Author Archives: Richard Pitt

February sun

The following words are from Milo Maguire, on Wednesday 7 Feb 2018.

Milo and Simon finish the brick edging

A beautiful day at the farm. Young February sun dazzling in a winter sky.

Geoffroy was collecting wheelbarrows full of bricks from everywhere and arranging them to form the border of a new garlic bed.

Looking closely I noticed that some of the found bricks were engraved with a letter ‘P’.

Richard mentioned that the ‘P’ bricks are all very old- dating from the 1800s in fact. The reason someone engraved them so is now forgotten.

There are other bricks too, all collected together and all from different times, different phases in the farm’s history. Perhaps some from a pig sty long since demolished.

Now all rearranged together to find a new purpose – beautiful and practical.

We had lunch in the open air. The meal included radishes that have popped up of their own accord and rocket from the polytunnel. Hot and nutty.

A buzzard circled overhead surveying the scene.

Bulbs – 2018

New for 2018 – we are selling potted bulbs. You can enjoy them in the pot and then plant them in your garden.

We have chosen varieties that are hardy – they will survive in your garden or in pots and most will ‘naturalise’ – they will multiply and get better each year.

Plant in moist but well-drained and fertile soil. After flowering. allow foliage to die back naturally as this will help to feed the bulbs for the following year. It is important that the ground is not too wet when they are dormant otherwise they will rot and not grow again. After a few years, overcrowded clumps can be lifted and divided in the season when the bulbs are dormant.

The following information is from our supplier’s website:

Name Flowering details Price
Crocus: Blue Pearl
(pot of 4)
February. Pastel soft, pearly blue; orange stigmata
h 10cm
Crocus: Ard Schenk
(pot of 4)
February. Pure white, free flowering, long lasting.
h 10cm
Crocus: Ruby Giant
(pot of 4)
February. Striking ruby purple. Showy and outstanding
h 10cm
Crocus: Fuscotinctus
(pot of 4)
February. Deep yellow, striped purple.
h 10cm
Grape Hyacinth
(pot of 3)
Mid Feb to mid May. Bright blue.
h 15cm
Anemone: Blanda Mixed
(pot of 3)
Early March. Fine mixture of blue, pink and white shades.
h 10-15cm
Anemone: de Caen
(pot of 3)
April- May. Single long-stemmed poppy flowered. Great variety of colours.
h 10-15cm.
Tulip: Kaufmanniana Mixed
(pot of 3)
March-April. Mix of white, yellow, red
h 25cm
Daffodil: Tete a Tete
(pot of 1)
March, April. Yellow. 2-3 flowers / stem.
h 20cm
Dutch Iris
(pot of 3)
Mid April to mid June. Shades of purple, lilac, white and yellow.
h 50cm
Drumsticks /
Alium sphaerocephalon
(pot of 5)
May, June. Crowded heads of purple drumsticks. The flowers open green, then start to turn purple from the top, creating unusual two-tone flower heads.
h 60cm
Ranunculus Mixed
(pot of 3)
May, June, July
Mixed colours.
Compact Peony-shaped flowers.
h 20-25cm
Peruvian Lily / Alstroemeria
(pot of 1)
June to August.
Shades of pink, coral and orange.
h 45cm
Dwarf Gladioli: Mixed (Dwarf)
(pot of 3)
June, July, August.
Many different colours.
h 50cm
Ixia Mixed
(pot of 3)
June, July.
Showy six-petalled starlike flowers on tall wiry stems, sword-shaped leaves.
Various bright colours.
h 45cm

Permaculture Southampton 2018-02-17

This month we went on a field trip!

For our February meet up, Liz Batten invited us to visit her garden which she is keen to develop for more fruit and food.

Liz Batten - after our permaculture meet up

This is Liz and her garden after our work

Working with Richard Parker and Suzanne Baker, Liz provided some facilitation to help assess the site, looking at things like orientation of the plot, prevailing wind, watershed/water sources. Then we let our imaginations run free with how to build on what’s already there, to enhance the fruit production and biodiversity.

