Friday, 27 April 2007

Blossom everywhere

The farm is alive with blossom - check out these photos!

Annual IFST Lecture

Last night I went to the Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST) 2007 Lecture in London. Before the start of the lecture I was presented with a copy of the IFST Guide to Good Manufacturing Practice 5th Edition to mark the work that I have done as Editor of GMPV. The lecture was both entertaining and informative and reviewed the current issues of human nutrition and health. A thoroughly enjoyable evening!

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Medieval Fishpools

Last year we had a local archaelogist visit the farm to look at what we believed were fishpools in the wood, aptly named Fishpool Wood! The report is now on the Historic Herefordshire On-line website - see what they say:

A series of three, probably medieval, fishponds are located within a small valley on the Catley Brook. The woodland was known as Fishpool Coppice on the Castle Frome tithe map of 1841. The three ponds have been created by the construction of three large dams and modification of the valley sides. The top (northernmost) dam (SO 6781 4545) is about 30m long, 10m wide and a maximum of 2.5m high. It is the most rounded of the three dams and the pond is the most silted up, which suggests this pool went out of use prior to the lower two. The middle dam (SO 6785 4540) is 40m long, 10m wide and a maximum of 2.5m high. The bottom dam (SO 6791 4533) is the longest at about 50m long, 10m wide and a maximum of 4m high. A bypass channel, 3m wide and about 0.5m deep, runs along the west side of the ponds. The channel becomes more incised below the bottom dam, where it is 2m deep. A woodbank follows the west side of the fishponds, separating the fishpond area out from the woodland area.The fishponds are likely to have been constructed in the medieval period and been associated with the medieval motte and bailey 800m to the northeast, as they occupy the nearest suitable site to the castle. Their size and the relationship with the woodbank support this interpretation. The lower two dams are still well defined, suggesting use after the medieval period. They have gone out of use by the production of the tithe map in 1841, as the Catley Brook is shown without a broadening in the location of the ponds.The fishponds are in an area of deciduous woodland, a mix of natural regeneration and coppice management. The dams are all breached and the Catley Brook has an incised course through the silted up ponds. (1)

Very exciting - and lots of poultrydiscussion here at Hill Farm as a result.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Mormon connections

We had a steady stream of visitors during April who came to visit the farm and primarily the baptism pond, which is a historic church site. In March 1840, the American missionary Wilford Woodruff came to the farm and after meeting the farmers, John and Jane Benbow, proceeded to convert them and over 600 local people to the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Many were baptised at Hill Farm. The Benbows went over to the US and undertook the trek to Utah, sadly Jane Benbow died on the journey in Nebraska.

We have many visitors from all over the world who come to see the pond and other local LDS historic sites.

More of the story in another poultrydiscussion post!

Its been raining!

We haven't had any rain for at least three weeks and everything was looking very tired! This week two days of rain and everything looks brighter and a little greener. The lilac trees are now out in full bloom as a result!

Another poultrydiscussion!

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Cuckoo arrives

This morning the cuckoo was heard for the first time on the farm! Makes you think that spring is well and truly here!

Did you know that there are 127 species of birds in the cuckoo family?
To find out more about cuckoos check out the RSPB website!

Eating fruit and vegetables

In my research I have recently been looking at data on how much fruit and vegetables we eat nationally and globally. I was very interested to see that in the UK we are still falling well below the minimum World Health Organisation guideline of 400 grammes per person per day of fruit and vegetables (excluding potatoes). In the UK this has been transposed into the 5-a-day campaign. This week as a family of five if we ate our kilo (kg) of conventional fruit per day we would have to buy 1.5kg a day to cover wastage as strawberries it would cost us £3.75 a day; grapes £2.96; apples and pears at least £1.92; bananas £1.04! For vegetables per family 1.5kg it would cost for mange-tout £8.40; frozen peas between £0.95 and £2.48 depending on the type of frozen peas; broccoli £1.92; swede £1.12; carrots £1.05!

An average UK family of five is spending around £3 - £4 a day on fruit and vegetables just to meet minimum WHO guidelines!

Well we are getting our "veggie patch" going - but over a tonne of fruit and vegetables a year is a tall order! Checkout poultrydiscussion again to see how we progress!

Saturday, 21 April 2007

WFU Annual Conference

Last week I attended the Women's Food and Farming Annual Conference at Felstead School Essex. The presentations were superb and gave an insight into current thought and debate in the industry on food and farming matters. The WFU is a voluntary organisation that was founded in 1979. The organisation is committed to promoting an understanding of, and confidence in, all aspects of quality British produce and believes that by representing the best interests of consumers and producers, both the health and economy of the nation will benefit.

There were a number of themes examined during the day at all stages of the supply chain and a focus on producing what your customer wants rather than producing a product and then looking for a customer!

One of the key messages for me was from Professor Jules Pretty, OBE, in his presentation entitled "What's next for the land?" We only vote for our politicians every five years, but we vote for food and environmental policy every time we purchase food. Globally individuals aspire to the developed world lifestyle whether that is food choices, access to and creating a pastime of electronic media, cars as the optimum mode of transport and a "specific" lifestyle. All these decisions have a direct effect on our health and wellbeing (changing diet and amount of exercise that we take) and on the rate of utilisation of national resources.

There are many views on how we meet this challenge in both the short and long term but the message for me was that, if we are suitable informed we can all make a difference.

How the individual becomes suitably and impartially informed about nutrition, food choices and lifestyle is probably the subject for a future post!

If you want to find out more about the WFU and their work including Farming in the Classroom and the forthcoming Year of Food and Farming go to their web-site through the link on the side of the blog

Monday, 16 April 2007

Oak Lore

Sid the woodman says that if "The Oak is out before the Ash then there will be a splash!" Well it certainly has been dry the last few weeks - so we could do with some rain.

The Trafalgar Oaks have been planted! The parish council supplied twenty-five oak trees to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar in 2005.

They will be a sight to behold in a couple of hundred years ...

More woodland flowers

The bluebells are out!

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Woodland Flowers

The woods are alive with flowers this spring - yellow anenome ranunculoides to be precise - it is a real treat to walk among the flora and listen to the birds singing in the trees! The bluebells are just a few weeks away!

Oil Seed Rape

Picture 1: Winter Oil Seed Rape (Canola) - growing - January 2007

Picture 2 Winter Oil Seed Rape (Canola) - in flower April 2007

This last week the oil seed rape has come into flower. From the hill that we live on the vista is completely yellow! Farmers have planted rape, or canola as it is known in the US, so that we can supply the vegetable oil, animal feed or fledgling biodiesel market. It is incredible to watch how the plant captures the energy from the sun - first to grow and then to make oil. It was planted in the autumn and by January (Picture 1) the plants were well established; now in April (Picture 2) the plants are in flower and a metre tall. Now that you have seen it growing check out the vegetable oil on the food shelves - Does it contain rapeseed oil , which countries does the oil come from? Many labels also carry a picture of the plant. Watch out in August on this blog for pictures of the harvest -

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Nuffield Scholarship

Louise has been awarded a 2007 Nuffield Scholarship, by the Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust. The study has been sponsored by the John Oldacre Foundation. The title of the study is "The impact of water quality and availability on food production." Watch this space for more details.