Category Archives: Volunteers Thoughts

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.

Baths, Barns and Rain

This is the first of a new series – posts by volunteers about their time on the farm. Thanks to Milo Maguire for this one. Written on Friday 24th July 2015, which was a very wet day.

They forecast rain and I arrived at the farm to find Richard and Adam bending over the new duckbath in their coats inserting a length of hosepipe to channel water from the spring into it.

The idea is to have an actual bath on the site so that when the farm ducks arrive they will have clean water to wash their eyes. But we know they will make the water dirty with their poo. So we will collect it in the water and channel it down an overflow pipe into a swale where it can water other places and be composted into a nutritious mulch for the vegetables.

At one point the dilemma was that we hadn’t blocked up the plughole so the water was escaping and we were just wondering what to block it up with when Adam who had been gone a minute turned up with-a bathplug! [Editor: he went and found one on another bath we had been given!!]

Later that day we set about tidying the barn with a place for everything and everything in its place, pieces of hosepipe with other pieces of hosepipe, nails, screws all together as the rain hammered down on the metal roof and the bathtub outside filled up with rainwater and springwater.
Milo Maguire, 24 July 2015

duck bathThanks to our neighbours who responded to our request for a bath on Streetlife. Here it is on a not so rainy day. Bit of landscaping to do before the ducks arrive, but the water from our spring is all plumbed in.


Slightly overwhelmed (but with a way to make a road map)

We’ve now completed our Permaculture Design Certificate. It was an action packed 14 days taught by Aranya and hosted by those lovely people at the Sustainability Centre. (excellent lunch and dinner every day at the Beech Cafe – seasonal and tasty).

Richard's certificate from the Permaculture Design Course The design course is comprehensive – for me it’s like doing my 3 year Environmental Science degree all over again, but in 14 days. It’s a wide body of knowledge, but it’s held together well by the design principles and basic ideas that keep coming up.

I’ve returned with a full notebook (it’s actually a full 2012 diary I bought for 50p – feels like I did a whole year of work in two weeks!!) We have loads of new knowledge and ideas for how to pursue our sustainable small-holding dream. And we’ve got some ideas for how to process it all and focus on what we are going to do first.

Here we go then!

Vegetarian… Shoes(?!)

I have a problem at the moment, something that’s niggling. I need a new pair of shoes for work. My current ones are wearing out and it’s getting a bit desperate. Trouble is I don’t want to buy them from shops anymore. I’ve got a bit of a conscience now and a sudden obstacle has developed in what used to be a fairly straightforward task.  All this learning I’m doing on sustainability and permaculture has got me thinking twice about stuff I buy. Questions like what are the shoes made from, how far have they come across the world and how much fuel was used to transport them and manufacture them are now assailing me. And the biggest question of all – who has made them? The thought of some child squashed into some factory, working unfavourable conditions for a measly wage,  to make me a pair of shoes for work has become a horrific thought.  I just can’t be a part of that.

So I chatted with my daughter about this. Turns out she knows of a good shop called ‘Vegetarian Shoes’. I must admit the words vegetarian and shoes had never associated themselves in my mind before. But I tapped the phrase into Google and sure enough there is a shop with that name. Instead of leather, yachting fabric is used. The shoes are also made in the UK and Europe only so no long journeys to get them here. And working conditions are fair and lawful so no child labour involved.

Excited! I may well be in possession of an item of footwear that addresses my problem and which I can feel good about having bought.

Not dreaming alone

Cake wrapped in tin foil with bowsWe had some wonderful news this month.

An offer to purchase the land at the heart of Aldermoor Community Farm has been accepted. Soon there will be a way for us to have access to this land.

I can’t begin to tell you the difference this makes to us.

We’ve been pursuing our dream of a community farm for 18 months without any land to our names. A dream.

Our dear friend Thelma, when she heard the news, made us this very nice cake and dropped it round to celebrate. She has been dreaming with us.

It is wonderful not to be dreaming alone.

When I think about potatoes…

I feel dead chuffed with myself actually. Because last year I grew my own. Notwithstanding they are nearly my favourite vegetable to eat, I also discovered they are very good for the soil. And as we had not long moved into an old farmhouse with a large garden that had been left to overrun, it seemed the ideal veg to start trying to grow myself. I had very little experience up to this point. Just failed attempts at runner beans and tomato growing. But without any serious plan or strategy in mind, just to try to regenerate the soil in the garden, I went to work.

I thought I could just stick them in the ground like any other vegetable. My husband however said no, you have to dig trenches. With a combined effort from me, husband, friend and 3 small children, who proved to be very enthusiastic diggers, we dug 5 said trenches. I also discovered that the soil you dig up has to be kept to ‘bank up’ the leaves as they begin to grow up. Painstakingly I would scoop up mounds of earth as the leaves grew into branches and needed kind of propping up so they wouldn’t fall down. To the uninitiated, like me, this is what ‘banking up’ is.

I was a bit concerned as white flowers appeared. I thought this might be a sign they had got diseased down there in the depths of the ground. Anxiously I informed my Mum, a fount of all knowledge and wisdom when it comes to gardening. She said, ‘Well now you can dig them up.’ Easier said than done I found. Some potatoes were sliced in two or completely disintegrated when levering them up, some I just couldn’t find because they were buried so deep. But nonetheless there were enough survived to have a regular stream of very tasty white potatoes throughout the summer and into the beginning of autumn. And it felt great. A first. Our own home-grown potatoes, dug from our soil. Much tastier and loads more satisfying.

potato image