In return for all this thinking, Liz made a splendid lunch and we managed quite a transformation.

This is what happened in Liz’s own words:

At the first meeting of the Permaculture group at Aldermoor Community Farm last year, my theme for myself emerged as “coming home”. My life is spent mostly looking outwards, running campaigns, and not much time spent with “me”. I wanted to remedy this imbalance by using Permaculture principles. So, I battled with my reluctance to ask for something for me, and asked if members of the group could meet at my house, to help me think about the design of my garden and (I later realised) help me get unstuck, help me “come home” to my garden, which is laid out as a fruit orchard.

What actually happened on the day felt quite magical to me – a group of like-minded people discussed Permaculture and its meaning for us, ate a hearty lunch together, discussed my garden and its attributes (and problems) and then went outside and worked together – on my garden! This was a personal challenge which transformed into a wonderful sense of relief – the places where my garden needed attention were worked on, we planted an apple tree and a pear tree, we took down a broken fence and used it to finish off a compost bin, a small bed was cleared for some newly-arrived strawberry plants, copious quantities of manure were spread over the fruit beds. To top it off, I was able to have a conversation with my neighbour about how the broken fence might be replaced, and we arrived at a friendly solution together.

Now, the garden feels like it flows again – it feels great to be in it now. The following day, I spent some time scattering seeds that I had been given by neighbours, pruning and just admiring how a group of caring people have – in one afternoon – helped me take my first steps on my path to coming home.

Grateful thanks to those who came and to Richard and Suzanne for co-hosting.

Liz Batten


News – January 2018

A happy new year to all our friends! 2018 is looking both exciting and a little daunting for us as a community…

…Yes daunting because our dear Adam Brown has got a new job, working as head gardener at the amazing Minstead Study Centre. He will be responsible for growing all the food needed to feed the hungry children staying at the centre. He started at the beginning of January and HE WILL BE GREATLY MISSED! We are planning a farewell party at the start of February (details to follow). We’re hiring a room, cooking some food and probably playing some games!

The shop and volunteering
We are now only open on Wednesday and Saturday, due to the loss of Adam. But we hope to be open on Fridays again in the early summer. We have a plentiful supply of chicken eggs. We also have spring and summer bulbs in pots – the crocus are looking very cheery already!
More about the shop…
More about volunteering…

Our ‘vegetable year’
We learned a great deal last year about growing vegetables and we are looking to put it into practice as the need to become financially self-sustaining increases. Our aim is to have vegetables for sale in every month of the year, from March 2018 through to March 2019 and beyond. We are also very excited to be growing a considerable amount of vegetables to supply our friends at Bitterne Box Company throughout the year.

Activity on the farm
The main activity in January is planning. The major work here is planning for our ‘year of vegetables‘, but we are also planning the construction of our sawdust toilets and the associated composting system. We are applying for funding towards getting mains electricity to the barn so we can put in proper lighting and have power for running tools and maybe a bit of heating under my desk!!

We are working hard to finish top dressing all our beds with our home-made compost, and the chickens are helping by going over the beds, having a good scratch around to eat up remaining plants and weed seeds and eat all the slug eggs they can find.

Over the last year we have received £2150 in donations and sadly we had to pay £430 tax on this. Seems a bit daft, so we are also beginning to investigate the possibility of setting up a charity alongside the co-operative to support the farm and to receive donations.

Looking back on December
There is a report on what we achieved in December here.

Report – December 2017

It was a month of extremes. It was -4°C on the 12th and yet 12°C on the 30th. And we had over 15mm of rain on the 10th, 26th and 29th.

We worked a total of 217 hours in December – 35 hours by staff and 182 hours by volunteers.

