Braised fennel with wine and honey, by Brian

Ingredients:

  • 4 Fennel Bulbs,trimmed and quartered.
  • 1/4 cup olive Oil
  • 1/2cup chicken or vegetable Stock.
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed or Dijon mustard.
  • Salt & pepper to taste.

Method:

  1. Place the fennel quarters in large deep skillet with the centers facing up.
  2. Drizzle with olive oil then pour in the chicken/vegetable stock honey and wine. Season with mustard seeds or the Dijon mustard, salt & pepper.
  3. Cover and cook over low heat for 45 minutes turning occasionally.

Enjoy!

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Courgette and cheddar cheese muffins, by Rebecca

Courgette and cheddar cheese muffins (by Rebecca)

This recipe is from Tesco Real Food website which has been adapted by Rebecca to be gluten free and FODMAP friendly (FODMAP is a dietary therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), check it out here).

“They are really delicious so thought maybe a good one for the Oak Tree recipes”, said Rebecca.

Ingredient:

  • 50g each buckwheat, rice and tapioca flours
  • 75g oats
  • 1½tsp mustard powder
  • 3tsp baking powder
  • ½tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 1/4 tsp xanthum gum
  • 200g courgette, grated
  • 150g strong cheddar cheese, grated
  • 75ml oat milk
  • 1 egg
  • 5tbsp olive oil
  • Little black pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas 4, 180°C, 350°F.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients, add the grated courgette and cheese – reserve a little of these two for the topping.
  3. Whisk the milk, egg and vegetable oil, add to the bowl and mix all together.
  4. Spoon into 6 large silicone or paper muffin cases, top with an olive, a strip of red pepper plus some grated courgette and cheese.
  5. Place in the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Serve.

Enjoy your muffins!

Read the original recipe on Tesco website.

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An important new book: Unlikely Heroes by Walter Lewis

When I first picked up my copy of Walter Lewis’s book “Unlikely Heroes” I got the impression of a coffee table book of photos, albeit a particularly beautiful and interesting one.

But I was wrong, it is far more than that. Yes, the photographs are incredible and insightful. Vainly I leafed through to find my portrait on page 147, and thought to myself, “Joanne, you look in a state”. But on reflection, I realised that he had captured an often hidden a side of The Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm perfectly. While our farm is (in my humble opinion) a beautiful and amazing place, it can also be the harshest environment and most difficult job  have ever done. I can look and feel in a right state: Walter captured this in his photo of me, and it made me think – he has captured the heart of the issues we face.

Curiosity and ego aside, I looked through the book more closely and found real portraits of a network of new farms across the UK trying to do something similar to us. This is the tour I have often wanted to make, but never been able to do due to lack of time and money. Some of the people I know, many I don’t: the book is the most immediate and intimate portrait of the reality of these “Unlikely Heroes” that I can imagine.

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Picture Credit: Walter Lewis

It is hard to look away from the captivating photos to read the text, but it is well worth making the effort. No less distinguished an author than Colin Tudge (one of my personal heroes himself!) wrote the forward, and Stephen Devlin’s essay of introduction cuts to the core of the issues we all face.

“Unlikely Heroes” is a book to keep and treasure, to read over a hot drink at the end of a day on the farm, or really for anyone interested in the reality of our modern food system and wider issues such as wildlife and climate change. Isn’t that pretty much everyone?

To find out more and buy your copy please visit the Feeding Body and Soul website.

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Results of our members’ veg survey!

Here are the results of this year’s Oak Tree Farm members’ veg survey – which I use to help choose the crops we’ll grow this year! Just Click the link below….

veg-survey-results-jan-2017

Sept Week3 2015

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Winter Solstice thoughts 2016

The time leading up to the shortest day and longest night, the winter solstice (21st December this year) is a special time for me as it feels as if the world is slowing down, and there is a unique peace that is hard imagine at midsummer. Farm veg crops grow only very slowly and I suffer from what fellow grower John tactfully terms “winterbrain” – a sometimes shocking mental slowness that can only be countered with a fair bit of strong coffee (which I have just drunk, so you can risk reading on!)

The winter solstice fire on the farm in 2015.

The winter solstice fire on the farm in 2015, which members enjoyed with hot drinks and shared food.

Traditionally this was a time of fire festivals, and you could argue that Christmas keeps some elements of this with lights and candles. I have no wish to promote a particular spiritual outlook: regardless of our beliefs, I think we all need to be reminded of the promise of the return of the lighter, warmer, drier days. For now I simply want to step back from all the rush and excitement of the last year, and reflect a bit on where we are, and where we are going.

