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WILLOW FARM

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CAMBRIDGE

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Hello , I am Paul , founder of Waterland Organics. For over 20 years now I have been growing organically in the Cambridgeshire Fens .  The journey has been long but has not finished . Hopefully , this blog will give you an insight into what do and the place where we do it ; It's grimness and its equisite beauty

By pauljonathan, Jul 25 2013 10:24PM

Here are a couple of pictures of the kit we use to irrigate the crops . The blue thing is a pump , based on an old combine engine , the red thing is a reel irrigator that reels itself in using water pressure and the nozzley thing is the thing the water sprays out from. Now the rains have come it has saved a lot of work .....and diesel.

By pauljonathan, Jun 2 2013 07:50PM

Milly the lamb has been on a visit to the hens to say 'hello' and will soon be spending time with other animals on the farm

By pauljonathan, May 27 2013 05:17PM

Here are some pics of the Henshare hens . Thank you to all of you that subscribed . The hens are laying eggs of a decent size and if you subscribed you should be already enjoying your tasty eggs or about to do so . I hope you can see that they have plenty of space to roam and they do like a bit of a wander . We hope to open another Henshare scheme shortly as we would like to double our flock . At present all the eggs are being sold to people in and around Cambridge . This goies to show that individuals working together can make a difference to the availablity of local food . It just takes imagination and a bit of effort. Thanks again to all those who helped . Paul. Use link to see video of the little fellas.

By pauljonathan, May 13 2013 08:35PM

Reach Fair has come and gone and for me and my growing year , it is a comma in the growing season , a time for a quick breath before continuing with the tasks of the season . Reach Fair is now held on the May bank holiday but when I was a child , it was held on the Monday after Rogationtide . Rogation is a time of blessing the newly planted crops, well wheat , beet , barley and potatoes anyway. When I was growing up I was a serving boy in the local church. We would have to traipse over to a farmer’s field in full regalia and bless a farmer’s crop . Funny thing was that it was always the same farmer , no other farmer got a look in . Which I thought was pretty unfair . I know it was probably a symbolic blessing and when this particular farmers crops were blessed it was meant not just for his winter wheat but for every other farmers field in Reach Parish …. It just didn’t feel like it . As a young farmer I was often giving the job of doing a reading on such occasions and as I grew vegetables, therefore a grower, felt that the planting job for me had really only just begun. So on Reach Fair day when all the local farmers were sinking a few pints and looking forward to a summer of doing very little apart from a bit of spraying and fertiliser spreading, us horticulturalists were just having a brief rest before the real work began . Of course , come wheat harvest when they have got to do a proper day’s work , you don’t hear the end of it. But for them that is a long way off . Endless days stretch ahead of them ; days of sweeping out the barn , then having a bit of a breather before coming up with the novel idea of sweeping it out again .Then as June heads into July they might grease up the combine and put a bit of diesel in it . It sounds like I am having a go at farmers and I am . It is deep seated .It is something pounded into you at Agricultural college or as we liked to call it Horticultural college . I went to Writtle Agricultural College and many of my fellow horticulturalists would insist that their friends and family sent their letters addressed to Writtle Horticultural College . Football games against Ags were usually vicious affairs where fights were not uncomon . If you were serving at the college bar you charged ags double and Horts only half the cost . Bar games were another flash point . We had the best women arm wrestlers but ags could eat a tin of Chappie faster than any of us .These games were highly competitive ; my mate Andy could drink a pint of baked beans in under seven seconds , a record I have yet to see anyone equal , let alone beat . That all said , I have many farming friends who often tell me that what I do ‘is a hard way to make a living.’ I often think what they do is a boring way to make a living . We do have much in common and farmers like growers have a love hate relationship with the weather , are fiercely independent , love working outside and wouldn’t and couldn’t do anything else .

Anyway , I digress . For us growers, parsnips , potatoes , onions , carrots , lettuce , broad beans, beetroot , some lettuce , some brassicas and some peas have been sown and much is up . We now have to sow sweetcorn , squash , courgettes , french beans , fennel , more carrots, more lettuces etc etc etc . I am not a farmer , I am a farmers son and I will keep on being horticultural til all the growings done .


