November is here and another lock-down. In the first one earlier this year our box numbers increased dramatically and though we manged to fulfill the extra orders it wasn't easy as we were just entering the hungry gap period, the sparse months from April till early June when overwintered and stored crops come to an end and we await the first plantings of the year. However, we are now in a time of plenty. All crops that can be are harvested and in storage for the coming months and plants to be overwintered in the fields are looking strong and healthy so we stand in good stead to provide our valued customers with healthy produce throughout these challenging times. Read on for a farm update and other news.
Last Autumn was one of the wettest on record but luckily this year is no where near as wet, so far.... The conditions last year meant that crops such as potatoes and carrots could not be harvested using our mechanized harvesters and this had a significant knock on effect in terms of labor, yield and quality. This is not the case this year and thankfully all our potatoes and carrots are harvested and in storage ready for the coming months. Also, with our recently increased cold storage area the roots will store for longer than previous years. The potato varieties in the boxes at the moment are mainly Alouette which are red skinned and yellow fleshed and Ambo, a white potato with red patches. The Ambo are ideal for roasting and baking but tend to disintegrate too much when boiled.
Crops in the fields such as cauliflowers and purple sprouting broccoli are looking strong and healthy. The caulis are already appearing in our boxes and the purple sprouting broccoli is also starting to produce. We grow multiple varieties of these two crops planted mainly in July, the varieties chosen to mature succession-ally from around now till April/May next year, keeping the supply fairly constant if all goes to plan. In the tunnels the winter salads we planted out in September and October are growing well and we are cutting them weekly for our tasty mixed salad bags.
As mentioned in the introduction, when the last lock down kicked in in late March earlier this year, we were just entering the hungry gap. A lot of the jobs we have been doing on the farm over the last couple of weeks are in preparation for this period. As the name suggest it's a lean part of the year so we do everything we can to keep our boxes fresh and interesting during this time. We've just finished planting our garlic which will mainly be harvested as green garlic, young garlic plants used as you would a spring onion or leek but with a strong garlic flavor. We also got a good batch of broad beans in and in the tunnels we have drilled our first batch of early carrots to be overwintered and a bed of sugar snap peas. These are all valuable crops that serve us well during the hungry gap and are pretty much the last plantings of the year.
Veg of the month - Swiss Chard
Swiss Chard is another crop that keeps us going through the hungry gap. The seeds are drilled directly into well prepared beds out in the fields starting as early as March into July and we harvest the crop throughout the year. Out of all the chards and spinach, it's the last to bolt (bolting is when the plant flowers and goes to seed) and lasts until the early drillings of the new year start to produce. Here's a recipe that uses the thick stalks that are typical of swiss chard.
- The stalks from 1kg swiss chard
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 25g butter
- 100ml double cream
- 75g bread crumbs
- 30g parmesan cheese or other hard cheese
- salt and pepper
- Heat 1 tbsp of oil and the butter in a pan and fry chard stalks with garlic for 10-15 mins until tender.
- Stir in chopped thyme,salt and pepper and cream.
- When bubbling, transfer to a gratin dish and scatter over parmesan and bread crumbs.
- Put under a grill until golden brown.
Chickens back at Shillingford
Here's Martyn with a bit about the re introduction of chickens to Shillingford.
During the first lockdown the demand for eggs soared and at the same time our main local supplier of organic eggs had to give up, which left us without being able to supply enough eggs. Thus I ordered 100 of 14 week old pullets. These finally came in late August. They started laying in late September and now they are averaging over 90 eggs a day which are suppplying our box scheme alongside eggs from Rushford Mill.
The chickens are in a shed on skids so we can easily move every 2 or 3 weeks. They are fenced, to stop foxes, into a paddock with lots of room to roam and graze the grass, clover and chicory. They are always excited to be let out each morning (and get annoyed if I am late!) They jump out, run around and then do a group ‘fly’ to stretch their wings. Unfortunately we now have the threat of Avian Flu (causing the death of some of the black swans in Dawlish) so we are having to put in biosecurity measures.
Shillingford Organics Farm School is running during lockdown till Christmas
With the government announcement that providers who run community activities, holiday clubs, breakfast or after-school clubs, tuition and other out-of-school provision for children are able to open for both outdoor and indoor provision during lockdown, Farm School will resume its scheduled groups 'The Winter is Coming' until December 19th 2020. Thanks to our Farm School volunteers for helping with putting up boards around our kitchen sides for extra protection from the wind and the rain during the winter months.
Sessions for this term will be running on:
Wednesday mornings (younger ones)- 10:30-12:30 (fully booked)
Thursday mornings (homeschoolers) 10:30-12:30 (one space available)
Saturday mornings crafts for life course- 10.30-12.30 (two spaces available)
Saturday afternoons 2.00-4.00 pm (fully booked)
Looking for an ideal Christmas present? Why not buy a ticket on our Lacto-fermentation workshop on 31st January 2021? Rose from Red Earth Ferments will be harvesting fresh produce from the fields and teaching us how to make sauerkraut and vegetable preserves to take home. For details and booking please follow the link here:
For more information on our groups and activities please check our web page here:
Please do get in touch if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org, or on 07517153293 and we look forward to welcoming you all back this half term.