mental health

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."

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

Apples! Flourish User Group outing to Ringmer Community Orchard

Flourish were delighted to be able to hold a meeting of project users at the Ringmer Community Orchard. Orchard coordinator Katharine Finnigan had suggested it would be a good time to come, since lots of apples are ripening at this time of year. 

We welcomed the St Nicholas Day Centre group, who normally attend Lewes Community Allotment, and a group from Bluebell House, who usually go to Baulcombes Barn every week.

None had visited the Orchard before, but they have tried the juice, and it's been very popular.

The groups had been warned to wear sensible footwear, which was a good idea since the grass was long and wet. Emma and Felicity Ann welcomed everyone and Peter May then took the group on a tour to explain about the history of the site, how it had come to have so many varieties of Sussex apples as well as other fruit, as well as explaining a bit about the differences between each apple variety, how they grow and when they ripen. 

People were able to meet each other, learn about apples and enjoy some sunshine and fresh air.

Felicity Ann had brought some wonderful apple cake, bramble jam and crab apple jelly tarts she had made from Allotment produce.

Everyone picked some Lord Lambourne apples to take home.

Emma spoke to everyone about the newsletter and planned project-wide exhibition in June 2018, with the hope that people can think about what they'd like to be included, or what they might like to contribute.

Emma said she'd be pleased to arrange another opportunity for people to visit.

Taster session with the Download Group

We were delighted to welcome the Sussex Partnership Recovery College Download Group to the Allotment in July.

They came for a taster session - and taste is what they did! After we'd done some introductions and talked about our favourite seasons, we went round the allotment tasting different fruits and vegetables. These included: Japanese wineberries, cloudberries, raspberries, plus fennel, parsley and nasturtium flowers (which are quite peppery!).

We also looked for wildlife at the allotment.

After we'd done the tasting and looking for wildlife, we went into the shelter for some drinks (Sarah had made some delicious blackcurrant cordial) and some wonderful blackberry crunch bars and raspberry buns made by Felicity Ann with berries from the Allotment.

Find out more about the Recovery College on their website here

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.

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.

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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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