a few days later to find the plants stripped!  Those pesky pigeons … or was it the slugs?

You have probably heard what a prolific year it has been for slugs.  Well, it has been.  We have a policy of not using pesticides, fertiliser and other nasty stuff, so obviously slug pellets are out of the question.  And we are not there at night, which is when the pesky little blighters put in an appearance so it all happens under cover of darkness.  Lindsey has become quite an expert at gathering them and redistributing them to other areas of the farmland and we have resorted to trying to drown them.  There are many books written about controlling slugs but any new methods of eradication or reduction are very welcome.

In our efforts to continue our education in all things ‘growing’ we visited another farmer this year – someone who contributes to a box scheme in Cambridge.  We learned a lot and were impressed by his efforts and his range of equipment.  We plan to make a visit to different types of growers a regular feature of our year.  We also participated in the annual Kings Langley Carnival in June and were grateful to again receive a financial contribution from Carnival funds for purchase of new tools.  One of the items we saw in Cambridgeshire is now on order and we hope it will make our lives easier next year when it comes to transplanting seedlings into the beds.

One of our enthusiastic volunteers, again Gareth of watering fame, decided to attend a compost-making course and is now educating us all on the benefits of making compost in a variety of ways; and enabling us, we hope, to be totally self-sufficient in the future in being able to heal and nourish our soil.

Our main working days for volunteers are Thursday and Sunday mornings although there are some hardy volunteers who come in on other days as well.  There is the grass to cut, bed edges to keep tidy and the compost heap to turn and layer.  Thank you, Colin and Jenny.

We are a group of about twenty volunteers at Rectory Farm.  About eight to ten are regular workers each week and you might be wondering why we do it.  Well, we all share a concern for the planet, the future of our food supplies and sustainability.  We would like to see more locally grown food with fewer ‘food miles’.  Our motto is ‘Food with Thought’.  We have a vision to provide food for the village, and the monthly local food market is our outlet.  It is challenging and sometimes hard work.  It is also rewarding and satisfying, though at times frustrating and disappointing.  Working in a group brings its own dynamic but the benefits are friendship and working in community.  The monthly market brings together other food producers in the local region, and we hope that you have enjoyed the buzz that this brings to Kings Langley High Street once a month.

If you would like to come along and see what we are up to, please do visit.  There is always a group of us on Thursday or Sunday mornings from 10 to 12 noon.  We are on Gade Valley Close, off Rectory Lane.  If you would like to join us, you will be most welcome.

 

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