A new allotment group from St Nicholas visit Baulcombes Barn

Have a look through our slideshow of St Nicholas Day Centre members' recent visit to the farm

It was lovely to welcome the new St Nicholas Day Centre allotment group to Baulcombes Barn for a visit. It was a sunny morning. The Bluebell group were there to meet them, and had brought cakes. I brought apple juice from Ringmer Community Orchard, made by another Flourish group. Owena had cooked food to try, including pieces of her own chorizo sausage, pork sausage and pieces of hogget (one year old lamb), plus some goats’ cheese made by a friend of Owena. So after introducing ourselves, we started off with a delicious mini-feast.

Owena explained the safety rules of the farm, such as not eating or taking human food near the animals, washing hands after touching animals, closing gates, being quiet around the animals so as not to scare them, not going behind horses (in case they kick) and being careful of slipping on poo or uneven ground.

Then we put boots on and went out to visit the farm animals that Owena had kindly brought to the area near the hut so that the group could meet them without going through the fields.

Some of the new group were not familiar with touching or feeding farm animals, so it took some courage to come forward and do that. Sue and others from Bluebell were very kind and helpful with the St Nicks group members.

We started off by looking at a swallow’s nest in a stable, then fed the chickens. We saw some of the new lambs and their mums, and fed two of the sheep with pellets. Then we took a wheelbarrow full of nettles to Penny and her two remaining piglets. Finally we went to see the ponies, caught Jerry up in a head collar and member of the St Nicholas Group come and patted him.

We finished by a visit to the wildlife-rich pond for a little sit in the sunshine whilst St Nicks waited for the minibus. Some of the newts had been eaten by a heron that morning unfortunately, but it was a beautiful and peaceful spot for a rest.

Emma Chaplin

Flourish Project Manager

News from the Allotment

See the slideshow below...

By Sarah Rideout

Last week, we enjoyed the lovely blossom coming out on the crab apple tree by the gate.

On Tuesday, we had a visit from Victoria Williams, director of Food Matters, who develop Brighton and Hove Food Partnership projects. They do great work, including running cooking and gardening sessions for people with dementia.

On Wednesday, we were very pleased to show off our beautiful hand made tripod and trivet, made by Ian The Luddite. They will be most helpful for future Fire and Feast events. 

We also enjoyed a visit from a four-legged new helper!

Lots of hard work went on at the regular sessions with both groups as you can see.  

We went to take a look at the Rangers putting in a new kissing gate in the adjacent field. Later we rather rather cheekily borrowed their drill and some screws to fix one of the raised beds!

Plot 22 visit: Flourishing at Lewes Community Allotment  

A guest post from Angela, one of the lovely Lady Gardeners from Plot 22, who recently visited Flourish recently

"Seven of us made our way from Hove to Lewes Community Allotment in early April (near the Nevill estate), where the Flourish project run regular sessions. As we were walking along by the other allotments, we were spotted by Emma, Project Manager of Flourish, standing up high, waving at us from Lewes Community Allotment. We could not miss her bright red coat and warm smile. She called us up the verge and we entered the allotment.

We were treated to hot cross buns and refreshing drinks. Sitting there under the large shelter, built from chestnut, we received an informative illustrated talk about the 19 year history of the allotment. Also the current usage of what grows well. Several herbs really like the chalk soil.

The view of the brow of the Downs that sunny glorious day was incredible. We saw a sheepdog herding sheep and a procession of horses riding by the perimeter fence.

Sarah Rideout,  the Flourish Allotment Co-ordinator, gave a very interesting and detailed tour of each small area of planting beds, sheds, picket fence story, pizza clay oven refurbishment project, willow fencing made on site... 

The blossom was about to burst on the trees. She showed us where the lizards like to stretch out on a disused tyre when it gets very hot.

We were meant to visit in February the same time Storm Doris hit the UK. So after being disappointed, our group re-arranged to come on this day which turned out to be more than perfect!  Everyone enjoyed themselves very much!"

Photos by Yvonne

Lambing time

lambs at baulcombes april 2017

We went along to Baulcombes Barn in the middle of the lambing season (25 had been born so far), to hand out the keyrings we'd made for Bluebell members, using photos of their favourite animals, to remind them of the farm and what they enjoy about being there, when they're away from it.

The sun was shining. We had a look for newts around the pond, which has got rather too much blanketweed in it. Owena told us that well-rotted barley straw will help with that. 

All restrictions on chickens had been lifted (except you still need to wear overalls to handle them, which need to be washed after use, which Owena is in the process of purchasing).   

We walked around the lambing field to go and groom the horse and ponies (lots of their winter coat came out) and feed the pigs. Tallulah the pony has had a cough, so Owena gave her some medicine. We finished off by clearing some horse poo from the field before heading back. 

Easter Fire and Feast with Chloe Edwards

Chloe Edwards from Seven Sisters Spices joined us for the morning at our Community Allotment for a Fire and Feast event just before Easter. We had our usual Wednesday morning group from the St Nicholas Day Centre, and Chloe showed us all how to chop (the safe 'bridge' method using the whole hand to hold the vegetable, to prevent slipping and injury) and also mashing, to prepare a delicious meal of bean burgers and tasty salads.

We got the fire going early and by the time the food was ready to cook, the fire was down to nice hot embers, perfect for cooking.

With bean burgers sizzling and buns toasting, we made the finishing touches to tzatziki (yoghurt, mint and cucumber), a pickling salad of radish and carrot, tomato salad and just-picked green salad, all with guidance from Chloe.

Then we enjoyed sharing the lovely food and having a chat in the fresh air.

Thanks to Eleanor, Emmanuel, Felicity Ann and Maggie for helping out.

Sarah Rideout, LCA coordinator, April 2017

Have a look through our photos of the event. Some were taken by us, some by Chloe.

A sunny April day at the Allotment

What a lovely morning at the Allotment. Here's Andy, planting our new plum tree from Woodruff's

And here's a common lizard sunbathing on a tyre - all pics from allotment coordinator Sarah Rideout

And here are some of our allotment members, working hard

And here are some of our allotment members, working hard

Piglets and Jerry the new horse at Baulcombes Barn

A slideshow of the Bluebell House group, featuring Penny's piglets and Jerry the new horse

It was lovely for Flourish project manager Emma Chaplin to see some old and new faces from Bluebell House at Baulcombes Barn at the end of March. We sat around the woodburner for a check-in and a chat. Owena had been using the pegloom when we arrived. She mentioned the fact that there are still restrictions on the chickens because of avian flu - they are outside and we can see them but not pick them up or feed them. We then went for a visit and she showed us her new Cream Legbar chicken, who lays blue eggs!

Emma asked everyone about whether they'd like a project keyring to remind them of Baulcombes and the animals when they aren't there. The group agreed they'd like that to happen and said they'd tell Emma as they went round the farm what pictures they'd most like to have to keep. Emma said she would then sort that out.

Emma also mentioned she would love it if anyone wanted to write things for the Flourish blog, or send photos to her. A couple of people expressed an interest in that.

Then we made our way to the pig and horse fields, where Emma met the new horse Jerry for the first time. He is a horse not a pony, and has a handsome blaze on his nose as well as fine white socks. He's quite a dominant horse, and his arrival has changed the dynamic of the herd, which is interesting. A couple of people led Buster and Jerry on headcollars.

We also saw Penny's ten new piglets, all different colours and very sweet. They came out to see us. We fed Penny some nettles, which have iron, which she needs because of having so many piglets to feed. Owena also fed her.

Then we cleared the horse field of poo.

Herb and Story Walk

Saturday 25th March 2017, 2pm.

By Andra Houchen

Kym Murden is a herbalist and storyteller who lives and works in Lewes. She has a particular interest in how people connect with the landscape.

On a beautiful, sunny day with a rather chilly easterly breeze, five Community Allotment members, along with a number of other people, went on a guided walk with her, to learn about herbs and plants, as well as ancient Celtic stories. 

We met Kym at the entrance to the Tumuli Field gate, Landport Bottom and started by walking up the Tumuli Field. Kym explained that the mounds we saw and stood on were burial mounds from ancient times and this chalk downland area supports a huge variety of wildlife and plants.

As we walked up the field, some of us looked at the different plants and others listened for different birdsong. We heard about the medicinal qualities of nettles and dandelions and the best time to pick these plants to harvest them at their best. We noticed the cawing of crows and the rather more melodious song of what we thought might be blackbirds. Kym told us that skylarks were nesting in the fields around us and we heard one a little later.

When we paused, Kym started to tell us a couple of Celtic tales that have been passed down the generations and we listened to these tales as we went along, looking at plants and trees, some with medicinal qualities like hawthorn and some which have toxic properties (beware!).

Kym explained that she watches where various plants grow, some pop up in places where they haven't grown before. It’s important to harvest responsibly to make sure they continue to grow and spread. We saw a couple of perfect comfrey plants, a snake disappearing into the hedgerow, and learnt that trees 'talk' to each other and communicate through a network of beneficial fungi.

The views from the top of the path were stunning as we wended our way back down past Lewes Community Allotment and the Highdown allotments and finished a very interesting and enjoyable walk on the South Downs.

 

Project User Group Session

Here are some photos from our Project User Group meeting hosted by the Lewes Community Allotment on the morning of Wednesday 15 March 2017

Allotment coordinator Sarah and Flourish project manager Emma were delighted to welcome members of Bluebell House Recovery Centre to Lewes Community Allotment (LCA) for a project user group meeting. The Bluebell group normally attend sessions at Baulcombes Barn with Owena. All in all, we had 22 people come along, including clients from the St Nicholas Day Centre, our sessional worker Felicity Ann, LCA members and support staff from all the projects.

It was a beautiful, sunny day. We all introduced ourselves and put on name labels. Hollie helped Emma to do this. Emma gave everyone a copy of the new Flourish ethos and asked them to think about it and comment on it at the end, or afterwards, if they had views. The ethos says: “We create a safe but challenging outdoor experience where participants can learn and develop skills, gain confidence and a deeper understanding of themselves and others, while widening their opportunities in the community.”

Sarah then took a group for a tour of the allotment, including the lovely new shed. She showed off our new willow hurdles for the vegetable beds, made from willow picked at Baulcombes Barn. Sarah explained that, after we stopped for refreshments (apple juice from Ringmer Community Orchard, tea and delicious nettle and cheese scones, made by Felicity Ann), she was happy to demonstrate how to do the willow weaving with anyone interested.  

As we ate our scones and drank our juice, people chatted about various things, including the ten piglets who had just been born at Owena's. The mum is Penny. Baulcombes also has a newly arrived black horse called Jerry, who seems to be ruling the roost with the other ponies, Tallulah, Frankie and Buster. The chickens are now free to range again. Owena told everyone, after being kept in the polytunnel during concerns about avian flu being spread by wild birds. she did feel, however, that the hens had rather enjoyed being in the polytunnel, so she's keeping it up.

A couple of people from Bluebell House, Ashley and Sue, took Sarah up on her offer to show them how to make willow hurdles..

The feedback about the ethos was positive "I think that says exactly what we do"  "I wouldn't change it. It seems right to me", so it was agreed the Flourish would adopt it as it is.

It was a truly delightful morning. Lovely to see people chatting and enjoying the sunshine.

Willow hurdle making with Lewes Community Allotment members

We'd seen some excellent work at the Community Allotment making willow hurdles to protect the beds by Plumpton College students. Then our members gave it a try - also with great results. 

Visit to Little Gate Farm

Click through our slideshow...

Owena, her partner Ivan and I took a trip over towards Rye in early March to visit a care farm in Beckley set up by Claire Cordell in March 2014 called Little Gate Farm. Hannah Briars, who is Head of the farm, was kind enough to meet us and show us around.

We began with a cup of tea made in their beautiful, cosy kitchen, which we drank sitting outside under the shelter, watching goats leaping about in the field nearby. Hannah told us that Little Gate Farm covers 46 acres, and explained that they support people with learning disabilities (who they call their 'Rangers') to develop confidence, communication, independence and work skills. They then support Rangers into paid jobs.

