Autumn Reflections

2 Oct 2019 | 0 comments

Summer passed in a speedy haze and with autumn’s palate well on its way, our attention in the herb garden has already turned to preparing the beds for winter. 

Working on the land, we are confronted with the cycle of the seasons, the growth and decay of life in its raw state, and medicinal herbs can especially attune our minds and bodies to that which nature provides. 

The arduous spring preparation in the herb garden thankfully paid off. New beds were sown, planted and mulched. Some beds were under sown with green manures to suppress weeds, protect soil from the summer sun, improve soil structure and increase organic matter. Any unused beds were sown similarly with buckwheat, phacelia, clovers and radish which gave the garden an added buzz of vitality and colour much to the delight of our insects.

The effect of the green manure meant that we were not delayed in peak summer by weeding; the herbs wanted nothing else but to grow and flourish so all our energy could be put into harvesting and drying. And harvest we did! As I write we are on our 127th herb harvest, all being used in our tea blends, natural beauty products and medicinal remedies, tinctures, and glycerites.

This year has been one of the Hawthorn. Spring’s blossom was exceptionally beautiful and abundant. As we harvested blossom and leaf, a powerful remedy of the heart and circulation, I was reminded to take care and show myself some love over the coming busy months. Indeed, when the chamomile harvest came, it was a time to recall this. Labour intensive, fiddly and with so much to pick, I dreamt I could become a Hindu deity with a multiplicity of arms to get the job done speedily. Thankfully with a constant stream of helpful wwoofers and attendees on Anne McIntyre’s Herbal Medicine course, the pressure was lifted and the job became lighthearted; a reminder that herbs are a great way of slowing down and connecting with others.

Now we have captured the sun’s energy in the summer herbs, we are collecting all the nourishing and strengthening autumn herbs and berries. Just as we prepare the garden for winter, so too must we prepare our internal bodies for the darker light and change of season. With a mass of hips and berries we will be in good stead. Again, the Hawthorn has been a star. The plump haws dot the landscape and are a joy to pick. With all our political uncertainty and unsettling climate worries, this year’s landscape seems to be telling us through the Hawthorn to keep attuned to our heart and connect with others; with nature as our guide I find some hope in this. I have felt extremely fortunate to participate in this land’s abundance and I’m reminded that whatever we seek, nature can truly provide.

Fiona has been nurturing the herb garden and building enviable compost heaps at Trill Farm since March. A woman of many talents, she previously ran a successful organic veg box scheme on her native Guernsey, is an award-winning scyther and occasional spoon carver. 

More Than a Holiday

2 Oct 2019 | 0 comments

Big Leaf Foundation is a small charity working with displaced young people in Surrey. Our aim is to provide a nurturing programme of activities, projects and events that focus on combating social isolation and improving wellbeing for the young people we support. 

For the third year running Romy and the team welcomed us, and a group of young people from the Middle East and Africa, to Trill Farm for our annual summer camp. 

For most of our young people this is their first time outside of an urban environment in the UK. We want them to relax, to take a break from their worries, to eat well, sleep well, experience something new, be outside and have fun. 

Romy and Mariel take care of this side of things for us – creating a packed programme of activities encompassing everything from woodwork, pottery and leatherwork to organic gardening, falconry and equine therapy, with games, music and campfires crammed in between. There’s even a treetop walkway with a zip wire through the woods. 

But the week is more than just the sum of its activities.

It gives our young people space to breathe. The early stages of resettlement can be exhausting and we often hear complaints of head and stomach pains. Some find the herbal teas, grown in Trill Farm’s herb garden, ease their stomach and help them sleep. We have a timetable but no one gets up too early and there is much-needed time to rest.

It provides a much-needed sense of community – everyone is entirely accepted and genuinely welcomed at Trill; it offers a break from isolation and boredom – here there’s always something to do, and someone to do it with, and it’s a chance to improve language skills and further their understanding of life in the UK. 

Something we hear time and again in academic research and through direct experience is this: to be received with respect and kindness, to meet compassion and understanding in the early days of resettlement, and to build a trusted relationship with an adult can make all the difference to the ability of separated children to find their feet and to move forward with a sense of hope for a secure future here.

Our time at Trill Farm is short, but it gives our young people this.

When we look at all the beautiful work produced during the week, we notice the same messages repeated again and again; carved into wood, stamped into leather and etched into pottery. 'Never Give Up', 'Freedom', 'Peace', 'Democracy', 'Justice' and from almost everyone, 'I love you, Mum'. 

On our final day we have lunch on the beach at Seaton... and as we leave M turns to us and says, “This week, I am happy”.

To the fabulous Trill Farm team, there are no words to adequately express our heartfelt thanks for your generosity, patience, humour and compassion. Romy, Mariel, Steve, Julian, Sam, Ash and Kate, Digby and Stan, Chris and Anna, Jonathan, Fiona, Patrick, Sue, Karen, Ali and Rosa, thank you.

Vicki Felgate is a co-founder and trustee of the Big Leaf Foundation, with many years of experience as a teacher and in the charity sector.

My Time at Trill Farm

2 Oct 2019 | 0 comments

Before I came to Trill Farm, I did not really know what to expect. I just knew that I would like to spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of the city and learn as much as I can about nature and farm life.

Now, looking back, I could not have wished for anything better and choosing to come to Trill Farm as a volunteer was the best decision I could have made. My hopes of learning something about nature were definitely exceeded. Not only did I have the opportunity during my daily work as a volunteer to learn a lot about growing vegetables, herbs in general and what tasks are important when one is responsible for a piece of land, I also had the chance to learn about beekeeping and to try pottery for the first time. All things that I probably would never have tried and that I am very grateful for.

Besides my love for chickens, for me the most special thing was talking not only with the people who live and work here, but also all the guests. You realise how important the connection to nature is to everyone and how easy it can be to integrate it into daily life. Sometimes that is difficult for me living in a city, but my time on the farm gave me much ‘food for thought’ and that is the most important thing I have taken away.

Nicole Neumeier spent a year studying abroad from Germany in Leeds before coming to WWOOF with us at Trill Farm this summer, bringing great enthusiasm and a passion for chickens!

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