Posts Tagged ‘WWOOF’

Sunny Spells

November 25, 2009

This year I set higher goals in terms of output, which started with sowing a lot more seed and trying to get the message across that I was working even though I was at home! The year-round commitment to being on the farm goes without saying in farming families. I come from a family where ‘full-time’ jobs are relatively part-time. However, the odd penny might have dropped!

Weather wise, the spring was pretty good, with just about enough rain for germination for most direct sowings. Carrots were reluctant, as ever, and boy, do they need regular weeding; the hours it must have taken per kilo of carrots harvested!

The tax office sent me a new cd rom for the PAYE returns, nicely timed to need sorting out in mid May, which is also when I’m usually asked to do a few hours of street tramping for Christian Aid…It is also when my daughters have their birthdays, and that is my chosen priority. I went to the doctor’s for help as the cd rom gave our computer a coronary and the HMRC help line was unapologetically useless, stubbornly determined to clobber me with penalties or what? I wonder if I really convinced the doctor that I found the endless battle to comply with the law and do the returns despite an unyielding HMRC brick wall so stressful that I was going under, mentally and would be able to cope better if I had anti-depressants, but he humoured me. Thank God. The cd rom never did work on the dinosaur that is our computer, and I’ve got to do all the tax and NI longhand. time-wasting but less stressful! Oh, but now it is obligatory to do online file returns. Does that mean it is illegal to employ someone if you have an inadequate computer?

We had a long spate of people staying through the summer. In June Tiphaine came to do voluntary work on the holding in return for the experience and practice with her English. She was a powerhouse and very enthusiastic; such good company. She got on well with all the family, and made the most of every opportunity to learn. The dream WWOOFer! (Working Weekends On Organic Farms).

Next up, was a new graduate of Aberystwyth University who had commitments on Christian Youth and Childrens’ work holiday activities. needing a place to stay, he came and helped out with preparing a camping area for later summer arrivals: I was expecting Sarah, Lucy and Matthew who wanted to camp.  There’s plenty of space for all the clans; Raikes, Buckland, Emery, Forde, Grime, Morgan, etc to come at once to camp…wouldn’t that be fantastic!? The entire holding is on a slope though, so  gravity would roll the inhabitants of every tent into a heap on top of each other at the lowest point! So Joe T Shuster set to in the heat of July to prepare a camp site for anticipated family size tents. He also turned his hands, when July turned wet, to the hurried harvesting of onions, which I barrowed until sunset into the barn to dry out. Sadly, it turned so wet and humid that most of them didn’t so much dry out as rot down!  We had a drizzly BBQ with some of his friends, drew on the kitchen floor and went to see Nant y Moch…I felt this was essential as he’d spent 3 years in Aberystwyth and never been! Joe was, between onion and camp site and chicken installing duties, trying to send out job applications. One particular website lost his entire application several times. The frustration was huge. (HUGE) However, labours at the coal face of job hunting were rewarded with a plum internship, where I’m sure he doesn’t miss the peasant life and isolation of Brynawel!

Sarah’s visit with the children at the end of the summer holidays concluded the camp site preparation work. Sarah did the most humbling, monumental amount of work. Meanwhile I seemed to be experiencing a period of genuine exhaustion. I could have gone down to the tennis courts with the children a couple of afternoons but spent at least one of those asleep on the sofa. Stamina was just all out. I hoped they felt they’d had a holiday, having come so far and then, with small children, there’s not much time for relaxing. Sarah will always be my ‘big sister’ even though she’s elfin in stature! We just never levelled enough ground for the tent so Sarah finished the job and perched their tent all the way up the track to a small almost level patch in front of the barn. It was such a squeeze she had to tie the guy ropes to the chicken run mesh! Apparently they went to sleep imitating the unhurried ponderings of chickens. Free range hens always sound as though hen life causes them low-level disapprobation…’tooook toook tut tut, ooh, I’m not sure about thaaat!’  Goodness only knows what it causes the battery ones!

Wet summer panned out to a calm and dry early autumn and the ‘autumn bliss’ raspberry harvest was excellent. Made up for blighty tomatoes! I had lost about 50% of my customers during the summer, so the total failure and slug demolition of the beans and the unpopularity of turnips, mooli, beetroot and the mouldiness of the onions was just a loss of labour, seed, and compost. I didn’t have to go to the wholesalers to supplement supplies for the boxes. Why had my customers dropped out? perhaps the insides of some of the squash were brown or they found slugs in the lettuce, I can only guess. One in particular highlights the nutritional insecurity of people in institutions. If we’re supposed to eat 9 portions of fruit or vegetables a day, what does it say that the order I had from a home for people with learning disabilities, where staff eat with the 6 or so residents, couldn’t get through a box designed to meet healthy requirements of a couple? That was their reason for cancelling. I also think a lot of people have lost touch with what to do with real food. They can cope with broccoli, carrots and frozen peas, but what are these other things? Supermarkets want to supply, not broaden horizons, educate or take risks.

The successional sowings went better except for the lettuce, which really couldn’t get past the slugs after July. I used £160 worth of nematode treatment which reduced slug damage to and extent, but it would cost £thousands to keep conditions slug free. Lettuces are never going to return that much investment! So I had and still have a lot of food in the field but had to stop the box deliveries in mid October. My daughter was seriously ill and I spent much of the latter half of the month in the hospital. Glad to say, thanks to the expertise of the doctors and nurses and many, many answered and urgent prayers from far and wide, she’s well, again but I have in the meantime been accepted in a part-time job. I will try to save enough to invest in oil dependent technologies so I can make the food production sustainable economically: The Irony! Yes, to this extent I’m a hypocrite!

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