The Roof of the World

The roof of the world, or rather the roof of our double span polytunnel after a night of heavy snow and drifting. Just dug the gutter clean and now I will have to scoop and carry what feels like tons of snow of the plastic to the ends to prevent the tunnel from collapsing. A regular winter activity but this year there seemed to be no end of it. Plenty of snowmiles this year.

Implements on the Move

Lembas Organics cultivatorThis steerage cultivator, fabricated by very local blacksmith Johannes van Midden seen on the forklift, and a few other tractor implements are being shipped to a local colleague. We do not really have the amount and the quality of land and staff to grow the range of outdoor crops we would like to offer you. Hopefully these implements will find a better home and more local produce will come on the market. We will keep on producing veg from 1/4 acre of polytunnels which seems to get a bit easier each year. Touch wood.

Filling Up and Feeling Good

Filling up with BiodieselWe are switching all our vehicles over to biodiesel. And along with buying our electricity from windfarms and heating our house with wood, it feels good to be part of creating a post-fossil fuel world. It means for me realising some ideals I already had as a youngster when these type of ideals along with recycling and growing food without artificial fertilisers and toxic sprays were dismissed as pipedreams. There is still a long way to go but I find the progress these last few years quite exhilarating. Hurrah for change!

Strawberry Time

Strawberry TimeWe aim to have strawberries from end of May untill August. This works for our shop but due to quantities being very irregular we have only strawberries available at times for our other customers.

The first half of the season we have strawberries under cover, during the end of June and July we pick strawberries outside.

The costs of using the tunnels and of high number of plants we use and the picking is high and although the strawberries are not cheap it is not our best earning crop but possibly the most popular. The berries certainly are very nice, which must be due to the plants growing in the soil and getting everything they need.

Conventional berries look the job but fertilizers and fungicides are used very intensively and I would not be surprised if these berries are missing some mineral or other which makes strawberries a healthy food and of course I do not trust chemical residues at all.

But having said that I hope for nice weather for our outside crop so we can offer you some nice strawberries and I won't have to look at our fruit moulding away which is a real risk with organic berries outside.

Radishes and lettuces

Raddishes and LettucesRadishes are one of our fast growing spring crops. The first December sowing is usually ready late March and we now grow about 100 bunches a week for two months only. Radishes are followed in this tunnel by little gem lettuces on the right. Radishes are actually not all that easy to grow, carefull watering is very important to prevent slug damage, splitting and roots getting hollow. For these early crops we choose a short top radish which does not grow enormous leaves. A neat green top makes a radish more presentable.

Building Program Completed

Shed buildingOver the last ten years we have build ten sheds and ten polytunnels and we had one house built.

This last shed, for storing tractor and implements and the like, is a bit of a mile stone as  this marks the end of our building programme as far as the business is concerned. We are now adequately equiped for packing and storage of fresh produce, for producing eggs and growing vegetables. The latter the only area of our work where we are still struggling to make a profit as the market for our type vegetables is still very small and we are still finding out what is wanted and what we can produce for an affordable price. Very tricky.

We are now looking to see what we can do to come towards the need for sustainable affordable housing for our staff.

Very tricky as well.

Real Spinach

I Yam What I YamOn the picture you see real spinach in various stages of growth. We hope to have spinach available the whole of March/April. During most of the  year we grow leafbeet which we offer as spinach. Leafbeet is more related to beetroot then to real spinach but is the more reliable cropper as it does not run to seed as quickly as real spinach does. Leafbeet is also good as a cut and come again crop. Real spinach, however, grows better during the winter and this crop on the picture has been sown during October/November and harvesting has started end of February. On the t-shirt it says I yam what I yam. Should you be yamming? Plenty spinach available at the moment.

Lambs Lettuce

Lambs LettuceOn the picture for the first time ever: overwintered lambs lettuce. Normally we have lambs lettuce available in Autumn only. It is risky to let it overwinter in the tunnels but we planted this crop in wide spacings instead of sowing it in dense rows like we normally do and it seems to have paid off. Lambs lettuce is the better tasting winter salad and a good locally grown alternative to imported lettuce.

 

Pruning Days

Long pruningThe first thing we did when we moved here ten years ago was planting hedges and windbrakes. About 1500 hawthorn and small trees on our 1 hectare plot. The hedges do need pruning, however, to avoid them getting too big and competing with our crops for light, water and nutrients. Also some of the small trees have already been coppiced and supplied our first very small batch of firewood.

On the picture, Pete is pruning one of our field boundary hedges. Taking large chunks out of the hedge like here on the picture is called long pruning, opposed to short pruning or clipping like with normal 'formal' hedges. Long pruning only needs doing every other year and allows the plants to grow out naturally and bear flowers and fruit. Clipping is best done twice or more a year.

Local Grown Winter Salad Available

Paul and a polytunnel full of purslaneDue to high transport costs and the weak pound, french lettuce which we have had on offer the last few winters has become terribly expensive. Hence the slightly cheaper but smaller dutch lettuce on offer.

We have also sown more winter purslane this year. Purslane grows like a weed and is frost hardy and bursting with vitamin C - deal for a local winter salad green. Worth a try I think. We hope purslane will be available till our first lettuces come on stream again which means that we will manage making local salad greens available right throughout the year.

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