Monday, 22 December 2008

Winter solstice

The shortest day has been and gone and the colours in the sky were quite amazing over the Frome Valley.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

December photos

The farm still looks beautiful although a little stark. Here are some pics.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Open Farm Sunday

We had such an incredible time on Open Farm Sunday back in June, over nine months ago now and I was asked by LEAF to put a video together about the day. This is our video of how we prepared and undertook the farm walk. We are blessed to live is such a beautiful part of the world and the video shows some of our hidden corners on the farm. Open Farm Sunday is all about explaining what you do on your farm, how food is produced and the different jobs that are done in the cycle of producing food each year. The conversation points are endless.

Every farm is different some are huge multi-million pound farming businesses, others smallholdings that are managed before and after work and at the weekends and many other farms are family farms. This is what makes our landscape so unique and special.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Wiggly wigglers Podcast

As I have written many times before on this blog in 2007 I was awarded a Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust Scholarship to study water issues. We has our conference a couple of weeks ago in Exeter where all the 2007 scholars returned and presented their findings.
One of my fellow 2007 scholars is Heather Gorringe, founder of Wiggly Wigglers a mail order eco gardening products company. Those six words to not begin to express the scope and breadth of the business so do check out the website. The company is also the first ever winner of the Global Dell Small Business Excellence Award. They received their award because of their pioneering work using social media to extend the success of their business and also to communicate the essence of their business mission and their shared, and opposing, hopes and opinions on environmental an sustainability issues through blogging and their podcasts.
Heather's study was how rural businesses and farmers can benefit from social media. At the conference Heather captured some of our conversation that we had over a cup of tea and has broadcast it as part of her latest podcast - number 0158 to be precise. We were musing over why water is important globally and locally, why should we care, whether we coerce or enable people to have less of an impact on the environment and many other things, plus I tell a joke at the end which is most uncharacteristic.
Do check it out and let me know what you think.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Autumn Time at Benbow Pond

Autumn has really come to the farm now and here are some photos of the Benbow Pond. We don't get as many visitors at this time of year so I thought I would post some photos.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Nuffield Conference 2008

This weekend (31st October/1st November) I spoke at the Annual Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust Conference for returning scholars. Twenty-two scholars presented on a range of topics from Care Farming (farming supporting vulnerable individuals in society), to carbon footprint, farmers and social media, farming techniques, soil biology, marketing, seasonality and my topic .. water security.

It was a fabulous weekend and it was great to see my year group shine through with their knowledge, their discoveries and their enthusiasm. It was a fascinating insight into new technologies, new approaches and a positive future for the UK agricultural industry.

First posted at The Human Imprint

Thursday, 30 October 2008

More autumn pictures

Here are some more autumn photographs from the farm. Sam, the pup is growing fast, we have been drying our wheat so we can use it for animal feed and the leaves look just beautiful!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

So wet we can't harvest the potatoes

It has been so wet this autumn that we have been unable to harvest the potatoes from the field. It is a waste of food on the one hand, but the amount of fuel that would be needed to harvest them, the damage it would cause to the soil and the fact that it would probably cost more to harvest the potatoes than they are worth means that they will stay in the field.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Autumn on the farm

More photos to follow

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Planting for a new crop

We have taken the big step to plant this year without ploughing. This decision will affect our yield so it is a bit of a gamble but I hope one that pays off in many ways. Ploughing and turning the soil over means that carbon dioxide is naturally released into the atmosphere. This carbon dioxide is then taken up by the plants again as they grow. The carbon cycle is a natural cycle of how carbon is taken up in plants, animals and humans and then released to be reused again. I tried to find a simple, but informative diagram to demonstrate this process.

You can't use this method for all crops but it is appropriate for for arable crops - wheat, oil seed rape, etc. I will keep you posted on how the decision works out. Maybe in the future we will even be able to claim carbon credits for less cultivation of the soil as we will be storing more carbon in the soil which will in a small way offset carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Harvest complete

It may be a month late but we have finally completed the harvest - we are very thankful. We start planting the oil seed rape next week.

