Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Urban Farm open day

If you are a friend of the urban farm on facebook you'll know that it's the spring open day on May 12th - starting at 1.00 and running through the afternoon. I'm not sure of all the details but there will be market stalls, home made food and the usual buzz of friends spending a happy afternoon together. Most of the seeds we sowed a few weeks ago have come good, so there'll be lots of veggie plants to buy just in case yours have failed...or like me you went away at the wrong time!!!

Groundsel by Barry Cornelius
Groundsel going to seed:
Barry Cornelius
In the meantime...we've all been sprucing up the site getting it ready for the big day! Which of course means lots of weeding!  The recent warm weather and rain have really perked up those weeds and the groundsel flowers particularly are just about to break out. I'm sure you know them. They are quite a pretty, unassuming sort of plant  with small dandelion type flower heads .The Anglo-saxon word means 'ground glutton' and they are aptly named - they really can spread if you don't get on top of them!  Each plant can produce around 1,200 seeds, most seeds can germinate at once and seedlings emerge within a few days to go on and produce more seeds which .... all through the spring and summer!  They aren't just annoying, though. Groundsel carries leaf rust, which attacks garlic and onions and can also host  the fungus that causes black root rot in peas. And then there's the couch grass, dandelions, docks, cleavers.....!

Building the willow dome last year
Sarah's arranged for some helpers coming from the prison to come in later in the week to shred the growing mounds of compost which are lining the pathways at the edge of the site. We're building compost bins in the tree area and the shredded stuff will go in there to help cut down on the compost bills - it seems silly to buy in when there's so much vegetation there! ...and then there's the new chicken run still to finish off....and the willow dome .The fresh cuttings that we planted have all taken and the wet April we're having will help them to really take off. The willow arbour is shooting away like mad and we're all set to start weaving these to give it a bit more shape. If it carries on growing so well we'll probably be able to weave in the roof next year! The willow structures look great, but they are also serving a purpose. After months of worrying about the water table the heavy rainfall has soaked the ground near the pond and the orchard. The willow will help to soak this up and stop the fruit trees from getting root rot.    

So... there's plenty to do. The regular volunteers are going to put in a few extra days but we'd welcome more help...so if you think halping at the urban farm is for you come along on Tuesdays after 10.00 for a chat or contact Dave at : dave_meara@hotmail.com

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Back to hard work....

looking for a handout:
Alan Entwistle
I had a fab time in Dorset and Devon over Easter but it was good to be back at the farm this week. It all seemed very lush and productive after the heavy showers we've had recently - it is April! After a spot of weeding in the big polytunnel during a particulalry heavy shower this morning we were out in the wooded area where we're getting on with creating a new run for the chickens  We've cleared a nice big area of brambles and nettles and spent most of today putting up a fence. The spot will be great for the chickens - they'll have much more space to run around in, with dead leaves and rotting bits of wood to turn over and peck at. Hens are naturally woodland birds and love foraging for their food - it keeps them alert and happy, as well as providing them with a varied diet - which, of course, means better eggs for us!
Hedgehog by Tina_S_White
on the prowl! Tina_S_White
While we were pile driving stakes into the ground to hold up the chicken wire someone mentioned that they hadn't seen any hedgehogs at the farm - not surprising since they are nocturnal animals...but I'd be very surprised if there aren't any around. I've got a very noisy one in my Wolverton garden. It snuffles and snorts around in the dark and once it walked into my leg - a very weird experience in the half light! They travel long distances - up to two miles - in a night looking for food so it could make it to the farm. It might still be a bit early in the year to spot them, but they will be coming out of hibernation soon, ready for breeding in May/ June. I did see a pair of hedgehogs breeding once - the male walks closely round and round the female until she goes a bit gooey eyed and sort of hypnotised and lies flat on the floor with her quills flattened. It was fascinating watching them.... and then there were babies... which was lovely but they were very sadly killed when a friend came round one evening and accidently dropped his motorcycle on them....hey ho!
But,I'm very relieved to say that the wildlife at the farm is thriving....we've got loads of tadpoles in the pond and there's still toad spawn wrapped round the weeds. There were frogs and toads keeping warm in the polytunnels, the birds are active and really enjoying the April weather, the fruit trees are coming into blossom and all the veggies are looking very healthy.
On a more serious note, it's not surprising that some of the trainees at the farm have anger management issues. Nothing happened this week but we do get the odd explosion every now and then. I'm full of admiration for the calm way that Sarah and Adrienne ( and Kevin and Heather before them) deal with it. As volunteers we just stay mellow and don't get involved but it is something to think about if you are interested in joining us.

If that hasn't put you off come along on Tuesdays after 10.00 for a chat or contact Dave at : dave_meara@hotmail.com