Friday, 24 May 2013

Polytunnel prettyness

Much has been happening on the farm but one area we are particually pleased with is the progress inside our Polytunnels.

 Squirt of film showing the cover going over the second polytunnel frame a few months ago.
 The new poly planted up, the black lines are the irrigation piping.
 Pretty Beetroot growing
 Newly planted Cucumbers
 The tunnel a few weeks later (last week)
 Rocket eye view
Cucumber flower

Thursday, 16 May 2013

A whole year, a new season and a thankyou

Almost exactly a year ago they were ploughing in the barley - which was on the field when we acquired it - in preparation for the first plants to go in the ground. It's strange to think that a year ago we had just a bare field, a few plants and seeds and a list of people interested in our idea.

I feel a great relief to have made it through our first season with a full membership having supplied weekly veg bags throughout. A great many thanks to you all for supporting us through our first trial year - and it was a bit of a trial at times. Whilst it was not the easiest season to start growing in a some crops did suffer in the cool damp weather, on balance we think the trial has been a success and we look forward to taking on more members in July as we double our harvests. It would be great to hear feedback from you all about our first year, positive or negative. We will shortly send out a short questionnaire to give you the opportunity to give us your thoughts.

We are now in the hungry gap eating the last few leeks and enjoying the new offerings of spring. Whilst the next few weeks may lack the weight of a winter veg bag or the variety of a summer one we will have no shortage of lush leafy greens and salad leaves and just round the corner are cucumbers, beans, peas and courgettes. Never a dull moment as we race into the new season.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

News from the farm

Lots of things are coming to an end now as it warms up and plants start the process of flowering. This week sees the last of the spinach and purple sprouting broccoli which we have enjoyed very much. There are still some more cauliflowers to come and the leeks are hanging on in there. Next week we will be giving spring cabbage and spring onions which have overwintered in the tunnel.

The land from last season's crops will soon be ploughed up and prepared for this season's planting - carrots, beetroot, squash sweet corn to name a few along with more, leeks, purple sprouting and cauliflower. We rotate our vegetables on a ten year cycle to avoid pest and disease build up and to make sure we draw evenly on the soil's nutrients around the farm. So everything will be in a different place from last year.

This weeks share
Onions, leeks, mixed salad, spinach, Purple Sprouting Broccoli and radish.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Round up of news!

Golly! Where did the last two months go?
It had begun to feel spring was never going to turn up when bang!, it was here and the season kangerooed into life.

We have been planting the first phase of the new orchard, putting in some hard standing for machinery that also doubles as somewhere for vehicles to park, putting up and covering the second polytunnel, designing with members an area of the farm dedicated to social/educational activities and getting ready to expand the scheme in July.

(Amongst all this have been the plans for me to take some maternity leave as of June before the fruition of a very special project, ie ~ our baby)

So, lets start with the orchard.

In November we contacted members asking if they would be interested in sponsoring a tree for the new orchard. The new orchard project is called 'Tree's for Tomorrow' and there is more detailed info on this blog from last year. The trees are a mix of  Plum, Apple and Pear with a variety of varieties!

It has been a new venture for both Danny and I as neither of us knew a huge amount about planting an orchard before we started this one.
Many thanks to all the members who have got involved and we all look forward to the first crop.

 First tree goes in
 Me, selflessly taking on the real hard work :)
 Checking the list
 Happy tree planter
 Marvelous digging
 Hand eye co-ordination exercises
 Child labor
 More child labor
 Hand eye co-ordination exercises and child labor
 More great digging, look how fun hard work in the cold can be!!

Then we move onto the second polytunnel frame. This tunnel has been a bit of pain to put up as the ground has been frozen and then the land was too wet to get help on to cover it but it all turned out in the end. And see, on the day when the frame went up the sun was shining, surely a beneficent sign.
 Members working hard, Danny must have been behind the camera an equally exhaustive task.

And then Whoop, whoop we get to cover the blasted thing! This was one of those jobs where you need many hands and thankfully or rather thank the members, we had a really good turn out. The morning started with sunshine but the wind was also keen to get involved, which as you can possibly imagine, wind is not always helpful when trying to cover a 22 x 90 ft structure with a giant plastic sheet.

 Big plastic sheet awaiting to be fitted
 Unrolling plastic cover
Action shot!

I forgot to get a group photo at the start of the day but here is some of our super work party :)

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Farm update by Danny

Danny Steele ~ The grower

It’s been a funny season and the damp weather throughout last year took its toll on certain things. Many of the savoy cabbages which are normal in their prime now have rotted in the ground and the January King cabbage, in season now as their name suggests have suffered from mildew growing inside their hearts as have the Brussels sprouts. We’ve picked the best of the remaining cabbages for the share this week before they all pass their best. The January King cabbages are particularly sweet and tasty at the moment. They are the ones with dark green and purple outer leaves and a creamy pale green heart. I enjoyed them raw sliced fresh into my packed lunch at the farm.
The new growing season is rapidly approach with the days noticeably longer. With the weather slightly milder I tentatively sowed the first hardy salad leaves of the year – rocket, mizuna, tatsoi etc. The next polytunnel will arrive soon so it’s time prepare the site to put that up. I’ve ordered the first early plants to come in March so no time to loose.

Danny Steele

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Veg share recipes plus extras!

Copied form this weeks veg share leaflet that goes out to all CSA veg share members 16/01/2013
Lovely bright, sometimes knobbly, carotene rich wonders!
I love Carrots, especially raw. The centre of their core is just so sweet and juicy when eaten fresh it always feels to me like they’ve cleaned my teeth, strengthened my jaws and given me a drink all in one.
As some of you may have noticed the farms Carrots have done exceptionally well. It is possibly that the soil is ideal for them whilst they have managed to survive what has in many ways been a very challenging growing season nationally.
Potatoes for example have taken a bashing on a national scale with the Coop near where I live selling French Potatoes at what should be the height of British potato season.
So although a kilo of Carrots for the Medium shares seem alot I am always glad that we have them in such good numbers.
But I thought that maybe it was time to do a recipe sheet that celebrated them and made them the star of the show while giving some inspiration as to what to do with them all.

Carmelised Carrots with gremolata

According to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall “The contrast of sweet, caramelised carrots and Zesty gremolata is brilliant - and it looks great too.”
Roasting carrots is a great way to boil all the sweetness down, they are really good then added to a stew or soup for a sweeter carroty taste.

1 Tablespoon of oil
30g of butter
300g of carrots, larger carrots cut in half lengthways
Sea salt and black pepper
Garlic cloves to taste
A bunch of flat leaf parsley
finely grated zest of one lemon

Preheat the oven to 180oc/ gas mark 4. Put the oil and butter in a large roasting dish and place in the oven until the butter melts.
Add the carrots, season generously with salt and pepper and toss well. Cover with foil and roast in the oven for 30 - 40 minutes, until the carrots are tender.
Take the dish out of the oven, remove the foil and give the carrots a stir. Roast, uncovered, for 20 - 30 minutes, until they start brown and caramelise.
While the carrots are in the oven, make the gremolata. Roughly chop the garlic on a large board, then add the parsley and lemon zest. Use a large, sharpe knife to chop and mix the three ingredients together until fine and well mixed.
As soon as carrots are ready, toss them the gremolata and serve straight away.

Carrot and Mushroom Soymilk Soup
Borrowed from The enlightened kitchen by Mari Fujii.
Now I haven’t personally tried this soup but thought it might be a winner so any feedback welcome!
3.5 Ounces (300g) of peeled carrots cut into 1cm pieces
400ml of Soymilk
8 button mushrooms or fresh shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced
400ml of Konbu stock
2 teaspoons of salt
2 tablespoons of Sake
Parsley to garnish
Boil the carrots in salted water for 15 mins until soft.
Blend the carrots and soymilk with a soup maker or food processor until smooth.
In a saucepan combine the mushrooms, stock, salt and sake. Cook on a medium heat for 4-5 mins.
Add carrot and soymilk to saucepan, bring to boil, remove from heat, serve with blanched, finely chopped carrot leaves in available.
For a recipe how to make your own Konbu stock please visit our blog
Sake’ is a wine made from rice. For more information about Sake’ please visit our blog.

Top Veg prep Tip
Carrots wash best if rinsed while still fresh out of the ground, so if washing carrots with hard soil on is a drag wash yours as soon as you can as they were harvested today!

Amaze your friends and colleagues with these Carrot facts!
1 Carrots were first grown as a medicine
2 Carrots were originally purple, red, white, black and yellow
3 Orange carrots were first grown by the Dutch to please the ruling house of Orange.
4 In James I’s time, fashionable court ladies wore Carrot flowers and feathery leaves in their hair as decoration.
Borrowed from “The cooks Companion” Edited by Jo Swinnerton.

Extra goodies.

As mentioned above I thought I'd add on here a recipe for making your own Konbu stock. Again as with the soup recipe it is borrowed from "The Enlightened Kitchen" by Mari Fujii.
Konbu is one of the most common stocks used in Japanise temple cuisine.
Ready made Vegan stock (also known as Vegan dashi) can be found in Asian supermarkets and natural food stores.
Konbu stock
400ml of water
1 piece of dried Konbu, roughly 10cm square.

The white powder on the surface of the dried Konbu adds to the flavor, so don't wash the Konbu before use, simply wipe it with a damp cloth.
Place the water and the Konbu in a saucepan and leave to soak for 2 or 3 hours.
Place the sauce pan over a medium heat. Just before the water boils, remove the Konbu. Use the Konbu-flavored water as stock. 

Sake' is a wine made form rice. Although the buddhist monks avoid alcohol, sake' is often used as seasoning in cooking, or for medicinal purposes. A little sake' is often said to be the "best of all medicines" because it stimulates the circulation, and relieves stress and insomnia.
When cooked rice seems a little too firm, 1 or 2 tablespoons of Sake' will soften it.