Bristol born and
bred, Dave has lived most of his life in Lawrence Weston half a mile from the
farm. He started volunteering at the
farm some four years ago after losing his job at Bristol Zoo, because he wanted
to keep active. He’d been told about the
farm at the local Jobshare office so he walked round, introduced himself and
joined the Gardening Club, which meets every Friday. His first job, he recalls, was helping build
the greenhouse where a lot of our potting work goes on.
Since then Dave
has proved to be a willing and enthusiastic participant. The activities of the gardening Club change
according to the passing seasons and Dave doesn’t mind what job he’s asked to
do. In fact he says he has no time for
people who want to pick and choose. His
father used to grow vegetables in the back garden and Dave liked helping
him. He says he likes growing veg and
loves working in the greenhouse planting seeds, potting on and tending the
plants. But Dave is an all-rounder; he
enjoys the animals, working in the woodland clearing weeds and brambles,
coppicing, pruning, fencing and weaving hurdles, planting trees and splitting
He has also completed two courses at the farm; Woodland Skills and Herbs For Health. Most of all perhaps, Dave enjoys the camaraderie of the Gardening Club. He has become a valued and popular member always ready for a laugh and joke. He says he would miss working at the farm if for any reason he had to stop and I dare say the farm would miss him just as much.
Emma discovered the farm after Googling ‘farms to volunteer at’. She initially came along to the Woodland Skills course and then stayed on as a regular volunteer.
Emma and her husband would like to set up a regenerative agricultural enterprise, such as pastured poultry, which is where a mobile laying flock follows livestock on a rotation around the land. This builds up soil and absorbs a lot of carbon from the atmosphere – both actions are vital to fight climate change and soil loss.
However, first she wanted to get lots of hands on practical experience of livestock and farming. She loves the variety of animals that she gets to work with, and says that there’s so much you’d never know without first hand experience – such as there’s a right and wrong way to slope a nest box roof! (If it slopes the wrong way, chicken poo will go in the nest box).
Emma really enjoys being outside and with people who are interested in farming. Her favourite aspect of volunteering is the variety of jobs and animals, and the camaraderie with the other volunteers. She really values how much time Ian spends with the volunteers and the knowledge he shares with them. She dislikes – nothing!
In the future Emma would also like to learn about bee keeping.
Chelsea and Moya have been volunteering with us since last autumn. They are studying Animal Care Level 2 at SGS College, and come to the farm as their work experience.
They both think that the best thing about volunteering is that they get hands on exprerince with the animals, not just reading about it or watching videos. They feel that it has helped them with their course.
Their favourite jobs are anything to do with the baby animals, and were very pleased to have been here when two of the baby goats were born.
Lee has been volunteering with us since May of this year. He first came to the farm to take part in the Introduction to Volunteering Course, that we run a couple of times a year. Lee was referred by Headway, an organisation based in Frenchay that supports people with brain injuries.
Lee also started coming along to our Walking Group on Wednesdays, he then started volunteering three days a week. Lee is always here bright and early no matter what the weather is like, as he really enjoys getting the animals out in the morning. Lee loves to keep busy and meeting people so volunteering on the farm is very beneficial for him. Working outdoors, with the animals and nature, and being part of a team has greatly improved his wellbeing. Lee says that he ‘loves helping people enjoy their free time.’ Volunteering at the farm has given his life some structure and focus, and the opportunity to meet lots of different people, including those with different needs than him.
Lee’s plans for the future include getting a part time job.
As the year turns, we’re now well and truly in the time of high summer and harvest. This year’s heat and lack of rain means the gardens are very dry so the volunteers have been doing a great deal of watering. Squashes are just starting to ripen and will be on sale from next week. We have potted herbs for sale, sown and grown by the Herbs for Health group. The fruit trees and bushes are fruiting early this year so don’t miss out! Ask staff if you’d like to pick your own.
The two new piglets are now going outside 4 days a week day into the cool forest pig pen; they are enjoying seeing all the visitors.
