A sunny January Saturday on the farm!

We had a beautiful day of sunshine last Saturday for our weekly members’ working party, and we had a great time while getting lots of work done right at the beginning of the new growing season… there is still time to join us if you would like to enjoy fresh vegetables from The Oak Tree Farm this year!

Lucy and Ann busy pricking out early salad crops to be planted out in the polytunnel in the weeks to come.

Lucy and Ann busy pricking out early salad crops to be planted out in the polytunnel in the weeks to come.

Jackie and Steve preparing the fence to move the chickens into.

Jackie and Steve preparing the fence to move the chickens into.

Max the cat hard at work

Max the cat hard at work

Remember young Leon?

Remember young Leon last summer? Photo credit Jonathan Cherry

Now Leon is hard at work along with the grown-ups!

Now Leon is hard at work along with the grown-ups!

Max and Leon sharing a moment together.

Max and Leon sharing a moment together.

Lots of members took advantage of the sunshine to cycle to the farm.

Lots of members took advantage of the sunshine to cycle to the farm.

Kevin did sterling work getting the rather damp wood to boil our kettle...

Kevin did sterling work getting the rather damp wood to boil our kettle…

Ann letting everyone know its teatime...

Ann letting everyone know its teatime…

Enjoying a well earned cup of tea in the January sunshine.

Enjoying a well earned cup of tea in the January sunshine.

And look at all the work we got done! Many hands make light work...

And look at all the work we got done! Many hands make light work…

 

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The farm on a frosty morning…

Arriving at the gate early yesterday morning was a beautiful sight, a stark frosty farm under a bright, threatening sky!

Early winter's morning at the farm

Early winter’s morning at the farm

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But regardless of the season or weather, once the animals are fed, it is time to clean up the veg packing table and start work….

A clean and tidy veg packing table, ready for the harvest!

A clean and tidy veg packing table, ready for the harvest!

In this weather I wear two pairs of sock, a pair of leggings, a pair of trousers (never jeans, in case of rain) a pair of tights and fleecy welly liners!

Beautiful winter salad leaves! Baby spinach, baby kale, beetroot leaves, lettuce leaves and wild rocket...

Beautiful winter salad leaves! Baby spinach, baby kale, beetroot leaves, lettuce leaves and wild rocket…

And at the end of the day, each of our veg share CSA members has a box of winter vegetables to collect!

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Third veg share box of January 2015

In the veg share boxes this week:

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- two leeks

- 350g carrots

- 350g parsnips

- 70g salad leaves

- 700g Crown Prince squash

- 1kg cabbage (or later in the week it will be Brussels sprouts)

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Oxford Real Farming Conference 2015

Last week Joanne and Richard went to the Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC), a gathering of the smaller and nimbler people in farming, while the barley barons and big cheeses were down the road at the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC), talking about big tractors and probably GM .

Joanne summing up her experiences of the ORFC at the final plenary

Joanne summing up her experiences of the ORFC at the final plenary

Joanne talked about the low-carbon aspects of the Oak Tree, not just in terms of our carbon inputs but also about sequestering carbon in the soil. In a second session with the Landworkers Alliance on appropriate technology we talked about some of the remote monitoring and cameras we use on the Oak Tree. Here is a clip of her summing up at the final plenary session, reflecting the energy and excitement about the ORFC.

In contrast to the good people at the OFC who knew size matters, here at the ORFC most people knew that they didn’t know all the answers at all, but were avidly engaged in the business of finding out and sharing skills and discoveries.

The ORFC was much bigger this time than it has been in past years, indeed Colin Tudge (who inspired the conference about six years ago) was able to report that the ORFC was larger than the OFC this year. The ORFC was held in the baroque Oxford Town Hall, with its reminders of earlier times when people were a little more aware about where their food came from, with the foliate heads and sheaves of corn celebrating the fecundity of the land.

foliate heads and sheaves of corn in the plasterwork

foliate heads and sheaves of corn in the plasterwork

One of the apparent highlights of the OFC, however, was a humdinger of a speech by George Monbiot, who contrasted the actions of the Coalition at capping individual benefits at £26,000 p.a. while at the same time electing not to impose a cap of ten times that much on farm Basic Payments (farm subsidies ultimately paid for by the consumer or taxpayer) in England.The fundamental question he asked was

“What do the rest of us 99.7% who do not farm receive in return for farm subsidy?”

Those who benefited the most were already the richest people in society, he argued, as he examined and dismissed the justifications given for subsidy, including food security and environmental benefits.

The £3billion spent on farm subsidy in the UK equated to £245 a year per household, he pointed out.

“There are some very, very rich people receiving an awful lot of money every year, sometimes into the millions.”

It was a barnstorming speech, and you can see it below.

George Monbiot from Oxford Farming Conference on Vimeo.

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Second week of January Veg Share Box

Vegbox_9_1_2015

In the veg share boxes this week:

  • About 800g Crown Prince Squash
  • 350g carrots
  • 350g parsnips
  • 50g salad leaves
  • 2 leeks
  • 600g Brussels sprouts
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Spiced Roast Parsnip Soup, recommended by Ruth

Spicy Parsnip Soup

Spiced Roast Parsnip Soup

This recipe was kindly provided by Ruth. Thank You!