Brussels Conference

I have just spent the last four days at a conference in Brussels. I gave a presentation on water quality and poultry welfare. However as always with conferences you learn so much from the people that you meet with.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Two new family members

We have two new family members Sam the labrador and a kitten that has adopted us. Morris is kindly giving him a guiding hand. We have called the kitten Marmaduke at the moment. We haven't been able to get close enough to catch him/her yet but in time I am sure we will.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Better weather

Well we put the tent away at the end of the summer holidays and the weather has finally turned. Everyone I talk to seems a lot happier with the better weather that we have had this week. The wheat was very wet at the beginning of the week (25% moisture) and we have left it to dry in the field. The combine was getting stuck in the field it was so wet. Hopefully the weather will hold. If we have to dry the wheat because it it is too wet to go into storage then we have to burn a lot of diesel in the mobile drier and that adds to the production costs so fingers crossed ...

I miss lying in the tent at night and listening to the owls calling ... there is always next year.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Wet Harvest

We have been able to harvest the oil seed rape, but we are still waiting for better weather to harvest the wheat. Fingers crossed we might see a change in the next week or so. More news soon.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008


We have just been on holiday to Cornwall for a week. Check out the photos of the beaches - just beautiful. Now we are home and thoughts are turning to harvest - the wheat will soon be ready.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Food safety e-books

I have been very busy writing some e-books on food safety and quality to support people working in the food industry. If you would like to find out more about the e-books then follow the link and preview the contents at the e-books storefront.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Morris Dancing

You can't have a village fete without morris dancing - fantastic rural tradition!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Sensory Garden

Last Friday I visited the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust for a meeting about my Nuffield Scholarship. I was captivated by the pioneering work of the trust. I was also fascinated by their sensory garden and how much it could engage people. I have included some photographs so you can see what it was like. The benches all had different animal footprints.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

June photos

Here is a picture post from the farm - everything is growing and spring has moved into summer.

The wheat is growing!

Special sunset - the sun caught the clouds beautifully

The trees have all filled out now and are majestic.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Open Farm Sunday

We had a great morning with a farm walk for the parish. We had about twenty-five people who came and walked around some of the fields on the farm looking at the wheat, potatoes and the oil seed rape. Thank you to everyone who helped with the refreshments and the cakes and the ploughman's lunch.

What did we talk about - many of the common themes, food security, farm subsidies, biofuel vs food, environmental management, food production, water footprint - a really excellent morning.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Vegetables/salad growing

The salad and vegetables in the raised beds are growing fast. We have been busy eating spinach, leafy salad, spring onions, radishes for a few weeks. My carrots haven't appeared yet but the new batch of spring onions are gaining momentum. This week I have planted the brussels sprouts and runner beans. Check the photos

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Belated birthday celebration

This blog had reached its first year of activity on the 12th April. Where has a year gone? I have enjoyed writing a journal about the seasons on the farm. There is much more to write about in the summer than the winter and the scenery and habitats will change almost daily now. Another year is upon us and I will try to highlight all the areas that are different this year.

Spring has finally arrived

The trees and hedges have thickened out in the last ten days and Spring has finally arrived. It is still quite cold if you are in the wind, but nature seems to be revolving. The lilac has bloomed and started to lose its colour and the apple blossom has gone too. The walnut tree seems to be the last tree to gain its leaves. Tonight when I was in the garden I heard the cuckoo.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Will food shortages change consumer views on GM?

I have been to several conferences and meetings this week where there has been a discussion on genetically modified foods. With the current food shortages and rising food prices there has been a focus on whether we in Europe in order to improve yields and efficiency should grow GM crops.

Whenever I try to have a balanced discussion on GM foods, I find it almost impossible and because I am a food scientist people often ask me questions such as:

What is GM food?

How do we know if we have eaten it, or meat from an animal that has eaten it?

