Farmer Paul with his own Micro Lamb…read on!

It was a fun day at the farm this Saturday! CropSharers did LOADS of different jobs, spent time with the farm’s lambs and chickens, topped up their suntans from the last CropShare day and were made into farming film stars!

Hoeing broad beans

Hoes at the ready!

First up was a spot of group hoeing in the sunshine on the broad beans and garlic planted by CropSharers, and Farmer Paul’s plum and apple rootstocks.

It’s a hoe-down, yessiree!

The broad beans planted last autumn have overwintered well and are looking really healthy and putting on lots of growth now the weather is FINALLY warming up.

Broad bean plant putting on a growth spurt!

More broad bean seeds got planted today on the tractor mounted planter which will extend the cropping season of the beans hopefully until late July.

Axel – I think you hold the hoe at the other end… 😉

As you can see if you’re beady eyed, Axel has a contraption attached to his chest in the above pic- no this is not some sort of robotic controller Farmer Paul uses to make sure CropSharers don’t hoe up any crops by mistake , but a tiny camera that can film hands free! Here’s Axel weeding the broad beans… thanks for shooting and preparing the footage Axel!

Hoeing Broad Beans at Cambridge CropShare

Next CropSharers hoed the plum and apple rootstocks. These rootstocks are used as just the root part of fruit trees- a shoot of a named fruit variety is attached (or grafted) onto the rootstock. This is a really useful and flexible system, rootstocks and shoots are used just like living lego.

Helloooo CropSharers!

It is amazing how in time the rootstock and shoot – from two different plants – can fuse themselves together to grow as one tree! Plant nerd fact: grafts can even be formed between fruit trees of different species. Pear tree (Pyrus species) shoots are often grafted onto Quince (Cydonia species) rootstocks. Plants are so cool, right? …Right?

Grafted shoot and rootstock Photo: Grow at Brogdale

The grafting system has many benefits. It’s the only way to make more trees of named varieties of apple such as Bramley, as the complicated set of genes that apples have means that any sexual reproduction (seed made via pollination of flowers) doesn’t produce the same apple variety. And it can also mean that you can grow quite vigorous fruit tree varieties in your small back garden, if the vigorous shoot is constrained by grafting onto a rootstock that grows to only a small size in the ground, a so called dwarfing rootstock. Loads of the rootstocks used for apples nowadays were bred at the East Maling Research Centre in Kent. Go Kent!

St Julien A Plum rootstock

 

I was amazed when I went to the Brogdale National Fruit Collection in Kent a few years back to see different fruit tree rootstocks growing in their extensive collection (3500+ varieties!!) and bearing small fruit… I found it quite confusing! But a rootstock is just a tree of its own, that has been selected for particular characteristics of root growth. Definitely worth a visit to Brogdale it was mind boggling how many varieties of apple, pear, cherry, etc etc they had on show and our tour guide was a laugh!

Anyway back to the farm….

…after a couple of years growth, these rootstocks on the farm will be dug up, the shoots cut short and a shoot of a fruit tree variety which produces yummy fruit will be grafted on. Farmer Paul has done fruit tree stuff for ages, and actually practises a form of grafting called budding, that he does in June. I’ll get him to update you on that and pass on his knowledge as budding happens, probably on his blog here.

Mini- forest of plum and apple rootstocks

Garlic now- CropSharers hoed the garlic which is well protected with a plastic mesh from any munching bunnies who seem to have a taste for garlic on the CropShare farm!

CropSharers hoe garlic

Garlic hides from bunnies under mesh

Healthy garlic plants!

Planting more onion sets

Then it was time for CropSharers to plant out more biodynamic Sturon onion sets, extending the onion territory from last time on the farm!

Onion sets to be planted

Planting those onion sets in the sun

We had a bit of a filming theme going on at CropShare today, as well as Axel’s cool chest camera, students from the Arts Picture House cinema in Cambridge were taking some shots of various activities on the farm today.

CropSharer Matt gets made into a movie star!

We’re looking forward to seeing the film that they created!
I think it shows how busy we were doing all sorts of different jobs that I forgot to take any lunch pictures…doh! Trust me, it was as tasty as ever, and lovely to be able to sit outside and eat in the sun.

After lunch we got to play with the animals! Yay!

Farmer Paul feeds a tiny newborn lamb

The newborn lambs and their mums are housed in one of the polytunnels at the farm, where the newborns can keep warm.

Polytunnel sheep house

Prepare for cute pics of lambs and CropSharers holding them…

 

 

 

This particular lamb was one of triplets born recently, and was very small and weak. Picking it up made you realise how light it was! Getting extra care and attention 24/7 from Farmer Paul has helped the lamb survive, as it was touch and go for a time!

Looking after newborn lambs is a really tough job. Ah yes, @MicroLamb!

@GarethBarlow (any relation to Gary?) a sheep farmer in Yorkshire had a lamb born the same size as the one above, if not smaller. Somehow she got her own twitter account and ended up getting her own Blue Peter badge!
So all the CropSharers were holding Farmer Paul’s very own Micro Lamb!

 

And here’s some normal sized cousins of Farmer Paul’s Micro Lamb…

 

Older lambs outside with their mums

We fed and watered the chickens on the farm and took a look at the eggs. These are the new chickens delivered a few weeks ago with the help of CropSharers. They were around 20 weeks old when they arrived on farm and were point of lay – i.e. young chickens going to start laying eggs any time soon!

Hey up chickens what are you up to?

The first eggs laid by these ladies were all sorts of sizes, which is normal for young hens.

Big and small eggs from the new chickens

Some of first eggs from new chickens!

In the afternoon, CropSharers rode on the back of the tractor mounted planter, popping in bar root strawberry plants. These will crop mainly in July.

Three CropSharers operating the planting machine

 

Bare root plants on the conveyor on the tractor mounted planter

 

Again we have a cool video by CropSharer Axel showing how this planting system works!

Planting strawberries on tractor at Cambridge CropShare

 

Smiling CropSharers on the back of the tractor

Putting bare root strawberry plants onto the conveyor belt

Plants on the conveyor belt are carried down to the soil and firmed in by the machine. The whole shebang is mounted on the back of the tractor which pulls it across the field, planting out strawberry plants in 3 neat rows per bed.

Planted strawberries!

A couple of CropSharers walk behind the tractor and planter to check there are no plants upside down by mistake, and to water in the plants so that their happy.

CropSharer Marie collects water for the strawberries

A great and varied CropShare farm day! Thanks to all the CropSharers that shared in the farming fun!You can check out Farmer Paul’s (@waterlanderman on twitter) blog for his thoughts and details of his soil preparation for this CropShare farm day here.

You should check out our friends Cambridge Sustainability Centre (@camsuscen on twitter), at Fen End Farm, Cottenham, where CropSharers have had fun volunteering before, e.g. planting Nutters’ Wood in the snow this year! They are buying a cool tipi for their farm to use as a memorable outdoor classroom to teach kids about the outdoors and have set up a CrowdFunder page to help them reach the target. Check out the rewards you get when you pledge!

Glamping in a tipi anyone? Here’s their funding pitch:

Tipi crowdfunder pitch

And if you’re into farming, don’t forget that Open Farm Sunday ( @OpenFarmSunday on twitter) is coming up on the 9th June. You can visit farms across the country, see the webpage here to search near you!

Thanks to the Arts Picture house student film crew for the promise of cool CropShare footage, and to Axel Minet for some wicked photos! (All the less wicked photos in this post are mine- Helen)

See you on the farm soon!