“This is a very simple recipe: chop, mix, roast, and blend! And the result is yummy. I love the cumin seeds added at the end. Ooops, I just realised I needed to add lemon juice. Well, I will have to try it again then :-). It will definitely become a favourite here.” Nadia

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seed, plus extra to garnish
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 large onion, cut into 8 chunks
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 675g parsnips, diced
  • 2 plum tomatoes, quartered
  • 1.2l vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the oil and spices. Add the vegetables and mix well.
  3. Spread over a heavy baking sheet, then roast for 30 mins until tender.
  4. Spoon into a food processor or liquidiser with half the stock and process until smooth.
  5. Pour into a pan with the remaining stock, season, then heat until barely simmering.
  6. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Garnish with cumin seeds.
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Tom’s Sauerkraut recipe

Sauerkraut recipe

“When life deals you cabbages, make sauerkraut!

Sauerkraut is not a pickled or brined preserve but a fermented product which has many health benefits. Vitamins B and C and lots of food enzymes and ‘friendly bacteria’. But the best thing is that it’s the easiest fermented food to make, and more importantly it is a great way to use up excess cabbages.”, Tom

Ingredients:

  • 1 cabbage
  • 1 tbsp salt (the posh stuff if you’ve got it)
  • Large glass jar (a kilner jar is best)

Method:

  1. Take one cabbage, remove a few outer leaves at your discretion, wash off any dirt, core and chop as finely as possible (a mini chopper is a great tool for the job as I’ve just discovered!)
  2. Add 1tbsp salt per medium to large cabbage, and squeeze, squash etc. with your hands in a large bowl. Add some caraway seeds or cumin seeds for added interest if you have any.
  3. After 10 mins or so it will become quite wet – put it into your glass jar and find an ingenious way of keeping the cabbage submerged, I put a jam jar in to squash the cabbage down (see pic). Cover loosely but if using a Kilner jar it’s best not to clamp it shut at this stage as this may inhibit the fermentation.
  4. Leave for at least 1 month but up to 6 months! Will keep after this in the fridge for up to a year.
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The Oak Tree Christmas Party!

Thanks to everyone who came along to the joint Oak Tree Farm and Ipswich Ripple Food Coop Christmas Party. It was delightfully appropriate to share our festive celebrations with Ripple (as the coop is affectionately known) as it was there that I sold the very first vegetables from The Oak Tree Farm (this is when our Community Supported Agriculture Scheme was just a twinkle in the Transition Ipswich Food Group’s eye).

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Help save a local Rushmere-St-Andrew smallholding!!!!

Message to all in Rushmere-St-Andrew and East Ipswich: If you can possibly spare half an hour on Thursday at 1pm please show your support for a neighbouring ecological small holding.

Suffolk Coastal District Council is set to take a decision on whether or not to plonk a whole load of “Executive Homes” on one of the few truly fertile and tree-covered plots of land in Rushmere-St-Andrew. It is the woody plot immediately opposite the big stone church in Rushmere (not the Baptist Church close to The Oak Tree) : please meet there just before 1pm on Thursday 11th December 2014.

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Everything we are working towards at The Oak Tree Farm has been happening on that plot  for decades. I grew up eating vegetables from the plot, and a visit to the site was a huge help when  I first set up The Oak Tree! The local community has been planting trees on the holding, trees that are the size that our trees will be in thirty years time or more – and almost all of them would be cut down to make way for housing!

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When we meet photos will be taken for the East Anglian Daily Times so we will really have a chance to show how important local ecological growing is to us all!

 

 

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Harvesting towards the end of November

I confess that yesterday morning, having seen the weather forecast of day-long rain and typical November temperatures, I wasn’t really looking forward to harvesting. But here at The Oak Tree we harvest right through the year unless the ground actually freezes solid, so off to the farm I went regardless. Actually so long as we have a bit off forewarning before the ground freezes solid, even then we prepare boxes of heeled in leeks and (briefly!) root cellared roots, Brussels sprouts on the stalk etc, for members of our Community Supported Agriculture Scheme.

But shortly after arriving at the farm yesterday, along came farm member John to help with the harvest, in a cheery mood, as always. For the thousandth time I reflected on what an extraordinary thing it is to run a farm with the help of our members, and how incredibly committed and enthusiastic those members can be. The prospect of a rather grim and lonely day was transformed into a day of shared purpose and amusing banter! Another hardy member, Adrian, joined us later in the day, and moving the cows became a lighted hearted joint adventure, rather than damp chore. Another example of the joy of being a free range human…. something I talked about when in ponderous mood three years ago here on this very blog

I take great pride in producing little bags of salad leaves at this time of year as they seem like such an unlikely crop in November.

salad

Our salad leaf current bags, included in this week’s otherwise wintery veg share box, consist of baby kale leaves (surprisingly tasty, and I don’t even particularly like kale!), multicoloured lettuce leaves, wild rocket, baby spinach leaves and baby beet leaves. They take absolutely ages to harvest. I mean hours. We don’t do them every week, and indeed a good solid frost along with darker days as we slide into December, may soon make them impossible rather than just plain laborious, but somehow is seems miraculous to produce fresh salad on an indescribably gloomy damp day.

Even with John and Adrian’s help, we were harevsting late, using the last of our night vision to gather the veg, before switching on our 12v solar charged lighting to pack the boxes.

Last night the sky was overcast, but Monday was a beautiful day, and while doing the evening check of the animals, I took this on my phone (sorry about the image quality – shame you can’t see the crescent moon properly).

sunset

 

 

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