(featured photo: a serval spotted on our way to work!)
A friend once said, “If it were not for November, nobody would get anything done!” And it is so true! It is often the month of reflection – how far we’ve come during the year, compared to the vision we began the year with. It is also the last month before December, signalling a holiday in sight for most. Farm-wise, November is also the bridge between Spring and Summer. A lot happens in that time!
In theory the weather should start to stabilise around November. We have had some exceptionally hot and dry weather this month. Many of our poor little seeds have died because it is just too hot for them. Add to that water issues that have limited our irrigation and you have the recipe for a bad time! We had high hopes for this season – last year our crops were decimated by snow in November, and a tornado style hail storm shortly after. We actually only got to plant with any success in January. We were looking forward to a full season this year but sadly, we will need to replant much of what we had already seeded.
This month we launched REKO Notties which has been a lot of work but very rewarding. REKO is a Finnish trading movement that is rapidly expanding throughout Europe, developed by Thomas Snellman. The REKO model aims to put customers in direct contact with local, small scale producers. This provides access to healthy, ethical, local produce at an affordable price, while also supporting small scale producers to create a viable enterprise and sustain their ecological efforts and values. It is a Facebook based trade agreement where approved producers post an advert each week of their products on a closed group, and customers comment to place an order from any producer. It is completely transparent – each producer can see the other’s prices and how many orders each receives, thus encouraging healthy competition. The Facebook group is run by volunteers so there are no hidden costs, everything is transparent.
Many small scale producers do not have the quantity and consistency to supply to restaurants and it can be difficult to develop a direct market. After much research, translation from Finnish, and emails back and forth with Thomas, we launched on 16 November. We used the same time and place outside the hardware store, alongside the coffee guy, every Friday morning, as people have come to expect Bramleigh’s pop up farm stand there every week. So far the group has grown exponentially and the orders are increasing. There are a lot of observers, trying to get used to the system. It is a challenge to manage the needs of everyone, and trying to establish this in a very different context, but it helps to be protected by the guidelines of a tried and tested model that should eventually self-organise. We have enjoyed it so far and look forward to the development of REKO!
Pasture Raised Poultry
Currently we are on our third batch of pasture raised poultry. Batch 2 is out on pasture and Batch 3 arrived earlier this week. This continues to be a steady learning curve for us – both in raising the chickens, and in finding the right markets.
Our laying flock is expanding too – another 9 chicks hatched last week from two hens, with a few more hens going broody too. Two hens just disappeared for a couple days – I always count them at night when locking the coop – and we eventually found one in the bushes and one in the firewood pile, each sitting on a collection of eggs! Unfortunately the one in the bushes had all her eggs, but one, mysteriously disappear overnight – I don’t even want to imagine what was taking her eggs!
The geese were relocated to the dam this month as this is their natural habitat. They have small pond in the chicken run but they need a lot more space, grass and forage as they are primarily grazers, as well as loving to be on the water. The geese declined this offer though and made their way back home by that evening!
Forest Raised Pork
The pigs are happily ploughing away on the fringe between the grassland and forest. They are growing rapidly! They are so tuned to the ‘dinner bell’, and as their weight increases, we are very glad for the electro-net that prevents them charging full force at us. They have plenty of space within their camp and are moved every couple of days to new ground. We have been trying to seed sunflowers, barley and other bits and bobs into the ground after the pigs have been so that when they cycle back, they’ll have a nutritious field available to them. It is quite remarkable to see how they work the soil so gently but effectively with their little plough-noses!
November has been very quiet in the guesthouse. It has been great to really spend time and have depth conversations with one or two couples every weekend. We are getting ourselves ready for the busy December season coming up. Although so far, our bookings are slower than previous years. This could be due to rising pressure from the economy, and that the school summer holidays have been drastically reduced for many schools. People now have less time to travel. We are very excited to be hosting a Fram-to-Fork style Christmas lunch for our guests over Christmas. We still have a few places available… it is not too late to book!
We welcomed Mandisa to our team. Mandisa fills in for Balu while she is on maternity leave. Mandisa and Thandeka are now are little house fairies – we wouldn’t survive without them!
Sandile joined our team at the end of September and has made a great impact in his time. Sandile worked at Bramleigh for many years before our time so he knows this place better than we do! He has excellent building skills and he and Thulas, are doing an amazing job of caring for the animals.
Permaculture thinking, regenerative action
We enjoyed some time of learning in the last few weeks too. We attended a workshop called Permaculture Thinking, Regenerative Action by Eidin Griffin at Kings School in Nottingham Road. Then we took a trundle up the road to Harrismith and visited Oaklands Country Manor to see the gardens Eidin designed there. We enjoyed a delicious locally sourced dinner there. And then finally, we hopped over the hill and visited our neighbour Mick Haigh for a tour of his ceramics studio and his wife’s beautiful veggie gardens, from which they supply their restaurant in town called Cafe Bloom. We are now feeling sufficiently inspired for December!
The outdoor classroom at Kings where we had our workshop by Eidin Griffin; Mick Haigh’s open studio and gardens
Check back soon to see what we’ve been up to, or come and visit us during December holidays.