The new chicken run is a great success there is lots of interest and food for the chickens and squashes and meadow plants growing naturally.
We have a set aside the pig pen near the ducks this year, and it has attracted frogs and toads. This is due to the wild plants such as Mugwort and Goosefoot growing there, creating damp conditions underneath and this has helped them get through this dry time.
Bumble and Honey bees are loving the artichokes and sunflowers.
Honey will be on sale from September.
We have goat meat, sausages and bacon for sale
Looking forward to seeing you all on the 22nd August for the celebration.
Last week we had four Yr10 students here to do their work experience.
The students are from different schools, but had all chosen to come to the farm. Kian likes animals and had worked with horses before, Henial likes animals and is local to the farm. Emma had worked with chickens before and wanted more hands on experience as did Meg.
They all loved everything about working on the farm, being outdoors and working with the animals, and said that they would definitely love to come back. They all felt that volunteering on the farm had improved their confidence and given them practical skills for other areas of their lives.
Their favourite part was the goats. Kian and Henial’s worst part was digging hole, Meg and Emma’s worst part was carrying brambles.
This week Sunday Farm Hands got really experimental with the herbs growing on the farm. Here on of them tells us all about it in their own words……
First we went to the garden to try some herbs. We smelt them and tasted them. I really liked the sage, it was hard and chewy with a flavour I really liked. The herbs we tried were (clockwise from the top) parsley, rosemary, fennel, sage, marjoram and chives. After that we washed them and put them in cups with some beaten egg and popped them in the microwave for about 30 seconds to make mini omelettes . We then put them in two bowls and ate them all up! Sage was still a favourite, but I also really liked the marjoram. Then we took some cuttings from the herbs and took them to the polytunnel and put them in plant pots, to make new plants. We also took some plants home for cooking . After that I filled up some watering cans and watered some plants near the polytunnel. At the end we went to put the guinea pigs and chickens away. I carried a chicken and a guinea pig into the barn.
Katie has been volunteering with us for over 3 years. She first came for work experience whilst studying for her Level 3 in Animal Management. She is now in her final year of a Foundation Degree in Animal Management at Weston College. She also works as an Animal Care Assistant at Animal Farm in Brean.
Katie says that volunteering at the farm helped her get on her Foundation Degree course and helped her get her job, for two reasons. Firstly the farm was able to provide her with a reference, and secondly the experience and confidence she’d gained through coming here really impressed the college and her employers.
She loves volunteering at the farm and especially likes new experiences and making friends, and says there are no worst parts for her. She really loves every day! A few weeks ago, Katie was lucky enough to see Snowy give birth to her kids. She says that was the best birthday present ever!
Paul has been volunteering with us for over 2 years. He was interested in the farm as he wanted to learn how to look after farm animals. He was very pleased to find somewhere to do this, that was local to him.
His favourite part of the farm is the pigs – he loves looking after them.
He also enjoys the fact that every day is different – there are always a few surprises!
His least favourite job is unloading deliveries – particularly the hay and straw deliveries that we get for animal bedding and fodder – he ends up covered in bits of straw.
As a result of his volunteering at the farm, Paul had an apprentiship with ALS Energy Group, learning how to do energy audits of people’s homes, with a view to reducing energy bills.
In the future Paul would like to work on a commercial farm – preferably one with pigs!
Volunteer April has recently carried out a great project with Blaise Weston Court, a local extra care scheme for the elderly. She took an incubator and some eggs to the home, so they could see the chicks as they hatched.
April described what she did – “I used an incubator to imitate a hen sitting on the eggs. It works by rocking the eggs gently over the day and monitoring the humidity which should be ideally between 40-50%. However, temperatures will fluctuate just like they would with a mother hen as she will sit for a
while then walk about, resulting in the eggs getting cooler.”
The project aimed to build a connection with the local elderly home and the farm. “The residents loved it! They spent a lot of time looking at the eggs and checking when they were going to start to hatch. They were very excited when it started to happen.” described April
The project also helped us to discover how fertile our cockerals are, and the new chicks will help us build up our flock.