Category Archives: Volunteering

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.


Volunteer with us and you could be: weeding, picking fruit, cutting spinach or chard, sowing seeds, planting out baby plants, weeding, harvesting coriander, upcycling old timber into posts for our chicken enclosures, digging new duck ponds, skimming duckweed off the pond, wheel barrowing compost onto beds, watering things, pruning hedges, (and so the list goes on!!)

We start at 1000 and run until 1600. You can join for all or part of the session. It’s best for us if you arrive either at 1000 or 1330, but we are flexible!!

If you need gardening gloves we can supply them. They are washed after each session.

 Lunch on the terrace!

If you are still here at 1600 we will send you home then!

You will need to dress for the weather, and wear suitable things on your feet – it might be wet and muddy underfoot. And when it is hot, it is really hot – we are a bit of sun trap.

Who can volunteer?
No prior experience or knowledge is needed. If you can get about outdoors and are fairly mobile you will be able to join in with what we are doing. Children are welcome to join in if they bring a responsible adult with them.

We have safeguarding arrangements in place for teenagers (12-17) to volunteer unaccompanied, which we set up on a case by case basis.

Please contact us to arrange a visit so you can some and see us to talk further.

Spring 2016 Saturday Sessions

Announcing Saturday sessions for volunteers in February and March!

Our Saturdays start at 0930 and run until 1230. We have a cuppa mid morning and then if you want to stay for our “bring and share” lunch at 1230 that is encouraged! We send everyone home and lock up after lunch.

These are the definite dates and the probable activities we will be doing:

  • Sat 13 Feb – sorting seeds and putting them in envelopes ready for the Seed Swap on Sunday 21 Feb; preparing the geese lawn
  • Sat 27 Feb – creating our geese paddock and sowing a lawn for them; digging swales.
  • Sat 12 Mar – preparing our 3 sisters bed, digging swales and ponds.

Our main activities on the land at the moment are…

  • Taking control of the whole site by:
    1) setting up growing areas covered with wood chip to keep the weeds down and
    2) digging ponds and connecting them with our swales (special kind of ditches) to manage the water and make lots of beautiful water habitatswoodchip team
  • Setting up the polytunnel for producing many wonderful plants from seed.
    We will be putting most effort into perennial plants (ones which don’t grow and die all inone year, but last many years). Adam tells me that perennials stay in the polytunnel longer than annuals, so we will have lots of interesting plants to nurture in there this year.polytunnel workers
  • Preparing for the arrival of Sid the gander and his 6 geese in March. (we haven’t got a picture of Sid yet – this image comes from wikimedia.)360px-Geese_Fruggo01We are making a fox proof area for the geese and seeding one of the areas the pigs excavated in the autumn to make a luscious lawn for them as grass is their main food.
    We have been given Sid by a lady who is closing down her small holding. If anyone else fancies some pet geese – great for keeping the lawn cut – please let us know and we can put you in touch.

190 hours of work by volunteers in one month

Looking over the log book we keep each day on the farm, we see that May and June were a bit breath-taking. So many significant changes and new things. What do you think of all this?

Summary of May

  • A record 190.5 hours of work done by volunteers on the farm. We’ve had 51 different people come to help since April 2014. We also had our first Saturday volunteering session.
  • Give and Gain Day 15 May. Organised by Business in the Community, we had 25 volunteers for the day from a company called Morgan Sindall. This was a day of big, big changes:
    • the greenhouse frame became a polytunnel
    • we gained a terrace for growing sweetcorn
    • 21 tonnes of rubble was put into 3 skipspolytunnel cover on
  • Chances4Change Food Festival: We were funded to provided a tomato-planting activity at this event in the centre of Southampton. Fifty people passed by our stall and planted up a seedling to take home and grow their own tomatoes.
  • Open Morning – Bank Holiday 25 May: Six of our members hosted an open morning and many local people came to see how we’re getting on.
    • 40 guests signed the book – lots of positive comments!
    • 3 people asked for eggs when available
    • 3 people offered to volunteer
    • we made a profit of £45 on plant sales.

Summary of June

  • Our first three pigs were slaughtered and meat distributed.
  • Irrigation – we installed a water tank at the top of the hill, which is filled by an electric pump. This provides a steady daytime flow of water into swale 1 which overflows via a small stream and goes on into swale 2.
  • 31 tomato plants installed in polytunnel
  • 120 sweet corn plants are now out on the land
  • “3 sisters” bed created (sweet corn, beans and squash growing together)
  • we made the doors for the polytunnel and fitted them
  • we began harvesting mange toute, peas and strawberries
  • our area for growing cabbages, cauliflower and Brussels was prepared in the area above swale 1 and a tunnel for netting constructed over it
  • we had 115 hours of voluntary farm help and 157 hours of volunteer farm management.
  • we received some funding so that our managers can be paid 3.5 hours per week for the next 80 weeks for permaculture design of the farm.

Looking ahead, we have more Saturday volunteer sessions on August 1st and 15th, and another open morning on Bank Holiday Monday, 31st August.

So, after such a productive start to the summer we really want to say thanks for your involvement and support! And don’t forget the members meeting, Tuesday July 21st 7.30pm at the farm.

Volunteer Mornings

We regularly set aside Saturday mornings so people can come and get involved at the farm.

Dates for autumn 2015: November 7.

Starting at 1000 and ending at 1230, we will be working on whatever needs doing on the farm. This could be big new things like clearing ground for a new animal enclosure, digging a pond or more regular things like cleaning out the chickens, planting/harvesting fruit and vegetables or keeping paths clear.

Children are welcome if accompanied by a responsible adult.

Here are a few of our volunteers in action:volunteers


What to bring

We will provide tools, and gloves – you need to bring wellies or outdoor shoes. If it’s hot a hat is recommended. We will stop for breaks – it’s important to enjoy the beauty of our surroundings and also to enjoy one another’s company.

It would be good to know if you are coming – please call on 023 8218 2716, message us on facebook or email us.

Dig a swale

Swale from north

Swale #1 – a flat ditch with trees that drink the rain it collects.

Many friends have offered to come and help. Here is your chance.

Come and help us make SWALE #2:

  • dig a ditch,
  • rake a mound of soil,
  • plant trees,
  • sow seeds and
  • spread straw

This is a great chance to learn a bit about permaculture in action, meet some new people and have fun.

Lunch provided!!

Small print: This is not an open day – we’re not really set up for that yet. This is a by-arrangement only kind of thing, so please get in contact before Saturday to book your place.

  • Saturday May 17th, 10am to 4pm. (I know, NEXT Saturday…)
  • You don’t have to stay all day – you could just do 10am until lunch.
  • Please email, facebook or phone us to book your place.
  • Lunch provided.
  • No charge.
  • How to find us.

The first clearance

On Saturday 5th April our friends from Lord’s Hill Church Men’s Breakfast came to help us start clearing the land. (see videos further down the page…)

It was a great morning. Everything seems different now, and the land is speaking to us in new ways about its potential. We are so grateful for this generous help – it was a real boost to us and got us started so well. THANK YOU Robert, Paul, Paul, Paul, Clive and Tony.

This is the difference they made:

Before and After

The changing view from the edge of the yard (click to open bigger picture).

We took a couple of films of the action – can you see Robert, Paul, Paul, Paul, Clive and Tony?