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Field Notes - News from the Farm

30th October - 5th November 2023

Welcome to News from the Farm. Each week we will be bringing you news from FarmED - what’s happening in the fields and hedgerows, the Cafe and the Conference Barn. Come with us on a one of a kind journey as we ride the natural highs and lows of farming life.

Field Record: What’s been happening on the 107 acres of Honeydale Farm?

Autumn is well and truly upon us here at FarmED as we celebrate the changing of the seasons. This beautiful aerial shot captures the flaming reds and yellows of the trees in all their glory. Did you know that this process is called leaf senescence? It’s why the trees lose their leaves in the autumn, marking the transition from summer to winter. Just like many animals, the trees are hunkering down, suspending their growth and gathering up nutrients until spring. Trees have an intrinsic ‘winter clock’, which means they are able to synchronise their bloom with the seasons.

Heavy rainfall has meant a push to get our autumn-sown crops planted on the sunnier days, including heritage wheat under-sown with white clover, rye and conventional wheat. We have also recently said goodbye to our flock of sheep, who graze here at FarmED for up to 10 months, munching on our herbal leys and forage plants (currently sainfoin and the under-sown clover). We practise something called ‘mob grazing’ with our sheep, which essentially helps us to naturally fertilise the soil and rebuild the soil organic matter. Our flock are moved around the eight-year rotation fields and are left to eat a third, trample a third and leave a third of the grazing crop. This method of grazing means that we can reduce the cost of inputs such as artificial fertilisers. Healthy soil leads to a healthy planet and healthy people!

We’ve also welcomed plenty of wildlife here at Honeydale. Our resident charm of goldfinches have once again found happiness on the farm, feeding on our wild bird seed mix that we dedicate one of our fields to. While it may not be a typical measure of a farm’s success, it’s undoubtedly a sight that’s good for the soul. We are proud to be able to provide a habitat that provides for them in abundance all year. Why not see if you can spot them on your next visit?

We’ve even been lucky enough to spot barn owls feeding on voles in the scrubby grass below our orchard, an encouraging sign that we’re working in harmony with nature. With help and advice from The Wychwood Forest Trust’s Barn Owl Group we have recently installed a brand new barn owl box. Now, we just have to wait to welcome them in…

Garden Treasures: What’s new in the Kitchen Garden?

Plenty of changes are afoot down in the Kitchen Garden as the nights draw in and the air gets colder. Last week the team worked to give our polytunnels a seasonal overhaul, swapping out fruiting crops like tomatoes, french beans and peppers for leafy greens like chard, lettuces and rocket. Keeping these crops in the polytunnels means we can provide our cafe and community with fresh produce all year round. We’ve also been busy harvesting our autumn vegetables, including fennel, celeriac, red kale and cabbage.

Any gardener will tell you that prepping your patch for winter is no mean feat. The last couple of weeks we’ve been sowing our cover crops to stop soil erosion and nutrient loss happening in the cold and wet weather. Our current cover crop, rye and vetch (provided by the brilliant team at Cotswold Seeds) holds the plant roots in place and puts nutrients back into the soil. We cultivate the mindset that what we take from the earth, we should give back.

A couple of weeks ago also marked our annual squash harvest - always an exciting day in our calendar. We had a great turnout of all different ages and managed to harvest just under 800 squash. One of our youngest volunteers, Sami, won the squash count stakes and we all celebrated with well-deserved tea and cake.

Cafe catch-up: What’s been popular this week?

This week our cafe has been busy warmly welcoming in customers from the cold. Our lovely wood-fired pizza oven has been keeping everyone toasty while pumpkin-spiced lattes (made with pumpkins from the farm) have been taking care of our taste buds. Our homemade pumpkin soup has also been very popular, as well as our apple and quince turnovers, made with the fruits from our orchard and local quinces, donated by friends of FarmED. Just the soul-food you need on a cold autumnal day.

The kitchen team has been excited to see new produce from the weekly harvest, setting to work making a whole host of delicious treats for the lunch menu. One of our wonderful cooks, Sharon, has been busy putting together an autumnal salad bowl with our seasonal produce, including a chard and carrot slaw and sauteed leeks. This week will also see a vegan lentil Wellington taking pride of place on the menu, made with celeriac, carrots, thyme and rosemary from the Kitchen Garden, as well as milk from North Cotswold Dairy who supply our milk during the winter months whilst Hallam’s cows are in calf.

Is your mouth watering yet? Why not come down to the cafe to give our menu a try for yourself?

Events recap: What’s on at FarmED?

Last week we welcomed faces old and new to our conference barn. We kicked off with one of our staple courses, Herbal Ley Establishment & Management, run in conjunction with Cotswold Seeds. Speakers included farmer Chris Reming from Lydiard Turkeys, Paul Totterdell and Sam Lane from Cotswold Seeds and FarmED’s founder, Ian Wilkinson. The day was a great success, and despite Storm Ciarán trying to scupper our plans, the wood-burner made sure everything could run smoothly.

We then welcomed bestselling author Rosamund Young for a joyful evening co-hosted with local independent bookshop Jaffe and Neale. We had a great turnout of 60 people and the room was filled with awe, chatter and laughter as we listened eagerly to Rosamund’s tales of her life at Kite’s Nest Farm. The evening saw a relaxed discussion led by Patrick Neale as we celebrated her latest novel, The Wisdom of Sheep. Rosamund will be back at FarmED in May, as a guest speaker at our much-anticipated annual Farm & Food Literature Festival. Tickets are available to buy on our website.

We wrapped up the week with two Friday Farm Walks, one with Pelican Ag, the UK’s first venture fund powering sustainable food systems, and one with an Oxford University Group of students studying for an MSc in Environmental Change and Management. Both groups were fascinating and we enjoyed hearty discussions as well as a delicious lunch in our cafe.

FarmED Reads: A space where we celebrate our bountiful library of literature and tell you what we’ve been loving this week

The Wisdom of Sheep

This week, in light of our evening with author Rosamund Young, we’re celebrating her new novel, The Wisdom of Sheep. From the first page you are taken on a journey deep down into the Cotswolds, to the beautiful setting of Kite’s Nest Farm. Rosamund manages to perfectly capture the pure magic of farming, meandering between amusing anecdotes, heartbreak, and tales of those times when everything doesn’t quite go to plan. We gain an insight into the inner lives of the very farm animals that live around us, from sheep to cows and hens to foxes. Rosamund’s writing is simply meditative - lulling us with the calming forces of nature and a life well-lived. Her book would certainly make a great Christmas present in somebody’s stocking.


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