Claire's motivation for setting up the place as a care farm came about because her daughter Evie has learning disabilities. Evie wanted to work in a café, and Claire felt that supported employment was a way to allow learning disabled adults to reach their aspirations.

Little Gate Farm is open from Tuesday to Friday. They provide a daily minibus service to collect up to twenty people, age 19 plus, from about a 20 mile radius. Each Ranger has a different pace, skills and set of particular needs, so part of what Hannah does is to assess each person and come up with an individual plan for them.

A Young Ranger Project for those between 8-21 is being developed too.

The Farm provides an education programme covering independent living/life/work skills, and then supports Rangers through a supported employment programme, 'job carving' where appropriate. 

A lot of care has gone into the detail of the Farm environment itself. There were so many intriguing things we enjoyed noticing, such as the great welly storage, the superbly-cut, interlocking, curved wooden decking pieces and the children's bucket that's part of a drain!

There is a wheelchair-accessible stable block under construction. They have pigs, sheep, alpacas, ponies, goats and rabbits that the Rangers help care for. Although the pigs are trying very hard to escape by digging their way under the mud. Owena and Ivan explained what they do to keep their pigs in at Baulcombes Barn.

Little Gate Farm Rangers manage and chop wood and sell bags of it as well as making charcoal, which they also sell, both run as social enterprises. They also sell fruit and veg, including what they grow in their beds and polytunnel at the weekly market in Hastings, so that Rangers can get selling and marketing skills.

We thought the den with the car boot door was magnificent. 

What a beautiful, inspiring place, with lovely people. We hope they can visit us soon.

Emma Chaplin

 

Making willow hurdles at the Allotment

A slideshow of our willow weaving session

On a wild and stormy afternoon, with Hurricane Doris on the way, the Plumpton Rural Pathways group arrived at Lewes Community Allotment, carrying bundles of willow they had cut two weeks ago at Owena's smallholding, Baulcombes Barn. Local basket maker Sarah Lawrence was on hand to show them how to weave the willow into hurdles to edge the flower and vegetable beds, to keep the soil in. 

She began by talking about health and safety - particularly with sharp secateurs and working with long pieces of willow that tend to whip about and can damage eyes.  

We split into different groups to do different tasks.

Sarah told the weaving group that we needed to find the fattest lengths first to slot into the wooden frame that Neil Merchant had kindly made for us to allow us to make the willow hurdle structures. These pieces of willow were then cut with loppers to equal lengths. 

Sarah said we needed to be careful to keep the outside structural ends straight and upright whilst we wove thinner pieces across them so they don't pull together and make a triangle. We then took turns to weave the willow pieces across between the uprights, turning at the ends, doing it in pairs at each end one at a time, changing which side of the hurdle we started with each time for stability, and pushing the willow down each time. 

We loved the different colours of the willow. We all had a go and were really pleased with how it worked out.

Sarah had also brought a paint tin lid opening tool for making holes in ground to make a hurdle straight into the earth, and she showed another group how to do that!

The other groups got on with some excellent tidying and trimming back work.

Emma Chaplin

A visit to Landport Community Garden

February 2017

I'd been wanting to visit the Landport Community Garden for a while (garden, not allotment note - that's intentional. They do grow fruit and veg, but they're happy for people to come along who just want to enjoy the space, perhaps make tea. You don't HAVE to garden to become a member).

A good reason to visit cropped up when we were thinking about the camping toilet we have on our Community Allotment, and wondering about the possibility of fundraising for a Thunderbox composting toilet.

I go along to meet David Gray, who got a group of people together to create the lovely walled garden five years ago, from what had basically been scrub land. He's pictured above with his beloved pond.

The first striking thing about the garden is the location. I assumed it would be part of the Landport allotments, but it's not. It's tucked away out of sight through a blue gate next to Landport Farmhouse at the end of Hayward Road.

I really like the peace and tranquillity here. I also like the pond, the arbour, the lawn with chairs, the fruit trees and the raspberry stakes along one wall. The bug hotel is very Lewes and fun, and the scarecrows make me smile.

