care farm

Problem-solving with the Rural Pathways group at Baulcombes

Friday morning our work experience group helped repair some fencing at the Stable Field, Hamsey.

They also fed and tended to the animals. But with the wet weather, we were slipping and sliding when we carried the feed for the sow, Penny and the boar Jeremy. So a few weeks ago we created a 'board walk'. It makes our life much easier.

The next task is to improve the area where we feed Penny and Jeremy. Suggestions so far have been to lay some large sleepers for them to stand on instead of sinking into the mud!

Owena Lewis, Farmer and Therapist

Last session of the year: a walk to an ancient church and some thoughts about the benefits of fresh air, even in the bleak mid-winter

We enjoyed some festive food and drink at the last session of the year with members of Bluebell House at Baulcombes Barn. We drank delicious apple juice from Ringmer Community Orchard. Owena made a delicious and warming lamb casserole dish with some of her hogget (using spices from Seven Sisters Spice), plus there were homemade mince pies. Owena had obtained permission and a key for us to visit nearby St Peter's church in Hamsey. Thanks to the church for allowing the visit.

We all set off, saying hello to the chickens and rams as we passed, down the track for what was a very enjoyable walk, over the bridge over the railway tracks.

We all thought that the church is lovely. It's probably the best unrestored church in Sussex and featured in the recent film adaptation of the Daphne du Maurier novel, My Cousin Rachel. It has never had any electricity, but instead is lit by candles for services. This makes it particularly interesting in terms of atmosphere. We felt it to be tranquil and calming, even though most of the group are not church-goers. We enjoyed sitting for a while inside the old stone with thick, whitewashed walls. We loved the soft, natural light that streamed in via the stained glass windows.

For anyone interested, here is more information about the history of St Peters, if you scroll down this link

After we'd had a look round, inside and out, we left, first looking at the gargoyles on the tower. Then we walked back via a visit to feed and say hello to the ponies and piggies.

In her reflections on the term with the group, Owena talks about the sometimes negative impact wet and grey weather during winter can have on us, and how Christmas is often a emotionally challenging period for many people. Yet, the group tells us in our discussion with them, fresh air and connecting with nature, as well as the experience of looking out for and caring for the animals that they know at the farm, is always beneficial. This is what they said: "it feels good to learn about feeding and caring for animals" and "I feel better being focused and doing something which takes my mind away from my problems".

Emma Chaplin, Flourish project manager, Jan 2018

Last Bluebell session at Baulcombes. Marshmallows & felt!

By Flourish project manager Emma Chaplin

It was a sunny, muggy day for the last Bluebell House session at Baulcombes Barn of this project year (which for Flourish, runs September-August).

Sitting outside under the shade of a tree, we began by 'checking in', each person saying how they feel about being there.

We then shared some lovely refreshments. Rhiannan had very kindly brought her delicious fluffy homemade marshmallows to share, including banoffi flavour, coconut ice flavour and pretty pink and yellow marshmallow, rhubarb and custard flavour. We wondered where the word 'marshmallow' came, because it's the name of a plant. Rhiannan thought it related to throat lozenges - and indeed it does. The sugary marshmallow we know derives from the medicinal confection originally made from the marshmallow plant.

There was apple juice from Ringmer Community Orchard, and tea for those who wanted that.

Owena explained that one activity for the morning, for those who were interested, was felting. Felt is made out of wool. And felt-making, she told us, is an ancient art. In Mongolia, for example, they make yurts with it, using horses to tread the felt. It's both waterproof and warm.

Owena had a basket of wool from her sheep. She demonstrated 'carding' the wool, then teasing it out into squares (or any shape you want) in order to make a flat, fine shape. You end up with a pile of about 8 pieces, and you alternate the direction of 'threads'. 

She said the method is to place these on a large piece of tarpaulin in a place it's ok to get messy, Then you pour washing liquid over your pile (it's soap that makes the wool stick together), followed by boiling water. You pull the tarpaulin over the top, put wellies on and stamp! Felt is formed when there's been friction, Owena explained. You can also use a rolling pin to do this.

The felt ends up very wet, so you can then put it in spin dryer or whack it on the ground, if you're outdoors, to get the water out.

Also, Owena said, you can make felt pots, by wrapping the wool around a boulder or pebble, soap using a bar, add boiling water as before, then cut it open to make your pot.

Sue, Rhiannan and Di helped make a felt rug, teasing out the carded wool so that the fibres would bond together to form felt. It quickly turned to felt with the boiling hot water and soap and friction from them walking on the mat! It was too wet to take back to Bluebell, so Owena took it home to spin dry and will deliver it to the centre next week. The group would also like some wool to do their own felting at Bluebell.

And for those interested in seeing to the animals, their job was to get the ponies in. They had been moved to the field near the cabin. Owena explained that too much sugar in the grass had been causing laminitis (painful hoof inflammation) in the ponies, so she'd moved them to a field with less rich grass. They'd been struggling a bit with the flies and the heat. Frankie needed a fly sheet to protect his skin.

Some of the group caught them all up to come in the stables for a bit of shade. Frankie's fly sheet was removed, and they were given a drink and some hay.

So the ponies were attended to, the hens fed, including the chicks. Plus we had a look at the two unexpected new lambs that had been born after the ram escaped.

We finished the morning with feedback from each group member. There were comments about having learnt a lot about the animals during the year; feeling more confident handling the ponies and enjoying being outdoors. We all felt sad to end the sessions for this project year, and spoke about next autumn.

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

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. 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

User Group Meeting, November 2016

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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.

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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

 

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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.

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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."