Should food be labelled so that we can make a choice if we want to eat it?

Who benefits most from the GM revolution?

What information should we trust? Who should we trust?

The GM debate is as much about fear, dread and trust i.e. perception as it is about science and risk probably more so. Recent US research has concluded that in the US that only 52% of Americans realised that genetically modified foods are sold in grocery stores and only 26% believed that they have ever eaten genetically modified foods. The site WebMD has published a very interesting article on this research and generally on GM foods from a US perspective which seeks to answer some of these questions.

Marion Nestle, a leading US nutritionist and writer has a very informative blog. She writes about a range of food issues including GM.

Tolstoy once said that "True science investigates and brings to human perception such truths and such knowledge as the people of a given time and society consider most important." I believe he is right.

First published in The Human Imprint

Saturday, 19 April 2008

April Showers

Well, it continues to be wet and windy, but the hedges are starting to thicken up and the leaves are budding on the trees. We have been tidying up the garden and fields amidst the showers. It is quite rare to have a strong easterly wind too. My weeping pear, that lived in a bucket for the first year of its life with us (we lived in a flat so it was planted in a bucket which we kept on our doorstep) is in blossom - one of my favourite trees in the garden.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Getting raised beds ready

We have spent the last few weeks getting our raised beds ready and planting them with a range of fruit and vegetables. We will keep you posted on developments!

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Rain swells mormon pond

The high rainfall recently has swelled the size of the Mormon pond outside of the railings. The visitors are starting to return for another year.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

March continues like a lion

The weather has been pretty wild for our farm walks this Easter weekend. We have had to wrap up warm! and definitely not for elegance.

The recent rain has added to the water in the "Mormon" pond (see photo). It was in early March 1840 that the converts were baptised - must have been pretty cold if it was anything like the weather that we are currently experiencing!

Morris and Maggie the pest controllers also took a well-earned Easter break (see photo). They seem to like the chair by the computer the most for a quick power nap!

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Buffer to prevent soil loss

After I posted the picture of the run-off from a farm, here is another picture showing a tree planted buffer zone. This area will stop the soil from being washed away and provide a "buffer" to improve water quality. The trees and grass are also absorbing carbon dioxide as they grow (technical term is sequestering) so it is a way of tackling climate change too.

Beetling about

I visited a farm where they have established a beetle bank to improve the biodiversity in the fields. LEAF supply information boards that can provide walkers with information on the features that they see. Watch out for the boards on your travels!

Spring primroses

Well we have primroses in abundance on the farm - took this picture between the showers!

Soil washing away

I took this picture of a field drain at the weekend during the heavy rainfall. It shows the amount of run-off from the fields. The soil that is also being washed off is bad news for the farmer because we need the soil in the field to grow good quality crops. It is also bad news for the water companies if the soil fills up the reservoirs further downstream with silt!

The wheat is growing

The wheat that was planted in the autumn is growing in the fields. With some warmth and spring sunshine it will be well on track!

Friday, 7 March 2008

Spring is finally coming

This week the hedges are starting to thicken up and spring finally feels like it is coming. We had a lovely walk after mothers day lunch and enjoyed the natural renewal of the farm as we look forward to another year. The gales had had their impact in the wood with the upper limbs of some trees torn off and others uprooted. Another storm is due this week. Hopefully it won't do too much damage.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Spring blossom

Rather a strange sight - blossom but no leaves? I have tulips in flower; daffodils in abundance and it is the end of February!

Litter everywhere

We went for a walk up our lane and were appalled by the amount of litter that people had thrown from their cars into the ditch and grass verge in the space of 300 yards. This included used disposable nappies, black bags of rubbish, electrical cables, and fast food packaging. The nearest fast food restaurant is twelve miles away! Litter is becoming an issue everywhere in Herefordshire as people just throw their rubbish out of their car windows. In such a beautiful county it is so sad that people pay it so little respect and don't take their rubbish home with them!