David shows me round, including a peak into the Thunderbox composting toilet. It's wooden, self-assembly and up some steps (the company can do wheelchair accessible ones, but there are a lot more expensive). It's very nice. There is no smell whatsoever.

David explains that, over the years, they've had financial support from the Council and the National Lottery as well as donations. This has enabled them to create raised beds, similar to ours, as well as add a polytunnel, a shed and a shelter. Probationers helped build some of the raised beds and Sussex Downs students helped put up the polytunnel.

The Community Garden differs from our Community Allotment in a number of ways. Both are run along organic principles, have raised beds and welcome members of the community to come along. But the Landport Garden is tucked down low, and very sheltered. We are up on the Nevill, on the Downs, on chalk. We've got stunning views but the site is much more exposed. Having a polytunnel up there would be challenging. We are permitted to have campfires however, which the garden is not (they are next to residential properties, whereas we are not).

Neatly-hung spades and forks in the shed

Neatly-hung spades and forks in the shed

David explained that, after five years, he's handed the running of the garden over to Marina Pepper. Members meet there every Monday, between 11am-3.30pm, and anyone is welcome to drop in. It's free. People share the tea and biscuits fund. Produce is shared. For more information, and contact details, see the poster below:

Poster for the LCG sessions

Poster for the LCG sessions

Emma Chaplin

Rural Pathways group at Baulcombes

Feb 2017 Because of the current risk of Avian flu from wild birds, all the chickens are shut in a polytunnel, and we all needed to dip our wellies in disinfectant before entering the yard.

dsc_2247

Then we split into three groups. Some of us filled nets with hay for the ponies, with one person holding the net open, the other stuffing the hay in. This caused much interest for Frankie, who put his head over the door and tried to eat the hay as we worked. After the bags were full, we put them on the gates for each of the three ponies to eat. A couple of sheep came for a nibble too.

Another group mixed up the pig feed. Owena was putting the food into the open trailer which she'd placed in an opening next to the field for them to eat inside. This is because one of the pigs is going to the abattoir next week and she wanted the pigs to get used to going in and out of the trailer before taking one of them away in it. It took a bit of getting used to, but they got there.

DSC_2270.JPG

The third group went to clear horse manure from the pony field.

Then, some students went off with Ivan to trim brambles in the sheep field, and Owena showed Connor, Natalie and Ebbie how to lead Buster and Frankie on the head collar in such a way that they don't push you off the path you want to follow (you sort of have to lean into them).

Owena also explained that, although the ponies are very muddy, it wasn't a good idea to groom them when their hair is wet. Ponies can get mud fever if mud gets brushed into their skin.

DSC_2252.JPG

Finally, the whole group gathered for some hot chocolate to warm up.

Emma Chaplin

Cutting Willow at Baulcombes Barn

We had a special January session with a group from Bluebell House Recovery Centre, cutting willow from the bed at Baulcombes Barn. The willow has to be cut by March. Here's some more information about growing willow.

The Bluebell House group could stay later than a usual Wednesday morning session, so they brought lunch with them. And secateurs! Owena provided the gloves and we headed out to the willow bed - in wellies - it was very muddy.

dsc_21431.jpg

First of all, Owena needed to strim back some brambles to make it easier for us to cut the two types of willow growing in the bed, so most of the group left her to it and carried on walking beyond the willow bed in order to go and see the horses and pigs.

We didn't see the hens, because they are are shut in at the moment, because of the risk of them contracting avian flu from wild birds.

Nicola was keen to see Buster, and so we went to the horse field, via the pigs and the yard to fetch a wheelbarrow, so some of us could clear up poo from the field.

DSC_2143 (1).JPG
DSC_2143 (1).JPG

The younger pony Frankie came up to the wheelbarrow to see what was happening, but then put his ears back. This is probably because he didn't know my face. Horses (and sheep) can recognise human faces.

Oscar was brave enough to approach Buster. Buster is a friendly pony, but this was Oscar's first time touching a horse. Nicola supported and encouraged him and he did really well.

