Winter Farm News (2023)

Veggie Fields

Bring on the Brussel sprouts! Perhaps the most anticipated veg of the year… sown in spring, nursed as seedlings, beds prepared for them, carefully transplanted, weeded of competitors, and again, provided healthy soil containing worms, microbes, fungi, plenty of sun and rain and finally… they’re ready to eat. Ours are currently looking resplendent on these glorious frosty mornings like a sparkling miniature forest. I can’t help thinking that hedgehogs must think cabbages grow on trees. The actual Savoy cabbages are looking pretty special too. Their glistening crowns glow majestically when the sun sits low on the horizon.

Brentlands, (our field scale patch) has really come into its own over the past few months. All the efforts to reduce the impact of wireworm during the field’s transformation from grazing to veg growing have been worth it. The beautiful local deer think we’re lovingly growing the veggies for their delectation so, many of the crops are protected under netting. There is however an abundance of crops to protect, from leeks and kalettes to winter greens and purple sprouting broccoli which will help see us into the new year.

Harvesting leeks at Brentlands

The winter veg store is looking incredible. Red cabbage and celeriac fill the chiller and our new ‘squash library’ is providing much needed extra storage space.

We’ve been doing a bit of experimentation recently, some more successfully than others. October transplants of broads beans into a tunnel for example, seem to be going well whereas, we can confirm it is physically impossible to sow them into saturated clay soils as the beds are inaccessible by tractor and by hand the bean defiantly clings to the dibber rather than remain in the soil. There’s more experiments to come, especially in next year’s PYO (Pick your own) patch.

Yes, it’s a bit nippy out there these days but we’ve plenty of winter jobs to keep us warm and there’s always our crop plans to finalise and get our seed order in before the holidays. Crop planning is one of the most important tasks on the farm and weirdly one of the most enjoyable.

Animal news

Christmas cow

Winter solstice is almost upon us, and the cows in the barn are getting ever more snuggly. We are using a bedding system called deep litter, the layers under the fresh straw will be beginning to decompose and thus create heat, that’s right the cows have underfloor heating… They are very much looking forward to the carol singing on Christmas Eve, which is sure to be a lovely evening with Jo McAndrews running the session and we hope that some of you can make it! Over the last month or so we’ve been working with a few home education groups, The Grove in particular who are learning the basics of animal husbandry, how to herd, feed, muck out and bed down.

The younger herd are braving the elements outside and are moving through their winter pastures. They are enjoying the sweet taste of summer with bales of silage that give off heady aromas when a new bale is opened.