Farm members Katie and Stella looking festive at the farm Christmas party!

Farm members Katie and Stella looking festive at the farm Christmas party!

2016 has been a busy and productive year. Grower John and I were grateful for the stability that the sucess of our 2015 “Save the Oak Tree” campaign gave us, and I have taken the opportunity to work to consolidate the future of the farm. Much of this is “work in progress”, but now is  good time to share where I have got to, and what I am hoping to achieve in the future.

The farm is still losing money, and struggles to retain younger growers as the pay is low, and the work is hard. John and I are self employed earning the equivalent of the minimum wage for a 40 hour week, pro rata three days a week in John’s case, though we work longer than this, particularly in the Spring and Summer – often considerably longer, though this time of year offers some respite. John and I can afford to do this as we have paid our mortgages off, but I fear the farm would need to make more money to retain younger growers.

We have enough money in the farm bank account (thanks to the “Save the Oak Tree” campaign) to keep going as we are until early 2018 so long as we don’t suffer major equipment failure or something similar – by early 2018 we need to be bringing more money in. We are a not for profit social enterprise, but we do need to balance the accounts. We plan to do this in a number of ways, and we’ll keep you updated on how all these plans develop in the months to come:

  1. We plan to raise funds to buy a four wheeled tractor to create low-till permanent veg beds to improve our crop yields while reducing the workload.
  2. We plan to offer a traineeship over the summer months of 2017 to someone who is committed to working in ecological farming – we will recruit nationally to find someone with ideas and enthusiasm, and who is used to hard work on the farm.
  3. We are just on the point of submitting a planning application for our Farm Community Cafe and Training Centre to provide facilities both for members and for wider visitors to the farm. We should get a formal response from the planning authority within two months. Very many thanks to the Big Lottery Fund for supporting the work to get us to this stage!
  4. I am at a very early stage of discussions with the Ecological Land Coop about the possibility of transferring the farm’s land to community ownership to secure the future of the farm (I own the land, and its value is my pension).
  5. Richard and I plan to continue our work using Elaine Ingham’s soil biology improvement techniques, documented on our new website Green Mantle, with a view to further improving the productivity of the farm.
  6. We plan to offer “pick your own” flowers for DIY wedding in 2017. If you know a practical, down to earth bride or bride groom who would like to enjoy beautiful low carbon flowers for a reasonable price in 2017 then please do encourage them to sign up for our occasional email newsletter for updates.
  7. We shall continue to develop our fruit venture following enjoying our first saleable harvest this year.
  8. We are at at early stage of an application to the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation (who have generously supported our work in the past) for some funding to help us with 2, 4 and 5 above, along with general support with our running costs. No guarantees at this stage.
The latest 3D image of the proposed farm community cafe and training centre

The latest 3D image of the proposed Farm Community Cafe and Training Centre – lower and timber clad following community & planning consultation

So, in the background, alongside all the harvesting, growing, animal case and community fun, I am working away to secure an ever brighter and busier future for our community ecological farm which punches above its 12 acres weight! While there are no guarantees, and we remain as reliant on the support of our wonderful community of members as ever, I am excited about the future. We’re still looking out for our appearance on BBC TV’s “Escape to the Country” filmed earlier this year…

 

 

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The Brewery Tap Oak Tree Special Dinner 24th November 2014

Happy memories from last Thursdays’ Oak Tree Special Dinner at The Brewery Tap !

Never have Oak Tree ingredients tasted so good!  It was, in all honesty, the best meal I have ever eaten, and I worked away from home, living in hotels and eating out, in France, for years!

Many, many thanks to Mike Keen and his team of fellow chefs for an enormously enjoyable evening!

The best nettle soup I have ever tasted!

To begin: the best nettle soup I have ever tasted!

Amazing air dried ham to start...

Amazing air dried ham to follow …

ham

I have actually dreamed about this stuff since!

Very happy dinners!

Very happy dinners!

Chicken tacos made from retired egg laying "boiling fowl"

Chicken tacos made from (retired egg-laying) “boiling fowl” – really tasty

brisket

Delicious Brisket!

Some dishes don’t feature here as we were too busy enjoying the meal….

 

img_20161124_204605778

To finish, the only dish of the evening that caused some debate - green tomato ice cream and green tomato chutney - opinions were divided, bu I _loved_ it!

To finish, the only dish of the evening that caused some debate – green tomato ice cream and green tomato chutney – opinions were divided, but I _loved_ it!

happydinerstoo

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Incredible. A draft menu from ingredients overnight!