Then we headed back to the willow beds. We laid a tarpaulin on the ground to put the willow once cut, because the ground was so wet. Then some of us cut the willow, others sorted it into piles of thin, medium and thick stems. Some bits were too short and wispy to use, so they will be burned.

The welcome warmth of the woodburner  

The welcome warmth of the woodburner

 

After some hard work, the group headed back to the cabin for lunch around the woodburner to warm up.

We all felt it had been a good day. It was lovely to welcome new people as well as those who had come before. People tried things they hadn't done before, such as going right up to a horse.

With the willow cutting and sorting and even navigating muddy slopes and climbing under fences, we worked as a team and got a lot done. The fresh air did us good too, as did the company of the animals.

The willow will be ready for weaving in six weeks.

Emma Chaplin

Plumpton Supported Interns - Day Three of our Apple Course - Pub & (Sea)Cidery visits

5 December 2016 When we met up last week for the last part of Flourish's work with them on our apple-themed course, it was clear that the two groups of Plumpton College supported interns had all been working very hard since we last saw them at the Fruit Factory in October.

Here's a video we made at that time.

After they'd taken their bottles of pasteurised juice made from apples picked at Ringmer Community Orchard back to college, they had a talk by the Plumpton marketing lecturer about how they might best come up with way to promote, market and sell it, as well as a talk from a visiting graphic designer. With the support of their own lecturers, they then began generating ideas, thinking of possible names and creating label designs for marketing the juice.

So, for the last part of our work with the interns, we arranged visits for them to two local businesses, whose work relates to apples in some way - Huw from the Elephant and Castle pub in Lewes and Matt from Seacider in Ditchling - both of whom were also kind enough to comment on the label and name ideas.

Both groups had prepared some label/ideas boards and a short presentation for these trips.

Visit 1, Elephant and Castle

After the Plumpton group came in from a very cold day and bought themselves lunch at the pub - we all went upstairs to the meeting room where landlord Huw Jones helpfully answered lots of questions put by the group about his job - what's great (the sociable aspects) and what's hard (late nights, long days).

He told them what his job entails (employing and managing staff, doing a lot of admin, banking, sorting rotas, social media, making sure the place is clean and well-stocked). He also talked about the Elly's busiest night of the year - Bonfire.

dsc_2038
dsc_2038

Huw sells Owlet's apple juice, so he talked a bit about that. We discussed the recent rebranding of Harvey's brewery, general pricing of products he sells and what different staff roles there are in a pub, how the shift patterns work and who gets paid what.

He tried the juice the interns had brought along and pronounced it "truly amazing".

dsc_2032
dsc_2032

The interns gave their group juice presentation to him, one by one, including explaining that they'd decided to call their juice Liquid Sunshine.

Huw liked the name, the vivid, eye-catching designs, how creative everyone had been, the fact that the main variety of apple they'd picked (Ashmead's Kernal) is mentioned.

He really liked the 3D design work, but wondered if it might be hard to make into a flat label - but thought it might work as a special edition label that could be hung around the bottleneck.

He left the interns with a lot to think about.

Flourish project manager Emma explained that Ringmer Community Orchard would like to adapt and use one of the designs for their own juice, if possible.

Trip 2, Seacider

Matt at Seacider

Matt at Seacider

On a sunny but also very chilly day, the second group took their own blend of apple juice (made from different apple varieties than the first group - Red Falstaff, for example) to an industrial estate near Ditchling for a visit to Seacider, a fascinating and relatively new cider-making business run by Mark and Matt.

Mark had to dash off delivering cider, so Matt talked to the group about what they do. He explained that they used to make beer, as Goldstones brewery, but got into trying to make cider - and within five months went from being the smallest 'cidery' (which the cider version of 'brewery') in Sussex to one of the largest!

Matt told us about his own background, and the fact that his route to doing what he now loves hadn't been an academic one, because he'd struggled at school. He went and lived/ worked for some small cideries in the West country for a few months. He talked about his working day and the need for flexibility - if you're starting up your own business, it's a lot of hard work. He went into a lot of interesting detail about the manufacturing process, mentioned that fact that they make their cider out of apples rejected by supermarkets for not being perfect (see below).

