Growing Food to Give Away!

We want to use our land to grow food to give away!  Interested in giving some time or money to allow this to happen – we are re-launching our charity MATRIX TORBAY.  To find out more click here.

Matrix Torbay Logo

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Beach Huts and Chickens

beach-hutsThe beach huts are finally in!  With lots of much appreciated help we have managed to get all 9 huts onto the land, including the chickens that live in them.  There’s a fair bit of repair and adjustment to be carried out to make them more usable for our purposes, but the logistical challenge of moving them all has been accomplished.

We are planning to sort through the chickens we have, sell those we don’t need, and incubate lots of eggs to increase numbers of the breeds we would like to work with.  We hope to sell hatching eggs and Point Of Lay chickens from the following breeds, all of which we currently have  –

  • Lincolnshire Buff
  • Copper Blue Maran
  • Light Sussex
  • Barred Rock
  • Silkie
  • White Leghorn
  • Polish Chamois
  • Norfolk Grey
  • Rhode Island Red
  • Speckled Maran
  • Various Bantams

And the following Ducks –

  • Indian Runners
  • Khaki Campbells
  • Silver Appleyards
  • Lavender Muscovys

All our outdoor runs now need to be sorted ready to let our birds run in much bigger areas. They have been confined to small, netted areas, due to the restrictions that were in place because of the Avian Flu outbreak.

Until recently, one half of our chicken area had pigs living on it.  These have been moved and in a rare dry moment I managed to cultivate over it in an attempt to flatten the area ready for some grass seed to be sown.

bcs-cultivatingIf you look closely you can just see Sky feeding her latest litter of piglets outside as the day was beautifully warm.  Our 3 main breeds for egg laying will live in this area, but their houses are yet to be constructed!

Plans for 2017

Looking back to this time last year we were facing some challenging weather – 1/2 the field was flooded and there was a small river running down the lane from which we access our land.  We did our best to keep it from flowing in, the result of which, would have turned a bad situation into a much worse one.  It did finally dry up – but not until April.

This year we are again facing challenges.  Not so much the weather this year, as it’s been a very dry winter so far, but from the restrictions imposed upon us due to the Avian Flu Outbreak.  Looking after our birds is just made that much more difficult and time consuming.  We’re having to watch closely for illness, as the conditions in which they are having to live are not ideal.   The restrictions were announced just after we had agreed to buy a small chicken hatchery off some friends of ours.  Perfect timing or what!

We had been evaluating the different things we do, those things that make up our core sales at farmers markets and how much time we invest in each.  We had made the decision to change a few things and the opportunity to buy the hatchery came at about this time.

Our basic changes are as follows –

No more goats – although we still have a few left these will be our last

No more sheep – with the chickens coming we will have little or no pasture for sheep to graze

Less pigs – We have downsized to one sow who will give us 2 litters each year.

More poultry, ducks and geese – with the purchase of the hatchery which includes 9 beach huts, some of which are converted into chicken houses we will have the potential to accommodate up to 24 different breeds of chicken, ducks and geese.  Egg sales are strong at farmers markets and on our egg run, but with more traditional breeds we will be able to work towards selling hatching eggs and point of lay chickens in the near future.

We still want to be able to grow our organic vegetables and have plans to set up a charity through which we can begin to provide food boxes to local families who need a bit of help.  More details about this will follow.

We still hold strongly to the belief that we are stewards of our land and that we need to farm responsibly, growing organically and taking care of the health of our soil.  Our desire is to create a stable eco system, which in time will effectively look after itself.  For all our livestock we want to provide the very highest levels of care, allowing them to exhibit their natural tendencies.  We find our animals benefit both physically and psychologically when they are able live this way.

It’s about knowing where our food has come from, how it has been grown, and being able to appreciate the changing seasons and the beauty and changes that each brings.

winters-sunrise
A Winter’s Sunrise – 5th February 2017

Farm Experience Days

Farm Visit

With all our new arrivals we are offering a few limited dates for our Farm Experience Days.

If you and your child(ren) would like to visit us and have a go at Feeding the Pigs, Collecting Eggs, Cuddling the Goats and Feeding the Kid Goats and Lambs their bottles then check out the full details of our Farm Feed Visit by clicking the link below.

All the details can be found here – Farm Feed Visit

 

A Busy Time

Well the last few months seem to have passed in a bit of a blur.  It’s been non-stop since before Easter.  So here’s a quick catch up of what’s been going on.

Land

The water finally dried up which gave us the chance to finish the bottom swale.  It has been mulched and now needs to be planted up.