These are the things we achieved, with some of the people who achieved them:

  • Soup!! One cold Saturday Leesa made an amazing soup 100% from the land soup using Jerusalem artichoke, beetroot, spinach, onions and herbs – all freshly harvested that day!
  • Potted a range of spring and summer bulbs for sale in the shop. Claudia and Celeste made an ingenious set of labels with cheerful symbols so we don’t get our crocuses confused with our anemones.
  • Made Christmas decorations from our range of logs and poles cleared from the land (Nathan, Peter, Adele)
  • Sawed logs (Dan) donated to us into wood-burner length and then splitting them (Peter).
  • Pruned the hedges running along the pavement on Aldermoor Road (our shop window!) and keeping the paths clear around our pond (Gordon).
  • Chicken news:
    • We had to deal with the aftermath of a fox getting amongst the chickens in our polytunnel. Only 3 were killed – our rooster did a valiant job defending the flock. He took nearly a week to recover, spending most of the time standing with his head resting on the ground in front of him. A few of the hens would lie down under him at night to give him support. “Our hero!”. We now have an electric fence close up to the polytunnel all the way around.
    • We made a large new rain shelter for flock of chickens working over the vegetable beds. The four new chickens donated to us in November are now merged with the vegetable bed flock, with a rooster keeping them all in line.
    • Our polytunnel chickens had a lake form outside their front door with all the heavy rain – we’ve had to dig a ditch right through from front to back to drain it.
  • BioCycle continued to deliver compostables from students – totalling 575kg since October!!
  • Picked the last of our peppery salad mix from the polytunnel and our kale, spinach and chard from the veg beds (Adele, Leesa)
  • Hosted Permaculture Southampton for a morning’s activity on the farm – this is what we did:
    • Pruned back our sea spinach (a perennial variety) and picked over 3kg of good leaves from it (Max, Susan, Geoffroy).
    • Built a palisade from sticks and branches cleared from our chicken meadow to make a new woodchip path down a previously slippery muddy slope to the goose house (Max, Susan, Geoffroy, Helen)
  • Pruned the black currants and were encouraged at how much 1 year old growth there is ready to produced currants this year.
  • Built a Rumford outdoor fireplace – see Winter Warmer below (Leesa, Chelsea, Tim and Ellie).
  • A roe deer jumped over our top fence from higher ground at the top of the hill. We had to break down part of the fence lower down the hill to let it out again. We’ve now adapted the fence so we can un-hook it if that happens again, and we’ve raised the height of the fence at the top of the hill. AND we’ve mended all the chicken fences that the deer turned to matchsticks as it raced around all a-panicked.

Winter warmer
We started the month with some creative heavy lifting – using old breeze blocks and bricks already on the site we made an outdoor fireplace modelled on a Rumford fireplace.

It was very popular on our open day at the beginning of December and much used for our new farm tradition – cooking pizza on a stick.

Saturday 2nd December was our first ever Christmas open day. Full report and videos here.

The fire also gave a very cheery glow to our evening of Christmas songs on the last Friday before Christmas, led by Living Lordswood Community Choir.

We met with West Solent Solar Co-operative to discuss possible grant assistance to help us get mains electricity to the barn (at last!).

We had an exciting meeting with the energetic Robin from Bitterne Box Co where we planned all the veg we are going to grow next year for his doorstep box delivery scheme.

We had a very helpful directors meeting where we discussed how we will cope without Adam in 2018, and how to plan effectively. The main outcomes are in our January news.

In the shop
Our shop was busy throughout December selling the last of our winter salads and greens, and also a new range of decorations and tea light holders made from wood.

Christmas Open Day

Saturday 2nd December 2017 – 10am to 4pm

Our first Christmas open day was a great success. During the day we had 106 people visit. About 15 were new friends, the rest had been to a summer open day before. We even had two people keen to join in our volunteer sessions on Fridays and Saturdays.

Thank you to everyone who came and enjoyed themselves!

