In theory the last month of winter has been and gone. Before it left though, winter gave us one last hoorah with snow! Two weeks ago we woke up to cold and misty weather which turned into snow flurries within a couple of hours. It flurried for an hour or so and we had some snow settle but since the ground was still warm, it didn’t last long and was washed away by drizzle later in the day.
For now we look forward to the start of Spring. Although, we have had a very mild winter and have started to see signs of growth and life throughout the month. The mornings are getting lighter earlier, the birds are out and about and the trees are starting to bud tiny bright green leaves. There is an excitement in the air around us!
It has also been an exciting month for us as all the planning of winter is starting to move into action. The ground that was tilled in preparation for our market garden has been lovingly tended to in preparation for growing. Initially we covered the area with plastic sheeting after watering the ground to encourage the germination of weeds, that would would ultimately die under the plastic and then decompose back into the soil. Unfortunately this did not seem to happen as we had planned. The areas outside of the plastic sheeting showed greater death, because the roots had been upended and exposed, while it was nice and warm and moist under the plastic so there was a lot of growth happening and very little smothering! We decided to pick up the plastic sheeting and continued to water the ground. Last week the area was again tilled for the last time and the roots and weeds raked away. Next we will measure the beds and begin shaping and preparing them with compost, after aerating and loosening the soil with a broadfork. We have prepared our own compost using cow manure, leaves and other organic material. The cow manure provides the right bacteria necessary to begin the decomposing process. We spent many hours working out how much compost we would need per bed to try and get a layer of 10cm of compost onto each. We have also done a lot of market research to find out what is needed by restaurants and our local veg supplier. We added these requests into our planning and the seeds have been ordered! The seeder is due to arrive this week which will help get the spacing and distribution of seeds right.
Beyond the market garden we have also designed another little garden which will be home to many of the longer growing crops such as garlic, onions and chives. These are also generally less favoured by the numerous scrub hare who have taken up residence in our garden, which means we should hopefully have less competition. Our raised beds have continued to surprise us throughout winter with bounty. We have had fresh lettuce every week and just keeps on producing! Our spinach and baby spinach have been harvested twice providing us with plenty. We harvested our rainbow carrots this week too and were amazed at the size and colour of these beautiful vegetables. We are continually in awe of the growing process – how a tiny little seed can produce so much. We think we can manipulate and control the environment to create ideal growing conditions, which we can to an extent, but actually it is beyond our control as to how, when and how many seeds will germinate. The ultimate desire of that seed is to grow, by design, but God determines when, how and if it will germinate. We are watching miracles before our eyes every day!
We are hopeful and looking forward to the start of our market garden as we begin planting in the next week!
Two weeks ago we welcomed Melanie, a WWOOF volunteer from the US. As part of the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), volunteers register to lend an extra pair of hands and hosts register to offer opportunities on organic farms for volunteers. Generally work is exchanged for board and lodging. It provides the WWOOFer with a learning opportunity to see firsthand different types of organic farms and to learn about homesteading, sustainability, growing and other aspects of running a farm. It is a also a great way to travel and experience life in different countries. The host is often also able to learn from experiences that the WWOOFer has had on other farms, as well as having assistance on the various projects on the go on a farm. Melanie has offered us valuable experience in organic growing, bed preparation including making rich compost, and harvesting, from her experiences on other farms, as well as having expert knowledge in beekeeping as she currently works towards publishing a thesis on this. Having an extra person to assist has been very helpful for us, especially as we have recently had to spend so much time in budgetary and data collection conversations, as well as working out seed numbers, planting schedules and harvesting expectations, resulting in us being cooped up in the office for hours or days!
The chickens continue to be mobile and move around the garden every couple of days. They are enjoying the scenery with each move as well as the forage. They have become more used to this idea, and that, plus the warmer weather and longer days has led to a slow increase in egg production. The last of the chicks from last summer who were showing signs of being cockerels were rehomed this month and we welcomed another two hyline pullets who are slowly settling in. Mr Buff, our Buff Orpington rooster, has a spring in his step again by being back at the top with no competition… and that he has so many wives now!:)
The geese have become less mobile…. One of our girls is sitting on eggs! We have two geese and two ganders, one being younger than the other. There were a couple run-ins between the two ganders as the older one wanted to ensure that he was the father of any goslings. This left poor Bert, the only white goose, out in the cold. He took a fancy to Thulas, our farmhand, and followed Thulas around all day! It was the cutest thing to see! Thulas was so patient and gentle with poor deflated Bert. We prepared a nesting area for Mommy Goose and moved her first egg into a shelter for her. She did not approve and took up residence outside our window. Once he was accepted back into the flock, Bert joined Ned (the other gander) and Jemima again in their mobile area but every day Mommy Goose would want to visit and check in. Because geese are very social animals, they would honk for hours trying to locate Mommy Goose. We have now moved everybody to be with Mommy Goose. Ned is happy that he can be the protective daddy, Bert is happy that he is part of the flock and Jemima is just grateful for some company!
Last year both geese sat on eggs but sadly neither hatched. At one point one of the geese got off her eggs and Ned, being the hands on daddy that he is, began sitting on the eggs! After weeks of waiting, we realised that these eggs were not going to hatch and sadly had to discard them. Hoping this year has a better result.
So all round, exciting times at Bramleigh!
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