common cause lewes

A hot day for Bluebell House at Baulcombes Barn

By Emma Chaplin

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It was a blistering hot July Wednesday afternoon. The ground was dry and hard. Bluebell House arrived at Baulcombes Barn for one of only a few more sessions they have with us. This is partly because Flourish funding is ending in August, and partly because the centre is moving to Horsham. In any case, endings can be hard for everyone. This group have developed important bonds with Owena and the animals.

I came along to spend some time with the group, as I sometimes do, bringing medicine from Cliffe vets for Tallulah the pony, as requested by Owena. And some cake for the humans! I also came because Flourish want to give every Bluebell House member who has come to the farm a memento. I had samples of a mug and a tea towel with the design created by Michi Mathias (see above).

Everyone who was present really liked them, thought about what they'd like and put in their orders. Joanna will ask others at Bluebell House and let me know.

We then "checked in" ie went round the group and said how we felt. Owena gave everyone an update on the farm and any animals news since the group were last here a few weeks ago.

She said:

"I took some of the pigs to the Smallholders Show. Because of the heat, we have to be here by 8am every day. The animals seem OK. The sheep stay in shade. One young ewe got mastitis, and we treated her with antibiotics. She's still not quite right, so we're keeping an eye on her. We moved the sheep on foot to a field nearer to the therapy room, so we could shear them. We were going to shear them today, but then I realised a fox had got into the community chickens and killed some of them. Foxes are hungry at the moment, plus we've got problems with the electric fence, and the earth being very dry doesn't help. I found where the fox got in. Helpfully, the pigs, who normally try to dig themselves out, can't because the ground is too hard. And the dry weather means the grass is less sugary, which is better for the ponies. They don't get laminitis. Finally, we've had an issue with broody hens. One booted another out, then didn't take care of a chick that hatched. I'm keeping a close eye on things."

Then we went out to do some chores, which included: catching up the ponies, grooming them, leading them around the field, extending the grazing area for the ponies by moving the fence, giving the pigs water, cleaning the pony fields, feeding the hens, and collecting up and soaking willow for a future willow weaving session. You can can see some of those activities in the photos above (since several members of the group prefer not to be in photos, so we've been careful who is in these). 

Finally, we gathered for a final 'check in'. We all felt better for having been at Baulcombes, seeing the animals and getting on with tasks. These were a few comments:

"I was grumpy earlier on, but being here always helps me feel better."

"I'm glad to be here. It always helps"

"I was feeling crappy but I'm glad I came today."

Chickens, lambs & a puppy. Our St Nicholas group visit Baulcombes Barn.

By Emma Chaplin

Our regular allotment group from the St Nicholas Centre really enjoy visiting the animals at Baulcombes Barn, so Owena agreed to host them on (mostly) sunny April day, so they could see the newborn lambs, groom the ponies, see the broody hen and much else besides.

It was lovely for us to see some old faces get off the bus with support worker Eleanor, as well as members of our current group. Volunteer Penny and sessional worker Felicity Ann came along too, which was great.

Penny and I made some drinks (tea, coffee, and homemade elderflower cordial), then we sat outside the therapy room, those who wanted to taking turns to hold Dottie the puppy, whilst Owena explained the safety rules of the farm - washing hands after touching the animals, not eating near the animals, and being quiet and gentle around them so we don't alarm them.

We watched some swallows fly down into the stable roof - Owena explained that they had arrived after their winter migration a couple of days before.

Then we went to see a broody hen on her eggs, fed the chickens, collected some eggs, held the cockerel and a hen, saw the lambs in the field, watched whilst Owena caught Tallulah the pony, stroked Buster, said hello to Frankie, and finally, those who wanted to, groomed Tallulah in the yard.

Lots of interesting questions were asked during the visit. Do horses prefer apples to hay? (Owena said they mostly eat grass now they can). Does the broody hen ever get off her nest? (yes, to eat, drink and stretch her legs). Owena also pointed out that Dottie had some fur shaven because she'd recently been spayed so she couldn't have puppies. Some people weren't sure if they liked that, so we chatted about it for a bit, and what it means to have puppies that then grow into dogs.

Everyone thanked Owena for a lovely morning then got back on the bus to head back to Lewes.