Incredible. I only told Mike Keen of The Brewery Tap yesterday exactly what the veg we’d supply and he has already come up with a draft menu!!! Truly, the man is a food improvisation genius….

Delivering veg to Brewery Tap

Delivering (just some of the) veg to Brewery Tap

Drum roll please for the draft menu for this evening’s Brewery Tap Special Oak Tree Dinner (click the link at the bottom for details of how to find out if they still have any spaces left….)

Nettle shots, nettle parmesan crisp

Airdried ham, thyme scented speck, brushetta

Shredded chicken tacos, sour cream greens

Slow cooked Christmas brisket, cheddar spud dumplings

Cheeseburger slider, chips

Sirloin steak, béarnaise sauce

* * *

Mulled cider, toffee apple slices

Apple tarte tatin, custard

Green tomato ice cream, green tomato marmalade

… with mulled cider included!

btlogo_with-words

If you haven’t booked your place you could try seeing if they could squeeze you in – we’ll all be sat round communal tables and celebrating another happy year of ecological, community farming together – members and non-members welcome! See you later 🙂

 

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Kale crisps, by Brian

Kale crisps

Ingredient:

  • A bunch of kale
  • Olive oil or Sesame oil or a mixture of both.
  • Sea salt
  • Toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C/ gas 4.
  2. Line baking tray with baking parchment.
  3. With a a knife or scissors carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and cut or tear into bite size pieces.
  4. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner or kitchen cloth. Place kale into poly bag add some oil and salt and shake well to coat kale.
  5. Place on baking tray and bake until crisp but not burnt. 10 -15 minutes ….
  6. Before serving spread toasted sesame seeds (optional).

Enjoy your crisps!

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A visit to Landews Meadow Farm in Kent

It is always good to visit other farms to learn, as my hero Joel Salatin puts it, you can always learn something from a visit to another farm. Last week Richard and I visited the lovely Nigel and Wendy Griffith at their farm in Kent, Landews Meadow Farm.

Nigel and Wendy Griffith of Landews Meadow Farm.

Nigel and Wendy Griffith of Landews Meadow Farm.

One of our main motivations for visiting was to learn about their work with the methods of Dr Elaine Ingham to make and use compost to improve soil biology. You can read about what we learned about this here on our sister site dedicated to our discoveries about Elaine Ingham’s methods, Green Mantle.

But there is far more to Landews Meadows Farm than the compost heaps, so it would be remiss of me not to share something else of what we learned! This is just a few edited highlights that are particularly relevant to The Oak Tree, do visit their comprehensive web page to find out more

The Landews Meadow Farm pigs enjoy a woodland home, with just a single electric fence wire to keep them in!

The Landews Meadow Farm pigs enjoy a woodland home, with just a single electric fence wire to keep them in!

The Landews Meadow Farm hens enjoy high tech barley that has bee sprouted to increase protein and nutrient content in the low energy, high tech unit made in China - impressive!

The Landews Meadow Farm hens enjoy barley that has been sprouted to increase protein and nutrient content in this low energy, high tech unit made in China – impressive!

The Landews Meadow Farm meat chicken processing unit - a small but perfectly formed container divided into two sections for plucking and gutting.

The Landews Meadow Farm meat chicken processing unit – a small but perfectly formed container divided into two sections for plucking and gutting.

The Landews Meadow Farm cattle are mob grazed to improve the soil, moved regularly onto fairly small areas to mimic the movement of a natural herd of ruminants.

The Landews Meadow Farm cattle are mob grazed to improve the soil, moved regularly onto fairly small areas to mimic the movement of a natural herd of ruminants.

Happy, healthy chickens that follow a few days after the cows a la Polyface Farm

Happy, healthy chickens that follow a few days after the cows a la Polyface Farm

This trough from Kiwitech looks intriguing! Could it work for our pigs? Carrying their water at The Oak Tree is a chore...

This trough from Kiwitech looks intriguing! Could it work for our pigs? Carrying their water at The Oak Tree is a chore…

Once again, Joanne has tractor envy.

Once again, Joanne has tractor envy.

A huge thank you to Nigel and Wendy for welcoming us to their beautiful, innovative and productive farm!

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Great to welcome Ben back to the farm (for a day)

It was a real pleasure to welcome Ben, who worked on the farm last year, and who now runs Frith Farm, back on the farm for a day last week! He has made amazing progress with his own farm and we learned a lot talking about his salad growing and community events at Frith Farm in Hull.

We thought we’d share a few photos, including of Ben helping with making compost extract.

The old team reunited

The old team reunited

Ben joined in the work of the day

Ben joined in the work of the day

Ben helping with making compost extract

Ben helping with making compost extract

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