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.
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.
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.
Paul has been volunteering with us for 5 months. He helps with farm maintenance such as fencing, cutting the grass, cutting weeds back and painting. He’s recently done a great job painting our vegetable stall, guinea pig run and the front gate.
Paul says volunteering on the farm has really helped his peace of mind. He much prefers to be out in the fresh air and he likes to have a job that he can see makes a difference. For example he loves it when he can see people enjoying Community Orchard after he’s cut the grass. It’s important to him to be able to a job that he can work of from start to finish.
Paul loves volunteering at the farm as it’s a nice place to come and visit and he can see life carryng on all around him.
Andrew has been volunteering on the farm twice a week for 8 years! He loves coming, and turns up whatever the weather, rain or shine.
His favourite jobs are collecting the eggs, refilling the poultry drinkers and giving the chickens their corn.
Today Andrew was collecting windfalls for the pigs. We have Gloucester Old Spot pigs – another name for them is Orchard Pigs as they used to be kept in the apple orchards that were once very common in the west country.
Andrew is also branching out and volunteering in our Community Cafe at weekends. He likes working there as it is very different from the farm – he has to dress smartly and stay nice and clean.
Andrew used the farm’s tablet to take some pictures of his favourite animals.
Michelle and Scott have been working hard redesigning and reorganising our vegetable gardens. They began by taking apart a few of the old raised beds, saving the soil and giving all the weeds to the chickens. Afterwards they laid membrane down to help supress weeds and stop them growing up into the beds. This works as most weed seeds need light to germinate, this is why they grow on disturbed soil.
They then rebuilt the sides of the raised beds, using new wood and refilled them with the soil, plus some extra well rotted manure. This provides nutrients for the growing plants. Soon – as the soil warms up and spring gets underway, they will sow some vegetables.
Well done Michelle and Scott – we will look forward to lots of delicious vegetables.
Scott and Richard getting the wood for the raised beds