Safe Lifting Training with Plumpton at Lewes Community Allotment

By Emma Chaplin

On a beautiful sunny April day, James from Square Lemon Training came along at lunchtime to give staff and volunteers some useful information about safe manual handling (ie lifting things), so that Sarah could then use that knowledge for planning tasks at the allotment, as well as for making sure people that come to the allotment take care of their backs.

The word 'manual' comes from using your hands (moving people is a different proposition, and these days, care workers are taught to safely use hoists etc).

James told us that back problems can be both acute (sudden onset) and chronic (built up/last a period of time).

Our backs are naturally 's' shaped, there is a curve, so you shouldn't literally straighten your back - the curve is there to provide suspension.

Having slightly bent knees is a more stable standing position than having locked knees.

We are also more stable if our feet are not close together, and we all have a dominant foot that we tend to put slightly ahead of the other one.

Twisting often poses a high risk for backs, and should be avoided. 

James emphasised the importance of careful planning for all tasks. In some instances, this might lead to the tasks not being done, because you might assess that it is not safe to do them (because the objects are too heavy, or the ground is not stable enough, for example) or, on balance, that it is not essential that they happen.

Good inductions are really important in any "work place", including an allotment where volunteers, clients and members come along to carry out tasks.

He suggested that, as quickly as possible after a new group or person starts with us, we offer basic manual handling advice, along with a tour of the site.

In planning terms, for any activity involving lifting, you take into account TILE - or

  • TASK what you're doing
  • INDIVIDUAL the strength, fitness and abilities of the person
  • LOAD how heavy/awkward the thing you are thinking of moving is
  • ENVIRONMENT the space around- do you have access? Is it firm underfoot and clear of obstacles?

General points

Think about any task in advance and do a risk assessment - ask why are we bothering moving it? Is it really necessary? 

It's a good idea to ask a group in advance of doing any tasks if anyone has back problems.

Think about how to manage each job safely. Split the task up - have a rota so no one person is doing all the lifting. It's much easier to move an empty object such as a plant pot than a full one. Or dry soil rather than wet. 

Use a wheelbarrow when you can. Position it as close as possible to the load.

Take a step rather than twist (eg as you put soil in). So position yourself so you are straight on. 

  • don't lift something that is too heavy or awkward to lift safely
  • reduce the size of the load if you can
  • clear the route of hazards, check if ground uneven, muddy, icy or slippery, remove barriers, tell people what you're doing
  • it is always best to get close to the object (principles of leverage)
  • stand in a stable, legs-apart posture
  • avoid twisting, be straight onto the load
  • you should bend your knees to get low down before lifting, so using thigh muscles rather than your back
  • keep your head straight
  • you should grasp the object low down and securely
  • do the lift in pairs where necessary - with two people of roughly the same height - with clear communication, and one person in charge (who agree in advance what the "move" command is - eg "1,2,3, LIFT")
  • keep the load close to the body 
  • follow the same principles in reverse when you come to lower the load down

James then left, and a little later, the Plumpton College Rural Pathways group arrived. After welcoming them and asking one student to take the register, Sarah talked through the principles of safe manual handling and back care, whilst I demonstrated using a pile of empty pots.

Then one group planted seed potatoes, whilst the other planted seeds, then the groups swapped tasks.

Later in the session, a load of top soil bags were delivered near the allotment gate, and the group brought the bags into the allotment in pairs, using wheelbarrows and the principles of safe lifting that they had learnt.

Rural Pathways do some strategic thinking about.... mud

From Owena at Baulcombes Barn, March 2018

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Wall of mud

The Plumpton College Rural Pathways students were working very well at the farm on Friday morning.

They are all learning to mix and feed the pigs, collect the eggs, clean the hens out and fill hay nets for the ponies.

One student wanted to clear the yard and suggested using the sludgy mud to create a wall.

Good job they wear such sensible overalls and boots!

Baulcombes in the snow

Farmers never get a snow day! Their animals always need their care and attention, especially in bad weather. So here's a short report on her sow and chickens from Owena at Baulcombes Barn, during the snowy weather, 1 March 2018:

"I convinced myself that Penny the sow was going to farrow! I separated her from the boar, cleaned her ark and gave her lots of fresh straw, which she spread around using her mouth to place it on the floor of the ark. When I returned home to check the dates, I had muddled the dates, the boar did not arrive until 7th December, not 7th November. She still has another three weeks to wait.

