A word from Jake Hancock, who runs the livestock enterprise at Trill

5 Dec 2011 | 0 comments

Well it’s just over a year now that we have been farming at Trill and things are finally starting to feel a bit more under control. This time last year we were struggling with a lack of fences and water troughs in most fields, a cow barn with a frozen water supply, and six inches of snow in November and December when the rams were tupping which lead to relatively few lambs this spring. After a busy and character building year for Neil and I, we now have sufficient water and fencing to be able to graze the entire farm. We have also vastly improved our sheep and cattle handling arrangements. We had a successful harvest of Romy’s barley and oats, which was encouraging for my first year managing arable crops. The rams have been working a month earlier in great autumn weather and are due a rest at the end of November. To top it all, this week we have passed our TB test and the vet also tells us that 40 out of 41 of our cows are in calf, which is an excellent result. The calves were also weaned this week, which will mean two or three noisy days on the farm, as mothers and babies come to terms with their enforced independence. Our Devon bull “Ford Abbey Emperor” retires this year but we have already purchased his replacement, a rare red Aberdeen Angus bull (most Angus cattle are black), also called Emperor, although nicknamed Ernie. So all is well as I write, now we just hope for a kinder winter than last year!

 

A word from Ash & Kate in the garden…

5 Dec 2011 | 0 comments

November often sees a sharp decline in the variety of vegetables that we grow – as all of the summer polytunnel crops such as tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, peppers and aubergines are pulled out and replaced with overwintering salad. The less hardy veg such as courgettes and sweetcorn have finished outside and the general vigour of plants slows down due to reduced light levels and day length.

So, although this has happened this year, we are seeing our overwintering polytunnel salad and herbs growing much quicker than last year due to the mild weather. We haven’t had a “proper” frost yet which has extended the harvesting of some of our outdoor veg, but the mild wet autumn has also meant a rise in slug populations – leading to a lot of damage to our newly planted salads. We’ve been particularly lucky with slugs this year – our basil however suffered a little and although very tasty ended up mostly as pesto. This has been replaced with chervil, coriander and overwintering parsley all of which are already cropping well.

Garlic planting has been delayed until now, as it has been too wet over the last four weeks to plant. But we have just planted three varieties including lots of elephant garlic – which if this year is anything to go by they’ll be a bit of a crowd puller. We are hoping this will be a winner with our market customers especially.

We started a stall outside Town Mill Bakery in October and have been doing this every Saturday from 9am until about 2.30pm. We are hoping to continue until Christmas and then resume it in late Spring of 2012.

October also saw the arrival of four Saddleback x Large White weaners in the garden who were instructed to “de-thistle” a couple of areas which have been overrun with creeping thistle this year. We are hoping they may do a better job than us at uprooting the thistles, but will only really find out next year. Before that we are looking forward to trying out lots of different curing techniques when our pigs go to slaughter at the end of the year.

As for us, we are getting used to the dark evenings and having our days cut short. Although things never stop in the garden we find ourselves able to take a very small step back and try and rest after another hectic but enjoyable year.

A word from Noel Lakin, Trill's bee keeper

5 Dec 2011 | 0 comments

It’s November and our bees are only just beginning to settle down for the winter. They are still determined to get out and work whatever ivy blossom is left even when the sun is not shining.

There was a time when beekeepers were glad of the occasional fine day in October to give their bees a chance to gather some of the bright yellow pollen to store for brood rearing the following spring. The problem now is that, with yet another very mild autumn, the bees are overworking when they should be resting. As well as pollen they now often collect a considerable harvest of nectar, which is converted into a rapidly crystallising honey. Once solid, the honey leaves little space for the bees to cluster efficiently and will hinder the rapid expansion of the brood nest in the spring.

One is often asked about the problems facing modern beekeeping and it is all too easy to be pessimistic. The usual suspects; pesticides, disease and now climate change, are placing a major stress on a creature that has evolved to be in fine balance with its environment. Ecologists refer to the honey bee as ‘the canary in the coalmine’ warning us of impending danger, and so she is at the biological level. But she is also our teacher in true stewardship and in our need to understand and to work within the full complexity of nature.

It is within this context that we hope our bees will thrive and prosper at Trill. Although traditional beekeeping books treat autumn as the end of one year and the beginning of another, it is still far too early to pass judgement on our current season. To avoid winter loss, the bees must be in the best possible shape to survive through to the spring. Only then will we know how successful our efforts of the previous year have been.

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