Then he told us how their funky branding had come about. "We're not really interested in the kind of labels that feature an old man under an apple tree - we wanted something different and modern". His girlfriend Lauren Bartlett came up with the distinctive Mexican skull design, which includes images of apples, seed, leaves and Brighton Pavilion. "We're very much Brighton-based".

Fantastic logo

Fantastic logo

He talked to the interns about how you want your branding to both fit in, yet stand out - you need to think about your target audience - and it needs to entice people into buying it.

The group did their presentation to Matt, then he tasted their juice, which they've called Sweet Sussex, "it's really good", and commented on their designs.

All in all, both groups had two great visits and learnt a lot. Many thanks to Seacider and the Elephant and Castle for their time and hospitality.

Emma Chaplin

Useful links

Interested in becoming a member of Ringmer Community Orchard? More info HERE

Want to know more about the Plumpton Supported Internship programme? HERE

For more about Flourish, HERE, and Common Cause Co-op HERE

And here are links to the Elephant and Castle and  Seacider websites.

User Group Meeting, November 2016

user-group-nov-2016-bb-pigs.jpg

Owena kindly hosted our recent User Group meeting at Baulcombes Barn on 23 November 2016. After a wild few days of  lot of rain and wind, we were lucky to have good weather for it. Owena had a fire going outside, with chairs around for everyone to sit down.

We had representatives from Bluebell House and St Nicholas Day Centre. All in all, there were fourteen of us.

Owena and Sue from Bluebell showed us the chickens, and we fed them. They are moulting at the moment so not laying eggs. Some of the fully grown grey ones had grown up from being the newborn chicks featured in a video we'd made a few months ago! Owena explained about how the hen house door comes up in the morning and shuts at dusk, to keep the hens safe from foxes.

We went to see the two weaners (pigs) as well and fed them apples and hay. They were burrowing in the mud with their snouts and larking about. They seemed very happy.

Then Owena took the group for a walk to see the sheep, whilst I put the kettle on, heated up some of Owena's delicious sausages and cut some homemade lemon cake up.

user group BB nov 16.jpg

The group returned for a hot drinks and something to eat, and a chat about various things, including what would be a good small memento of the the project. The group felt they'd like a key-ring best of all, with a photo of the allotment on it. I will look into this.

Sue stayed behind to help me to clear up the cups and plates, then headed back to Bluebell House.

It was a lovely morning.

Thank you Owena

Emma Chaplin, Project Manager

 

user group nov 2016.jpg

Plumpton College Rural Pathways group at Baulcombes Barn

15 November 2016

I went along to meet the Plumpton College Rural Pathways group at Baulcombes Barn last week. It was a beautiful morning, Owena and Ivan were moving Penny the sow into a field waiting for the arrival of Happy the boar, since her piglets have now been weaned.

2016-11-11-09-29-57.jpg

Claudette and Tash brought the nine Rural Pathways students along in a minibus. Everyone was wearing very smart overalls.

This is Owena's report of the session:

"I was with the group who took care of the hens; Kira, Bethany, Savanah, Clianne, Jake and Mikey.  They seemed unsure about how to open the electric fence, I think this is because normally *Gabriel has done it."

*Gabriel, we're very pleased to report, enjoyed his time with us at Baulcombes so much, he's gone on to start the Plumpton agricultural course!

"On the way out Jake and Mikey were able to do the electric fence gate and test it. Bethany and Savannah knew about collecting eggs and putting them in the trays, they needed reminding how to open the door, but were able to close it later.

Collecting eggs

Collecting eggs

We found an egg which hadn't hardened, which looks very odd. We removed it because we do not want the chickens to start eating eggs.

A strange egg shell

A strange egg shell

Clianne, Jake and Mikey cleaned the hen house. Mikey was able to prepare the paper lining with help from Tash; Jake and Clianne removed the paper and muck from the house, and removed the muck from the paper and lit the fire to burn the paper.

