It’s harvest time. While the market gardeners have been tirelessly gathering produce to fill our veg boxes, we’ve also turned our attention to our first crop of wheat. Join us at the Blackhaugh Farm open day this Sunday 29th, 11am-3pm, to find out more about the Wheat We Eat project. All welcome - there will be activities for all the family and lots of yummy farm-grown food for lunch by donation.
Members of the Scottish Scything Club joined our September workday and made a start cutting the grain, the long straw of the heritage varieties falling into neat piles to be bound into sheaves and then left in ‘stooks’ in the field to fully ripen, and to dry ready for processing. Even if it is not the most obviously efficient method, it was surprisingly quick and no fossil fuels were used. It was also a truly special and meaningful community activity, sharing songs and food in the field.
And there’s another opportunity! At Sunday's open day we will be thrashing the grain from the straw, stone-grinding it into wholemeal flour and baking our first homegrown pizzas in the pizza oven, newly-built with the help of pupils from Blairgowrie High School.
It has been an extraordinary learning experience watching the grain develop. Against convention, we sowed a diverse mixture (see April blog post) that has thrived against the weeds and grown into a healthy, abundant crop, and a habitat for birds and insects. The proof is in the eating, of course, and in the health of the crop year on year but we are confident that our experiments into small-scale, agroecological cereal production for the local community are showing signs of success.
Today we packed veg boxes for people living in Perth to kick off our first week of the veg box scheme. There will be further boxes leaving from pick up points at the farm, Blairgowrie and Birnam.
The boxes contain mixed salad, onions, kale, chard, pea shoots, rhubarb, strawberries, spinach and a basil plant. All fresh and grown without chemicals.
Today 50 laying hens arrived at Blackhaugh Community Farm. They will be looked after by Duncan, Roxanne and their son Roo, who you can see helping set up the houses below. The hens will be free range, kept out of the vegetables by electric fencing and can be moved around the farm with some nifty portable houses. They will be fed on organic feed and their eggs will be available for members of our veg box scheme and in our wee farm shop. If you would like to buy lots of eggs or pick up a regular box but are not part of the veg box scheme then please get in touch with Roxanne at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the last week we have been working hard on our soft fruit area and the fruit is starting to form so we're getting pretty excited! We have rhubarb which is available in our wee farm shop at the moment; Gooseberries and currents which we have just enclosed under a great big fruit net; strawberries which are bursting with fruit and should be ready in time for the veg boxes; and raspberries, which had a pretty hard time in the heat of last summer so have been reduced to a third of their original area but are now well weeded and mulched! We will take cuttings from the raspberries this year to increase the number of canes we have next year, and we are looking to take runners from the strawberries after they fruit.
This Sunday 9th June we are taking part in the monthly Blackhaugh Community Farm work day. If you would like to come along and take part in group activities which improve the farm then please get in touch. Volunteering is 10am-4pm and there is a shared lunch. Jobs this month include preparing an area for free range chickens which will be arriving soon and managing broadleaf trees which we planted over the last few year.
We have been planting out lots and lots of small plants, with a little help from our volunteers (Carol in this picture). We are nearly at the end of the planting out season with just the pumpkins and squashes, some brassicas, fennel and a few other things to go. That spells the end of a pretty intense part of the year and the beginning of the next - starting our veg boxes! We are very excited and apparently so are you. We are full for June and July, and fast filling up for boxes starting in August. Get your name on the list now if you want one www.taybankgrowerscoop.com/veg-box-scheme
We also do quite a lot of work which is not in the field such as irrigation, fencing and building a pumpkin store. Here Johnny is insulating the store which will keep the pumpkins warm next autumn, and dry with the help of a big extractor fan.
This Sunday 28th April come along to Blackhaugh Farm for our Spring Open Day!
We will have farm tours, with Taybank Growers Coop for a chance to see what's happening in the market garden as well as our new wheat-growing project, and with our friends at Plants With Purpose.
Starting 12pm, there will be free soup and cake, and activities for all the family, including scarecrow making and even a samba workshop! Before the afternoon closes at 3pm we'll be sowing the last of our Spring grain so come and lend a hand.
See you then, in the sunshine...!
As the ground warms up, we’ve been excited to start sowing our Spring grain. Most of it was drilled into the field at the end of March, in four sections each with a different variety or mixture of varieties.
We are growing ‘heritage’ wheat varieties, which means those typically grown before industrialised agriculture. Ours were provided by Scotland the Bread after several years of research and harvests has allowed them to grow these at scale once more. These are more adaptable and resilient than modern wheats, more nutritious both for the soil and for us to eat, and most importantly more delicious!