The main attractions were:

  • making wreaths from holly, ivy and other greenery from around the farm
  • sitting by our outdoor fire place, making pizza on a stick and toasting marshmallows
  • drinking hot mulled apple juice and other hot drinks
  • eating the lovely cakes provided by volunteers, including a marvellous Christmas cake
  • buying our range of wooden decorations and candle holders
  • walking round the farm and feeding chickens (and it wasn’t just children who kept coming back for ‘just one more’ cup of seeds).
  • buying our plum jams and chutneys and spiced green tomato chutneys.

Here are some snippets of action from the day:

Permaculture Southampton 2017-10-21

We’ve now considered the first three principles of permaculture and we find that they are giving us insight as our discussions continue. We are getting good at thinking of the things that matter to us in terms of systems. This month we are thinking about the signals we get from our systems that show us the ‘bad’ consequences of our activities.

The principle is 4. Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback.

In acknowledging the harmful consequences of our systems we will be considering where we set the edge of our systems because that defines where we accept the responsibility what needs to be regulated.

Powerful ideas this month include:

  • different attitudes to things that belong to “me” and things that belong to “us” (or others).
  • isolation from the consequences of how our system is designed
  • self-responsibility – a powerful change agent
  • self-reliance and it’s relationship to self-regulation

Outline for the day:

  • [optional] 1000 Volunteering: Come and do some work on the farm to immerse yourself in what we have been learning about permaculture.
  • [optional] 1230 Bring-and-share lunch
  • 1330-1630 Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback: We are working through the 12 principles of permaculture as defined by David Holmgren. The hosts (Richard Parker and Richard Pitt) will introduce the topic and help us as a group consider how the principle applies to us here in Southampton.

Apple Pressing 2017

Sunday 15 October     [10am to 4pm]

For the third year in a row we are hiring an apple press from Ashurst and Colbury Community Group.

Come along from 10am with your apples to press. Or just come along and join in! We pause at about 1230 for a bring and share lunch.

First we cut the apples in quarters. Then they go into the scratter. Then into the press. Then we have amazing fresh apple juice to enjoy. Everyone brings bottles to take some home in – last year everyone went home with at least a 4-pint milk carton of apple juice – most with more!!

The juice needs to be enjoyed in a few days – it starts to ferment quite quickly. Or you can freeze it for a few months. Or you can bottle it and heat it to 75 degrees C for 25 mins  – then it will last in the bottle for about a year.

There are many apple trees around the city that don’t get used – if you don’t have your own tree, perhaps you could go and pick some apples and bring them along! For hints about this, see the website of Southampton’s Urbane Forager.

Hope to see you there!

NOTE – this is a free event for everyone in the community, but if on the day you can make a contribution to our costs, we would appreciate it. We have to collect, clean and return the equipment and we donate £10 to Ashurst and Colbury Community Group for the loan of the equipment.

Manure Day

Pitch fork in compost

Manure is very important for us to keep our soil healthy.

We are very fortunate that our friends at nearby Down to Earth Farm keep a variety of animals and as a consequence have a large pile of manure we can get our hands on. (Well, not our hands, our pitch forks!)

Our good friend Andy the Acorn Tree Specialist is helping us with transport.

So all we need now are lots of good friends to spend the morning with wheel barrows and pitch forks to load and unload.

This is what me mean by Manure Day !

  • [times have changed!!] We will meet on Sat 7 Oct at 2.30pm at Aldermoor Community Farm or 3.00pm at Down to Earth Farm on Green Lane (SO16 9FQ).
  • We will load up using wheelbarrows and pitch forks loaned by Down to Earth.
  • We will return to Aldermoor Farm to unload and distribute the manure to our veggie beds.
  • We will enjoy a hearty cup of tea!
  • If you want to arrive early and have lunch with us, please do – we do lunch at about 12.30

We are hoping for 12 helpers (the dirty dozen??). It would make us less nervous if you could sign up below if you can help.

Thank you.