Summer Farm News (2023)

Veggie fields

It’s summer, and even though the skies are sometimes pretending that’s not the case, the plants know the truth. Abundance knocks at our door. The memory of the hungry gap (the late spring period where we produce less veg) fades as the shelves in the pack shed have begun to fill. It’s a beautiful time of year in veg land, a time of firsts. First beans, cucumbers, courgettes, spring greens, new season carrots. Just round the corner are tomatoes, sweet peppers, chillies and so so many brassicas. The seedling tunnel has emptied out and more of our time has moved to harvesting instead of planting.

Weeding courgettes

It’s been a funny season so far, cold and wet for far too long, followed by intense heat and no rain (except for that very strange hail shower that shot bullet holes in our lettuce). The wetness meant that we were delayed getting the tractor out at our field scale site in Brookthorpe, and when we did, the slugs (eternal lovers of damp) annihilated our first planting of brassicas. Fortunately having multiple sites means we can balance the virtues of the heavy clay in Brookthorpe with our lighter soils at Hawkwood and Oakbrook.

The veg team is fairly settled now, having had a lot of turnover in the last couple of years. We’ve also got a small crew of fantastic farm volunteers who join us each Thursday morning. Nature is our teacher and inevitably we’re already spending a lot of time discussing how we will do things differently next year. When growing veg the learning cycle is often slow but we’ve lots of hopes for easing the harshness of the hungry gap next year.

Runner beans

We battle the couch grass at Hawkwood and Oakbrook, the bindweed in the polytunnels, the badgers on the carrots, the wire worm at Brookthorpe. As we toil, the veg (and weeds) want to grow and the fields give back. The days are busy, the to do list is never complete, but when we stop and look up at the view over the valley, we think to ourselves life’s not too bad.

Animal news

Since May we’ve been busy with our herd of Hereford cattle and dreaming up future plans for animal groups we’d like to reintroduce into our farming system.

We’re expecting calves from September which always has an air of excitement and at the other end of the spectrum one of our heifers went to slaughter at the beginning of June. Our bull Lucifer is enjoying a summer holiday at Good Small Farms [Hammonds Farm] and is looking for his next destination.

With the help of Sam Hardiman and the veg team we’ve cut our first crop of hay at Hawkwood and it is safely stored in our barn for winter fodder. We’re now waiting and hoping for a spell of dry weather to cut hay at Brentlands as well.

We plan to start managing a section of woodland at Hawkwood in the winter months and keep a small drove of pigs there, and then grazing for the cattle the year after. The pigs would also be used to help clear couch grass and possibly ploughing areas that are to be converted into green manure.