Baulcombes

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

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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. 

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.

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."