Footnote.

Farmer ; also known as agriculturalist or ag .Does the same sort of thing as a grower but rarely leaves his tractor seat or the comfort of his tractor cab.He grows things but not as many different things as a grower.

Grower : Horticulturalist or Hort . Grows many different interesting crops


By pauljonathan, May 5 2013 05:37PM

Well , Oh my word . What a day we had on Saturday . The weather forecast had , like the weather been changeable all week . ‘It’s gonna rain lunchtime.’ It said . So we limited the numbers of cropsharers to make sure that all could fit in the warm farmhouse kitchen at lunchtime . Then it changed its mind and said ‘You know , right , that we said it was gonna rain , well now it aint .’ Great! I thought more people can come out and we will get loads done . Maybe the onions and the beans and maybe a start on the parsnips . We will sow French beans as well as courgettes and maybe mend a fence or two . So , I contacted the Cropshare Centre of Operations and told them to round up some more cropsharers as the weather forecast had changed and we will be to party in the garden rather than the kitchen . Saturday morning came . It was cloudy but that was OK . Checked out the weather forecast for the day .... ‘Well mate , you know we sorter said it was gonna be dry , well it aint . It gonna rain , it gonna blow ... hard but the wind will drop long enough for it to rain .

The morning wasn’t too bad, first thing . Caulis , cabbages and calabrese were planted , lambs were patted , beans sown . Then the sun disappeared completely . The wind got up . I handed out my spare coats to all and sundry to keep their rapidly cooling bodies warm . I then handed out new potato sacks , then old potato sacks and finally some were seen rubbing tractor grease into their increasingly bluing flesh . Luckily it warmed up just enough for us to have lunch outside . People turning their shaking bodies to weak rays of sunshine . Furniture was then set on fire and Cropsharers warmed up enough to get their their muscles moving enough to move the snowdrifts and find the hoes . Work continued for an hour in conditions of deteriorating visibility . Eventually as the heavens opened and all were soaked the surviving members of the work party headed to the warmth of the kitchen for tea, scones and a dry down with a warm furry sheep dog .



By pauljonathan, Apr 21 2013 03:11PM

Cropshare day on Saturday went well . Another planting of broad beans went , some strawberries and the final onion sets . As the moon was in the constellation of Leo , it was a good time to plant fruiting crops so hopefully this will bode well for the beans and strawberries . The overwintering onions were hoed as were the beans , rootstocks and garlic . The beans should particularly benefit from this as any work done on a fruiting crop when the moon is in a favourable constellation will help it along . Despite such a poor start to t year we have achieved much . Carrots , parsnips and early Spring plantings of broad beans are now emerging .The garlic has recovered from the persistent rabbit damage . All the main Spring crops have been sown and this has been helped my much of the soil being cultivated down to a seedbed with just a shallow ploughing and a roll or two with the Cambridge roll. One of my biggest worries had been the land coming out of grass clover leys . Ideally these would have been cultivated in the late Summer early Autumn and sown with vetch and grazing rye . This would have then been easily ploughed in when Spring arrived . Unfortunately due to the wet Autumn this job was never done . SO this Spring I have had to break down the large turves of ley into pieces small enough to enable a tilth to be produced suitable for sowing . Repeated cultivations and double ploughing at different depths has worked and planting has not been hindered too much by the odd unbroken turves . In this task we have been aided by strong drying winds and frost .In fact making a point of cultivating on a frosty morning , letting nature help you . This looking at the day and seeing what job best suits it , is much less stressful than having alist of tasks that MUST be done on a particular day ; it’s a Taoist form of farming , going with the flow. The job could have been aided by repeated rotavating of the soil but the rotavator is the work of the devil and give you short term gains for long term loss of your soil’s soul and structure . The action of the rotavator causes a hard pan around a foot down that roots cannot penetrate. It also knocks the soil down to its very grains and so produces a soil that will easily slump into a close packed medium with no air pockets and a soil that will easily blow away on a windy day .

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