A lot’s happened over the last few months at the Starter Farm! Since I last wrote, I’ve sown and transplanted thousands of seedlings – of around 100 varieties of plant – seen them grow and thrive, and in recent weeks, been selling as much as I’ve got time to pick! I’ve been churning out kale and chard, and now the more summery crops such as beans and courgettes are starting to flow in. The thing I’m most proud of is my salad mix, which has 15 leafy ingredients, plus several edible flowers.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how easy it’s been to find markets for my produce! So far the Country Markets stall at the Shambles Market has been my best outlet, followed by Star Anise and Stroudco. I’ve now got a little stall set up at Oakbrook too, where Micro Dairy customers can grab a bag of parsley or some beetroot on their way back from collecting their milk and eggs. Unfortunately deer, rabbits and pigeons are just as enthusiastic about my crops as humans are, which is proving something of a challenge, and new kinds of caterpillar and beetle keep springing up to make holes in anything which didn’t tempt the last lot. So it’s not all plain sailing! But overall everything’s ticking along nicely, it’s so beautiful working up here and I’m just really happy to be feeding people. Kit Whitney
The 97 chickens are doing well, they arrived in late April with two cockerels to keep them in order. They have settled in well and like to sit in the shade underneath their coop in this hot weather and do more of their ranging in the evening when it’s cooler. They are laying well and the eggs are getting bigger, with the occasional whopper, about twice the size of the others! (They arrived as pullets at point-of-lay and so are now getting into their stride.)
The current challenge is to keep some eggs from being stolen by cheeky crows who have worked out how to get in and take them!
Having had the coop and chickens moving over the ground the last few months, there is already evidence of improved fertility where they have been, they are doing a good job so far!
Bees – two eco-hives are now in place just below the fruiting hedge over the edge from the starter farm field. We wish the bees happy foraging.
Stroud Micro Dairy – News from the farm
It is very, very, dry. Grazing tall swards has meant that we still have a bit of moisture in the ground and a little bit of grass growth but If we don’t get rain in the next few weeks we may have to start feeding our winter fodder. It is encouraging to see how well the land has fared thus far and its resilience to drought will only improve as our grazing style pumps more carbon into the ground. Every 1% increase in soil organic-matter equates to an extra 144,000 litres of water storage per hectare. Not everything is handling the dry weather very well. Both our spring sown herbal leys have suffered and we will need to wait till the autumn to see what is left of them. So for now we wait for the rain and go for regular swims.
Silage – Our first cut of silage finally took place early June. It might be worth explaining what silage is; its grass that is cut young (or younger than hay), baled and then wrapped. It goes through a fermentation process similar to your sauerkraut which gives it a sweet smell and, like sauerkraut, is highly nutritious. There are now big piles of black bales near the dairy.
OAKBROOK FARM EVENTS
11 July-8am. The next spraying for Horn Silica is on Wednesday 11th July at 8 am for 8.30 start. Do join us for stirring and spraying the steep bits by hand, the less steep fields will be done with the tractor sprayer. Bring a back-pack sprayer if you have one and shoes for rough ground. Please arrive at 8am, meet at the SCA Hawkwood Cowshed.