Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Brambles and bees

Bumble-bee visiting a Snowflake by Josef Meixner
Bumblie on a snowdrop: J Meixner
What a change in the weather! All I can say is that I'm glad we were at the urban farm yesterday. It really felt like a spring day, the sun was shining and when we stopped for our midmorning cuppa we saw two bumble bees foraging for nectar from early spring flowers such as lungwort, spring bulbs and willow catkins. The sound of bumble bees is synonymous with summer days, but sadly they are under threat because of the decline in wild flowers in our countryside - over 97% of flower rich meadows have been lost in the UK and in the last 70 years at least two species of bumblies have become extinct.Others have declined dramatically.
The BumblebeeTrust's website gives more information and advice on how to help maintain the numbers of these vital insects. .

Making a start: Dave Meara
In the morning we started work clearing brambles from the wooded area.Brambles have featured in folk tales throughout the ages. It was thought by some to represent both generosity and others to represent grief. Blackberries were sacred in Pagan religions and were included in dishes made on feast days while Christians thought that when Lucifer was thrown out of heaven he landed in a bramble bush and cursed it and who can forget that Brer Rabbit escaped into the bramble patch when he was caught by Brer Fox!  Blackberries are lovely fruit but they do need to be managed and cultivated effectively to produce good fruit and our brambles have certainly been left to grow wild. It was tough going. The bramble shoots have curled over and the tips have rooted making a woven arched covering but once we'd done a couple of hours we could really see a difference and it inspired us to crack on - that and the thought of pancakes for lunch at Foundation House and a bonfire in the afternoon!

Sarah and the team want to move the chickens into the clearing. As woodland birds they will be quite happy there and it will open up the chicken pooh rich land that they were on for further cultivation. Sarah's also planning to put a series of large bins on the edge of the clearing so that we can make more of our own compost.
Spring must be on its way  and making us more lively - on Sunday a group of us went to the farm to fix the willow dome. We made it last year, but a lot of the willow staves died because of the dry summer. One of the team brought freshly cut willow and we simply pushed the staves into the ground following the same pattern as last year's dome. Hopefully, if we don't go into a prolonged drought this year they will all take,the dome will start to fill out and we'll have a lovely seating area . 

If you're interested in joining us at the farm. Come along any Tuesday after 10.00 for a chat or email

If you've got any thoughts on this or anything else to do with the urban farm just leave a comment in the box.

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