30th May Farm Day
We had a big group of keen bikers making their way to the farm in style on 2 wheels today, thanks to Marie for snapping this photo before setting off. If you haven’t cycled to the farm yet yet but have been thinking to, the bike route is here. Check it out and maybe see you in the peloton next time! This big cycle turnout is very apt as it’s the Festival of Cycling on in Cambridgeshire at the mo, check that out here.
Our day began with hoeing the weeds out of the parsnip crop. I love the winter time creamy harvest of fen soil parsnips made sweet by frost. Do we have any parsnip recipes on here yet? If not why not send us your favourite? I remember making a great soup with CropShare parsnips at Cambridge FoodCycle once, read about that here.
The aim of the game here on the farm with weeding is to just keep the crop ahead of the weeds which we know are just inevitable, a fact of life! So we will go through crops and chop off the weeds’ new growth a few times per season, without necessarily killing or removing the weed as we know if we keep doing this the crop will forge ahead and be able to outcompete the weeds, and we’ll cover more ground. Its all about crop empowerment! I guess this is different from gardening, or growing on smaller areas, where we often take the time to pull up entire weeds likes grasses or thistles, and may remove them entirely. Unfortunately this approach doesn’t make sense where you’ve got about an acre of parsnips to do. And, when you want to get back to the farmhouse for the CropShare shared lunch before all of Axel’s triple nut chocolate carob vegan beetroot cake is all gone.
We’ve a few new flowers on the farm this year, and looks like Farmer Paul has taken to giving some of them pet names, like this lovely Cosmos…
We are planting these flowers out amongst the crops to attract beneficial insects that help with pest control within the crops, such as hoverflies which devour aphids, as we did last year. This is all part of a companion planting strategy. As well as “Cosmo codpiece” we have borage, calendula, Nigella (Love in a Mist, or as Farmer Paul calls it Love in a Lift), cornflowers and poached egg plant. Today CropSharers planted out brassicas with poached egg plants in between. We also planted out modules of Cosmos and cornflowers by hand and drilled borage seed with a push along seed drill.
I’m well into having the flowers on the farm as they really do give multiple yields: food for our bees; food and habitat for beneficial insects; edible flowers for CropSharers to have at lunchtime (borage, cornflower); bunches of flowers to take home as a seasonal reward (cornflowers are especially lovely); heart-warming sight of a field bursting with colourful flowers…and probably some other yields that you’ll be able to think of but have slipped my mind for now like.
Designing food production systems with multiple yields is one of the principles of permaculture, and I keep meaning to look into more ways of applying permaculture at a farm scale. Theres an article on Permaculture magazine I came across, interesting work from Rebecca Hosking at Village Farm and a Facebook group called RegenAG UK that I’ve been following for more ideas.
Of course we can’t have a blog on here at the moment without mentioning THE BEES. Yes I’m on about bees AGAIN. Today with Dave we opened up hives for their first inspection of the year and found all was well.
So click on the gallery below for some more smashing photos of our day out on the farm from Axel Minet: