farm therapy

Last Bluebell House session at Baulcombes Barn

By Emma Chaplin

It was a hot day and we all knew it was going to be a poignant session with the Bluebell House group at Baulcombes Barn, because it was the last one to be held here.

Flourish funding comes to an end in August 2018, and Bluebell House is moving to Horsham.

As Owena pointed out, members of the group have gone from being anxious around the animals, to being confident and assured, and that has been a pleasure for all of us to be part of. 

Lunch was going to be a late one, so I made drinks and shared courgette cake to tide everyone over.

Since Rhiannan has done the Erasmus cookery course in France, and has developed her skills and confidence as a chef, she kindly agreed to be in charge of cooking over a firepit for the celebration meal, with myself in a supporting role. Before we lit the fire, we brought two buckets of water over, just in case there was an issue with the ground being so dry.

From her farm, Owena had provided hogget burgers, sausages and boiled eggs. Rhiannan had made rose harissa koftas from hogget mince and made pittas to put them in, with yoghurt dressing and pomegranate seeds. Also, she'd made halloumi and watermelon skewers for the vegetarians, and a lovely salad made from fennel and other delicious things. Sue had brought courgettes and beans from her allotment, and we cooked those in foil in the fire. I brought apple juice from Ringmer Community Orchard, which is special and went down very well indeed. 

Whilst Rhiannan and I cooked near the pond area, everyone else spent time with their favourite animals, saying goodbye.

Then we gathered to share a delicious meal, before going inside for a final check in. I gave out the gifts of mugs, tea towels and framed prints of the cartoon of the farm Flourish had had made, and the group gave Owena a wonderful pyrography picture of a pony as a thank you for being such a great group leader.

Owena praised everyone for coming to what we all knew would be a painful session. Endings are never easy.

It has been a pleasure working with the wonderful members and staff of Bluebell House, and Owena has been a wonderful person to work with. We've all learnt so much. 

Thank you to Rhiannan for her amazing cooking!

Owena will be doing two weaving sessions at Bluebell House in August, and Emma will come to the second one.

Bluebell at Baulcombes. Lambs, a therapeutic puppy & some naughty weaners

By Emma Chaplin

The group from Bluebell House enjoyed some hot cross buns and a bit of puppy love from Dottie at their last session before Easter. There is a new weather vane outside the therapy room made from a pheasant feather.

We fed the chickens, took a look at the new-born lambs with their mums that were having extra care in the stables, then headed out along the muddy lane to feed the pigs and see the ponies.

The ponies were pleased to see us, and enjoyed their hay. Unfortunately, the awful weather had caused the battery to go flat for the electric fence keeping the weaners in, and we found them making a determined effort to escape by digging. We distracted them by mixing and giving them food whilst Owena put a new battery in place. Then we headed back to the therapy room. 

Farm update from Owena, 16 April 2018: Lambing is now over. 54 lambs have been born. No ewes were lost, although a couple needed some extra care. Penny has just had her piglets, but unfortunately, due to the difficult weather conditions, the extreme mud and some bad luck, only two have survived. 

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

From Owena at Baulcombes Barn, March 2018

BB RP mud.jpg

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!

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

News from Baulcombes Barn

In the last week of January, we were puppy-sitting little Dottie, so she spent some time with us at Baulcombes Barn. She enjoyed her time on the farm, with all the smells and unusual and new things to explore. She was fussed over by the Bluebell House group, and both were pleased to meet each other.

At one point, she watched the hens through the gate, before going in the yard to meet them. We soon realised that she was less interested in the hens than their poo!

Later that week, the Plumpton College Rural Pathways group came for their work experience session and worked well at various tasks. These included: feeding and tending pigs, sheep, hens and ponies.

One student commented how clever the hens are, making the feed hopper work in order to feed themselves.

Another student found where some of our free range hens had been laying eggs, and helped to collect fourteen eggs.

Unfortunately, at the weekend after the groups had been, two chicken were killed by a fox. I suspect that the chickens did not get into the chicken house before the safety nighttime door closed, because the evenings are getting lighter and they may not have been ready to go to roost.

I have now set the automatic door to close an hour later. We need to keep an eye on the daylight changing and keep adjusting it accordingly.

Report by Owena Lewis, therapist and farmer

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.