Investing in Education

1 Jul 2019 | 0 comments

This summer term, we have welcomed three of our local primary schools to the farm for a series of four to six visits to our various enterprises.

They have visited the herb garden to make balms with Alexandra, our soap maker, toured the fields to check with sheep with Jake, our grazier, and met the chicks, the bees and observed the abundant blossom turn to apples in the orchard.

This year, we are growing three fields of heritage barley, sown by Harry from nearby Haye Farm. Our school groups have each adopted three barley plants each, and have been measuring them each week to see how fast they grow. It has been an exercise in patience and understanding the long timescales that farmers work to throughout the year, so easily lost when children visit a farm for a single, one-off session.

We have also spent time enjoying the woods; using all our senses to explore, making dens for ourselves and nests for the birds. This is arguably the most valuable part of the experience for many children; an opportunity to use their imaginations, get their hands dirty, and be free of the structure of the classroom. For some children, it is a practice in spatial awareness and balance; despite growing up in rural East Devon, some of these children only used to walking over tarmac or playing fields, and regularly trip over when first taken to the natural uneven surfaces of the farm and the woods.

We are fortunate that our Higher Level Stewardship agreement with Natural England offers us funding to be able to deliver educational access visits to the farm free of charge. Widening access to nature, learning about where our food comes from and understanding the benefits of the outdoors for our health and wellbeing is at the core of what we do here at Trill Farm, and the energy we invest into it is returned to us a hundred-fold when we hear the happy feedback from smiling faces around the campfire at the end of the last session. Long may it continue!

Mariel runs the farm office and co-ordinates educational visits. With a background in conservation and environmental education, she is passionate about encouraging everyone to connect with nature. 

To enquire about educational visits to Trill Farm, email mariel@trillfarm.co.uk

The Many Layers of Cooking from the Garden

1 Jul 2019 | 0 comments

Within a commercial kitchen, many forms of energy are being used and often wasted.

Gas, electricity, chemical cleaners, food miles and industrially produced ingredients all draw heavily on the world’s resources simply to produce plates of food. These issues are becoming more prevalent as we face up to the current and future challenges for ourselves and the planet. 

The fear and worry that is carried alongside these global concerns also draws energy, and if we concentrate too heavily on this negativity, I feel we could be destined to collapse. There is, of course, another side to all of this and something we often disregard - that is, our own energy to make moments of positive change, bring hope and care to each other, show empathy, and most importantly, open our arms and ask for help if needed. 

For me, the vegetable garden provides a connection between life, care, balance, death, decay and productivity. Trill Farm is a cyclical farm in some ways, there are many interesting efforts in place, using and returning energy into the same system. One of these is the cooperation between the Old Dairy Kitchen and Trill Farm Garden. On the surface, the restaurant buys vegetables from the garden, cooks them and sells plates of food, but if we look a little deeper there is a web of intertwined, complex connections that make for a strong synergy.

Consider, for a start, the mycelium; the hidden mushroom world which holds it all together, helping plants communicate, sharing nutrients and even working together to battle off unwanted disease and sickness. Could this undercover network provide a decent blueprint for us? The willpower of each individual is supported in a balanced and healthy network allowing growth, beauty and contentment. From the kitchen we add to this diversity and balance by returning our unwanted organic matter back to the soil, via the compost heap, helping with a delicious and healthy crop the following season.

There is also a circular economic side within the cooperation; as each enterprise’s productivity increases, so does their neighbour’s. This could be through the ODK buying more vegetables thanks to the garden team promoting a Feast event. Immediately, this means more customers for us, but it could then lead to the ordering of a veg box, which is collected on the Feast, and then those customers may become tempted by the idea of attending one of our courses and so on; a chain effect.

These layers and links go on and on and create a dynamic, well structured, positive energy flowing from kitchen to garden and back again. These exciting partnerships extend throughout Trill Farm. The farm’s overall rhythm has certainly shaped the food we cook and what we offer in the ODK. Our creative energy at this time of year begins to reach its peak due to the variety of ingredients and longer days. This, I feel, is a true and beautiful way to cook, run a business and feed one another, a natural rhythm decided by the summer sunshine and one that we can extend through connectivity, cooperation and opportunity using food and food production as a tool for learning and living well, both locally and globally.

FERMENTED TOMATOES

Makes 1 x 2l Jar

1l water
30g caster sugar
15g salt
2 bay leaves
6 allspice berries
65ml white wine vinegar
1 tbsp sunflower oil
500g large firm but ripe tomatoes
5 sprigs of dill, chopped
50g celery, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves
1 red onions, finely sliced

Bring the water, sugar, salt, bay and allspice berries to the boil in a heavy saucepan. Turn off the heat and allow to infuse and cool completely. Add the vinegar. Quarter the tomatoes.

Sterilise your jars by them washing well in hot soapy water, then place into a cold oven and heat to 150ºC. Leave them in the oven for five minutes, then carefully remove the jars from the oven. Boil the lids in clean water and drain.

Layer up your jars with the tomatoes, sunflower oil, dill, celery and garlic and top with the onion slices.

Pour over the cooled brine and seal the jar. Leave the jars in a warm place, about 25ºC, for ten days and then transfer to the fridge or cool larder. They will store through the winter if kept cool and unopened. Eat within a week once opened. 

Chris Onions runs the Old Dairy Kitchen. He caters for all our events, courses and farm lunches, hosts monthly feast nights, and teaches his own range of courses. olddairykitchen.co.uk 

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

1 Jul 2019 | 0 comments

As midsummer approached, our hay meadows were rich with diverse grasses and wildflowers.

The Sweet Vernal grass has been casting its vanilla-almond scent across the fields in the evening air since the spring.

After lambing at the end of May, we moved our Gotland flock out of their usual field to allow the grass to grow for hay. This is beneficial for the sheep too; they leave the ground where they have spent the winter for fresh pasture, where there is a lower worm load in the soil, protecting the more susceptible lambs.

The grass grows quickly with the sun’s energy and, mercifully, this June’s rain. Last year, the hay harvest was very low after the hot, dry spring and summer. We will cut the hay in July, after the grass and wildflowers have set their seed for next year. After a couple of days drying in the sun, it will be baled up and stored in the barn, ready to provide extra energy to our overwintering lambs and pregnant ewes come the winter, when the grass barely grows and has lower nutritional value in the short, cold days.

As we open up the bales after hefting them over the muddy fields, the hot scent of the Sweet Vernal grass will be released once more, reminding us of those heady days of summer and providing us, as well as the sheep, with energy to see us through the distant, dark days of winter.

Mariel looks after Romy’s flock of Gotland sheep, with the help and advice of Jake Hancock, our grazier. A background in ecology and conservation means that promoting biodiversity is high on her agenda. 

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