In short, all of these benefits are due to the much greater genetic diversity of these varieties. While of course we would like to have a bumper harvest, it is this diversity which matters more to us. So we are helping it even further: in our most ‘experimental’ plot we have mixed together at least 30 varieties, including a little rye, to create a unique ‘population’ mixture; and included in that is some grain given to us by Torth y Tir in Wales, with countless varieties within it.
This infinite diversity is the aim of future harvests at Blackhaugh Farm: to build and continually re-sow a ‘landrace’ grain population that is adapted to local growing conditions, nutritionally rich, and available for local people to eat, direct from the farm. More on this localising in a later post.
Meanwhile, the wheat is coming up! The first shoots were visible after about 10 days, and now, with a healthy mix of sun and rain, they are thriving into tillers.
But you’ve not missed your chance to get involved. This Sunday 28th come along to the farm 12-3pm and we’ll be sowing the last of our population grain as part of our Spring Open Day. You can hear more about the project, and find out about taking part, as well as enjoying tours of the farm, family activities and some tasty soup and cake!
Sign up for our weekly veg box or the 2019 season, only 60 places available!
We are now open for applications to join our veg box CSA. This will get you a delicious box packed full of chemical free fruit, veg, salad and herbs every week (or fortnight) from June until December. Either pick up from the farm (where you get the most choice) or from our pick-up points in Birnam and Blairgowrie. By joining the scheme you are supporting us to grow nutrient rich, low-impact food.
For more info on the veg box and on Community Supported Agriculture visit http://www.taybankgrowerscoop.com/veg-box-scheme.html
Planting begins this weekend for our wheat project. Planting trees, that is!
It is hardly a new idea; farmers have incorporated agriculture into native forests for millennia. But modern agriculture has stripped that away in favour of vast monocultures, and our landscapes are all but bare of trees.
Agroforestry, combining trees on farmland with agricultural crops and livestock to try to reverse that trend is becoming more and more popular, as we recognise how much trees offer. They are good for the soil, taking in carbon and returning it to the soil through leaf litter. Trees also prevent soil erosion by binding soil to their deep root systems, which also take up nutrients to the surface; with this, and their water storage capacity, they are excellent flood defences. Trees are good for wildlife, presenting habitats to insects and birds, as well as microorganisms in the soil.
And all of this means they are good for economically productive farming systems, which thrive on diversity and healthy soil, not least by offering another crop - fruit, nuts, or timber - and protecting annual crops from the elements. Farming in 3D, as the Soil Association puts it.
With this in mind, we are planting a mix of apple trees, plums, quinces, saskatoons, hazels, and willow for coppicing, as well as some oaks (whose timber may be the Blackhaugh Farm pension fund...) We will plant in four long rows and between them sow three ‘alleys’ of spring wheat - on which more in the next blog post!
That’s well over 200 trees to get in the ground this Sunday 10th March, so the more hands the better! Join us from 10am at the farm - families welcome, lunch provided, fine weather guaranteed...
We are excited this month to finally get our grain growing project off (and very soon into) the ground. By growing on a small-scale, working with the help of local people to provide them with food that is healthy, digestible, sustainable, and delicious, we’re aiming once again celebrate the Wheat We Eat.
This Sunday 10th February is the TGC monthly volunteer workday, and a great opportunity to pop into the farm (from 10am onwards) and find out more about the project and share your ideas over some tasty soup - and bread, naturally.
In March, we will be sowing just over 1 hectare of wheat - and we’re aiming to fit as many experiments into that relatively small area as we can! We hope this will help us to learn a lot, but if nothing else it will build a diverse environment very different from that of vast monocrop modern wheatfields.
The major experiment, and a lasting one, is to plant four rows of native trees between which our wheat will be sown. The benefits, both environmental and economic, of this method known as ‘agroforestry’ are various enough to warrant a blog post of their own (watch this space…)!
Also look out for another post explaining exactly what we are planting, how and why. We have chosen to plant only ‘heritage’ wheat varieties, delicious, nutrient-rich, soil-enhancing varieties once prevalent but long since outdone by modern wheats bred in the interests of the commodity market rather than health or flavour.
Our methods are also to be experimental, a mix of mechanical and manual, and that’s where you come in! We will host a number of workdays throughout the year, to lighten the work with as many hands as possible. First of all, we are planting trees, one of life’s most joyous activities. Come along on Sunday 10th March to help out!
We are also looking for a small group of enthusiastic local folk to form a citizen science research group around the project. We feel there is much to learn, or relearn, and want to provide a space for that learning to be shared. If you are interested in taking part, email Charlie on email@example.com for more details.
Meanwhile, we’re getting out and about to encourage people to get involved, starting with our local primary schools. If you’ve any ideas of groups that might be interested, get in touch!