Don’t look now but the sun is shining in Cambridgeshire! Sunshine was a great addition to our latest CropShare farm day.
Happy CropShare day forecast at last!
First job: CropSharers were kept busy planting out some broad beans on the back of the tractor. These have been successionally sown by CropSharers since last autumn, to give a rolling harvest of fresh beans from June onwards.
Sit-on planting machine last autumn
This is a broad-bean planters’ view on the sit-on planting contraption pulled behind the tractor. The game is to keep up with that moving conveyor belt! See, farming is just like going down the Amusements on Filey seaside.
Next, an old favourite for CropShare, onions! We planted out sets of Sturon variety onions into beds. There are 3 rows of onions per bed, planted in exact positions as Farmer Paul (@waterlanderman on Twitter) will weed these with a brush hoe. I’ll get a picture of Farmer Paul’s soon, but you can see how this piece of equipment works in the video below.
Stiff plastic brushes remove anything growing inbetween the rows of the crop, so its important to plant the crop accurately otherwise it’ll get taken out by the brushes. When the onions get larger CropSharers will take care of them by hand weeding as the larger plants may get damaged by the brush hoe.
Planting out onion sets
CropSharers took home any little onion sets that will grow into perfectly healthy onions but would benefit from closer attention in the garden that fighting for life out on the CropShare field. What I’m going to try in my limited space garden is growing a handful in a pot and harvesting the leaves to cook with, like strong spring onions.
LUNCHTIME! Never fails to impress, with two vegan soups to choose from made with farm grown produce by Farmer Doreen- mushroom and creamy squash. Lovely homemade breads, circular flat breads, lentil loaf, salads, and vats of houmous. Yum!
Novelty circular flatbread! So tasty.
And most importantly, we got to sit outside in the lovely weather. Thanks sun!
Then we were back on the onions- keeping busy popping more sets into the prepared beds.
Ellie plants onion sets- catching up to Farmer Paul preparing land in the background!
Farmer Paul was kept busy aswell preparing more soil into beds for CropSharers to plant into as we powered through the jobs really quickly. Maybe we were solar powered. We like to keep him on his toes!
(Soil preparation nerds- Farmer Paul ploughed, rolled and then ran the empty planting machine through the soil to form into beds and mark out rows where sets should be planted)
CropSharers preparing to plant onion sets in the sun
All in all we planted out about 4000 onion sets today- well done to all the CropSharers that helped out. You’ll be able to eat some of these onions this autumn.
Nyree holding one of Farmer Paul and Doreen’s lambs!
Then it was time for CropSharers to have a break and play with the lambs on the farm. Awww…. guys you would all make very caring sheperds and sheperdesses.
Today was the first day these lambs had been outside from the polytunnel where they were born and they were having a great time and making loads of noise kicking about in the field with their mums.
The chickens have been pecking up the rye grains but unfortunately we had trouble finding a threshing machine (that separates the grain from the chaff and straw) so never lived our dream of suppling homegrown rye flour to the Cambridge community bakery CamBake! It’s on our list to achieve in the future (Anyone out there with a small threshing machine, get in touch!)
Rye stack this spring
The 1/2 acre field has benefited from having the rye green manure, locking nutrients in the soil over winter and supplying organic matter (any fallen straw not stooked and the extensive root systems left in the ground).
Rye growing from seed shed last autumn
Seed shed by the rye crop last autumn has now started to come up on the field and pull nutrients up to the topsoil hat can be used by following crops after it gets ploughed in.
As well as keeping weeds down in between rows, these green manures are living fertiliser, fixing nitrogen and encouraging nitrogen fixing bacteria in the soil around the hungry crop plants. See this technique in action from May on the farm, and come plant the squash plants and drill the trefoil seed first hand.