Cleaning out the community hens

Cleaning out the community hens

Mikey helped me to push the hen house floor back. He wanted to learn how to pick up a hen. I showed him, but was uncertain to catch one himself, he held it from me. Mikey wanted to catch a hen on his own, he was keen, but kept avoiding making the final catch. Eventually he did it! He caught a hen and held it.

The hens are easier to catch when you approach slowly and gently crouch down, as they will crouch down thinking that you are a rooster and they will stay still for a short moment and it is then that you can capture the hen. You need to hold the wings firmly to avoid flapping and damage to the wings.

We observed the hens for a while before leaving them to peck and scratch.

Feeding the chickens

Feeding the chickens

We had the boar Happy brought to visit the sow, Penny. Penny has been weaned from her piglets and she will come in season in the next three days. We watched Happy and Penny reacquainting themselves with each other.

Feeding the pigs

Feeding the pigs

One group cleaned the horse muck from the field, this is to stop the grass becoming too sour from the breakdown of the manure. We collect it up every day and let it rot down in a muck heap, which is emptied every six months when it is well-rotted.

Feeding Tallulah

Feeding Tallulah

In the meantime, another group had been feeding the weaners. They measured out the feed and gave it to the pigs, they observed if all the pigs were eating.

Finally, we all walked to check sheep. The boy lambs were well. The ewes have the tups [ie males who have not been castrated] in and the young people were told that the orange mark on the back of the ewes mean that they have been 'served' by the tup [ie in order to get pregnant]. We discussed the cycle of the ewes, which is three days with 17 days between each cycle."

 

A Visit to Plot 22

dsc_1897
dsc_1897

It was a great pleasure to visit Plot 22 in Hove last week. The person who developed this beautiful community allotment near Aldrington train station is Emma Houldsworth. Here is their website, and it's well worth taking a look, listening to the audio portraits, and the Year in the Garden photo diary is brilliant. Lovely recipes too. They call it a 'little oasis' and that's exactly what it felt like. Our lovely community allotment is high up on the Downs, has breathtaking views and is a healing, nurturing place to be. Plot 22 felt equally nurturing and good for the soul, and the two allotments share many things...

  • being a safe, welcoming space
  • teaching about gardening according to organic principles
  • growing food that is shared
  • aiming to be sustainable
  • having community membership
  • supporting local wildlife
  • having at least one pond
  • excellent sheds
  • firepits

...Plot 22 nonetheless has a somewhat different feel. It was women-only the day I was there. They have some indoor space, which feels quite cosy and contained. There are greenhouses and a covered seating area. They always eat a meal together. And their composting loo is a thing of beauty! I loved that is was 'twinned' with another loo.

I really enjoyed meeting some of the allotment group, sharing tea and delicious homemade apple tarts. Then we had a tour. There had been a first frost, so these chaps needed digging up. They are called Yacon and are an unusual type of potato.

Yacon potatoes

Yacon potatoes

Teasels

Teasels

Emma told me that they had a lot of teasels growing all over the place, but needed to have a bit of a tidy up/weed. They didn’t want to deprive the birds of food, so one of the group had the idea of hanging them up in a tree instead so that the goldfinches and greenfinches can eat the seeds.

Emma gave me some chillies to take away - which we can hopefully try to grow at our allotment next year. She warned me they are very hot.

Chillies

Chillies

It was a great pleasure to spend time in such a lovely place in such good company. We'd be delighted if the group came to visit us one day.

Fire and Feast at Lewes Community Allotment

4 November 2015·

What a lovely gathering the Fire and Feast was! It was the day before the huge Bonfire event takes place in Lewes, but even so, it was a bit of a shock to see a 50ft Guy Fawkes being made on top of a huge bonfire just outside where our allotment is on the Downs by the Nevill estate.

It was a damp blustery morning, but we got the fire going and made it cosy. We even had an unexpected visitor - a grey cat - who was very friendly and inquisitive.

We all enjoyed trying the many different tasters - pumpkin scones and muffins, veggie soup made from squash grown on our allotment, frittata, chutney, homemade bread and jam... all washed down with tea. And the company couldn't have been better.