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!

Autumn Preservation

2 Oct 2019 | 0 comments

The Summer excites us. The garden shares its bounty and we can barely keep up with cooking and eating all the delicious herbs, salads, fruit and vegetables harvested in June, July and August. By preserving what we can, we are able to retain the essence and flavours of Summer to stock our larder and share in the darker, colder months.

Eating what we preserve allows us sensory access to a memory. Opening the lid on a jar of preserved tomatoes transports us back to that incredible day in August, when the fruit was warm and ripe and the sun was high. The flavour of that captured time keeps us going and makes our dishes exciting long after the beds have been emptied and turned over, the rotting vines adding to the rich compost.

Preserving means that the garden remains our muse year-round. When the produce is fresh, it fills our fridges, sinks and countertops, but when there is less to harvest, we are always happy to reach for it on our shelves, in jars, bottles and vessels, opening containers of sunny times in the greyer months.


Serves 4

12 ripe plums, halved and destoned
200g labneh (recipe below)
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
4 tbsp fruity vinegar (recipe below)
1 tbsp honey
Salt and pepper to taste
200ml olive oil
2 handfuls of mixed salad leaves or other garnishes of your choice

For the fruit vinegar
500g soft fruit of choice, plums, black currants, raspberries, etc.
1l white or cider vinegar
100g of sugar, depending on fruit

Gently combine the fruit and pour into a sterilized tub or Kilner jar and seal. Allow to macerate for three weeks, stirring occasionally. Drain off the vinegar and use for dressing, shrubs, sauce, etc. This vinegar will last for a long time but will lose its fruitiness a little.

For the labneh
500ml yoghurt
½ tsp salt

Combine salt and the yoghurt and mix well. Line a sieve with a thin cloth or muslin. Transfer the yoghurt mixture to the sieve and place a bowl underneath to catch the whey. Leave in the fridge overnight to drain. By morning you should have a firm, tangy lump of fresh labneh.

To assemble the salad
Heat a frying pan and dry fry the halved plums for a few moments to get a slight char on them.

Meanwhile in a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients, combine the tarragon, vinegar, a little salt and pepper and olive oil to make the marinade.

Once the plums are toasted, tip them into the marinade and toss them to coat. Allow to marinate for a couple of hours at least.

Plate the dish as you like, with the labneh and garnish and serve with crusty bread, roast veg or it works very well with pigeon or venison.

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.

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