On Tuesday the hens stayed inside until the snow stopped and when they ventured out, most of them headed to the patch of grass to scratch and peck."

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

New Rural Pathways student group at Lewes Community Allotment

We were delighted to welcome a new group of Rural Pathways students from Plumpton College to the allotment. It was their first session in this academic year. Unfortunately Sarah the allotment coordinator wasn't well, so the group was led by a group of us. Myself (Emma, Flourish project manager), Mark, Felicity Ann, Penny plus Niyati and Maisie from Plumpton.

I introduced myself and explained a bit about the Flourish project. I checked out photo permissions and discussed the Golden Rules. These include safety measures, such as: being aware of uneven ground, not running, the fact that there are ponds, wearing protective gloves when dealing with thorns and brambles, using tools safely etc, and inviting thoughtful ways of behaving at the allotment, including awareness of allotment neighbours (ie not shouting), and being aware of others working around you - good teamwork etc. I also talked about the Flourish ethos. 

We were joined at that point by two allotment members, Sue and Carina, who came over to welcome the students. Mark invited them to say a bit about why they liked being members of a community allotment, and what benefits being part of a community can offer. They said that they enjoy the companionship, the fresh air, the exercise, as well as sharing the tasks and the produce that is grown over the year.

After that, everyone from Plumpton and Flourish introduced themselves and told each other what vegetables and fruit we either liked or hated.

Mark then took the group onto the Downs next to the community allotment for a game of 'bat and moth', as a fun exercise to get to know each other a bit better, as well as a way of thinking about our senses and how we use them. He began by asking us to form a circle, then to close our eyes and listen to how many sounds we could hear in 30 seconds. After we opened our eyes and checked in, some people heard a few sounds (birdsong was common), others heard lots of different ones, including voices, cars, dogs, children playing. 

Then Mark said we were going to play bat and moth. This involved one person being a bat, wearing a blindfold, several people were moths. The blindfolded bat was going to try to touch them, with the rest of the group standing around in a circle as 'trees'. The person being a bat could use echo location - the mechanism that actual bats use to catch insects. What that actually meant in the game was that if he or she said 'bat', the moths had to respond by saying 'moth' immediately. This helped the bat locate the moths using his or her ears. To make the game safe for the blindfolded bat, the people around the circle or trees would shout 'tree' if the bat got close to them.

If was a very interesting game, and it became clear that you are much more likely to be able to find your 'prey' if you use the echo location frequently. The bats did really well, but commented that it is disorientating losing one sense that you normally rely so much upon, ie sight.

After the game was over, Felicity Ann showed the group around the allotment - the raised beds, compost heaps, the ponds, the shed etc.

For future sessions, the students will be undertaking gardening tasks when they come, such as turning over the compost, clearing the ground and weeding.

We look forward to seeing them all again.

Emma Chaplin, Jan 2018

St Nicholas group go on a winter flower walk from the allotment

It was lovely to welcome back the St Nicholas Day Centre group for the first session of 2018, especially on such a bright, sunny day. The group came by bus with support worker Eleanor. Unfortunately Sarah the allotment coordinator wasn't well, but I was able to come (Flourish project manager), as was sessional worker Felicity Ann and volunteer Penny.

After we greeted each other in the shelter, we discussed what season it is (winter!), the fact that we'd had the shortest day in December, so the days were slowly getting longer, and how much we liked it when there was more light. We noted what the weather was like (sunny, with some clouds and gentle breeze. The temperature was 6 degrees according to Emma's phone). The Eleanor took the register. There were five in the group, with two absent. We realised it was Natasha's birthday, so we wished her a very happy birthday.

Felicity Ann then took all of us on a walk/hunt for winter flowers as well as a look at new life sprouting in the beds. We went around the allotment, noting flowers such as the catkins (male flower of the hazel), mallow and marigolds, all the winter veg and salads growing, and the measures put in place to keep cats off them.

Then we headed up the track to the old racecourse. It was a beautiful, bright, clear morning, listening to (and seeing birds - one in a tree had a beautiful, varied song - when we later asked Sussex Wildlife officer Michael Blencowe, he thought it might have been a fieldfare) and spotting winter flowers, such as gorse and violets.

It was a gorgeous walk, and we enjoyed the wonderful views across to sea and over the Downs. We even found an old horseshoe!

Thank you Felicity Ann and Penny

Emma Chaplin Jan 2018

Making bunting with the St Nicholas group

It was a bit too windy for making leaf bunting at the allotment, so we made some instead at the St Nicholas Centre. We also decorated some sugar paper bunting that Maggie had brought with chalk designs. We also got to practice our knot-tying skills! Then hung it up in the sensory garden outside.

We looked at how land artists Chris Drury and Andy Goldsworthy make their leaf sculptures. People really responded and liked their work. Then we made a leaf picture of our own. 

Thanks to Maggie for leading the session and for the great support from Felicity Ann and Penny.

Words and pictures by Sarah Rideout

Juicy! Final session of our 2017 apple course with Plumpton supported interns

For the last session of our three day 'apple course' with Plumpton College supported interns, we visited the Elephant and Castle pub on White Hill, Lewes. Huw Jones the landlord is a terrific person for the group to talk to. He's a local business person/employer who has always been keen to support our work.

The fourteen interns began by having lunch in the pub. Then we all headed upstairs to the function room, where Huw began to talk about his job. He used to work for Harvey's Brewery, he explained, and at the Pelham Arms, but has been landlord of the Elephant and Castle ('the Elly') for fifteen years. The Elly is a strong community hub. Lots of groups meet there. the Folk Club, the Headstrong Club, the Boardgamers group, a choir, a dad and baby group. Plus they have big screens for sporting events and are the HQ of Commercial Square Bonfire Society.

He told he used to have his own microbrewery where he made his own beer in the cellar, which was fun, but that all the sterilising  before and afterwards became a bit of a chore.

One of the things he told us was that he plans to sell up in the next year. Not because the pub isn't doing well, but almost the opposite of that. He and his wife Hannah (who runs the pub kitchen) have a daughter about to start school. The problem with running a pub is the antisocial hours, he told us. It's not a family-friendly business to be in. It was hard, he explained, for the whole family to spend time together.

The interns asked him lots of interesting questions. Huw talked about when he needs to employ bouncers (for big games and Bonfire), how long his days can be, the different jobs in a pub (bar staff, cleaner, kitchen porter, cook), what they pay, and the qualities he is looking for in his staff (reliability, punctuality, honesty, enthusiasm, good communication skills, basic numeracy).

One intern asked "how has the pub industry changed in the last 15 years?". Huw said it has changed a lot - pubs have become more food-orientated. The price of beer compared to wages has increased a lot, comparatively. He also said, in terms of staff, the advent of smart phones mean that, in quiet periods, his staff might want to be checking Facebook or Twitter. But he has a list of chores that need doing (a cleaning rota or wrapping cutlery for pub meals, for example), and his best staff get on with those jobs when they're not busy serving.

Huw talked about some perks of the job - tasting new beers, you get a meal when you're working a full shift. He talked about managing customers who are difficult or who have drunk too much. Overall, he said, he feels he will miss pub life when he leaves it. Being such a crucial and valued community hub, as the Elly is, means a lot to him.

The interns then showed him their label designs, which were fun, then thanked him for his time. It was a really interesting and stimulating visit.

Best of luck in all you do Huw, you're a legend!

Emma Chaplin, project manager

Photos from almost two decades at Lewes Community Allotment - from early days to Flourish!

Lewes Community Allotment began life in 1998. It's gone from being an unused plot to the wonderful, accessible resource now enjoyed by many local groups and individuals. We have raised beds, a covered shelter, a pizza oven, ponds, children's area, fruit trees, herbs, flowers and an abundant array of vegetables. 

We will be celebrating 20 years in 2018, and we'd like to thank everyone who has supported the project. All our wonderful members, Common Cause Cooperative directors, Lewes Town Council, the National Lottery, plus all the people, young and old, who have come up to lend a hand, muck in and help, or simply enjoy the space.

Sarah Rideout,

Photos by Sarah Rideout, Emma Chaplin & others

Photos from the Farm

Robert Robertson has been taking photos at Baulcombes Barn for a while now. He kindly sent us some, so we thought we'd put up a gallery

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

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.

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. 

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.

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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

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."