We moved all the pigs and cultivated the land they had been on and formed some more beds.  In these we’ve planted a number of varieties of Willow which all seem to be growing well.

We’ve been weeding, planting and mulching a number of beds in the 3 garden areas we’ve created.  There’s still an awful lot to sort out.  If anyone fancies helping with some weeding then your help would be much appreciated.

Animals

Over the past few weeks we’ve had a number of additions to our stock including baby goats, lambs, chicks and quail.  We’re hoping to add a substantial number of chickens to our flock over the next couple of weeks, giving us plenty of eggs for all of you who have been asking.  If you fancy chicken eggs on a regular basis please let us know and we will contact you when they become available.

baby goat 2

Vegetables

We’ve been busy working through our planting list, filling both polytunnels with loads of seedlings that need to be planted out very shortly.  The weather, until recently, has delayed germination of some plants and planting out has had to wait for warmer days.  All the seeds we use are from open pollinated plants so it’s been rewarding to have saved a number from last year for replanting this year.  Our plan is to save even more this year – some plants are more difficult to save from than others but we hope to add more each year.

Markets 

Market season has started again.  Our goat meat has proved to be extremely popular and the pork is selling well.  We have some frozen pork available at the moment if you fancy a pack of sausages or a small roasting joint for Sunday lunch.  You can check what we have here – Abbey Meadow

We are planning some quite major changes over the next few months and there’s plenty of work to be done.  If you’re interested in visiting or fancy a bit of exercise in the fresh air then there’s always a job we can find for you to do.

Missy – Our Oxford Sandy & Black Pig

We’ve always known that Missy was a little different from our other pigs.  For one she’s a bit unpredictable – wanting a scratch one minute and trying to have your arm off the next!  At times I’m convinced that she tries to communicate with anyone who will listen. We know she cries when she’s lonely and now she’s started singing for her food.

Missy – our singing pig

A post shared by Abbey Meadow (@abbeymeadow) on

 

Our Geese – Fraggle and Flo

Geese

I’ve been busy digging a number of trenches around the goat house to keep it from flooding and it seems to be working.  The ground is slowly drying.  I connected the swale to the goose pond at one end and it filled overnight.  The geese have certainly been enjoying it.

Sadly their enjoyment has been short lived as a fox attacked our male goose “Fraggle” on Saturday evening and killed him.

Since then the foxes have been keeping a very low profile and I haven’t seen one since. Perhaps they know I’m after them!

The Start of The Lower Swale

As the area around the Goat House Lower Swalehas flooded I decided to begin putting in what will eventually be the lower swale.  I wanted the swale to link an overflow pond to the Goose pond, so spent some time marking out the line of the swale following the contour of the land.  Once I was happy with the line of the swale I began to dig it out by hand.  I’ve only dug the trench a spades width by a spades depth over around 30 metres.  Eventually I’ll double the width of it once the immediate flow of water has dried up a bit.  It curves naturally around the Goat house and so picks up the flow of water down the land, protecting it from flooding.  It does cut right through the middle of one of our chicken areas who thoroughly enjoyed stuffing the worms that were brought to the surface as I dug.  When it’s completed I’ll plant it up with a mixture of bamboo and other plants suited to our browsing animals.  We’ll have to redesign the pasture area and move the chickens so that none of the animals get direct access to the plants in the swale.  They will however be able to eat any over hanging foliage.

Water Flow

Our land is situated on a slope, and any rainfall or water run off from the road will head very quickly down the slope to the stream at the bottom.  As it rushes down it takes with it minerals from the soil depositing them at the very bottom of the field.

All our Veg beds at the top of the field are raised in an attempt to slow down this water flow, and it does work but there’s a lot more we want to do, not only to stop the loss of minerals, but to preserve the water we have and use it well.

To this end we had planned to bring a digger onto the land in the Autumn of 2015, to begin putting in some water “features”.  We want to build in at least 2 Swales, 5 Ponds and 1 Earth Tank.  However with the incredibly wet Autumn we’ve had that has been impossible, and without these measures in place the field has flooded in certain areas.

In an attempt to alleviate the problem we have decided to begin work on some of the overflow channels that will join some of the ponds and swales together.  These should help to move the water away from the more used areas of the field to places where flooding won’t affect us too much.

This is the first overflow channel that we started yesterday evening.  It’s in no way finished, but just look at the amount of water in it from the rainfall last night!  Just need a few dry days to continue this channel on down the field to a small storage pond.

New Piglets

On the 28th December Missy finally had her first litter of Piglets.  We were beginning to think that there was a problem with her and to be honest this was her last chance.  A sow eats a lot of food, especially one as large as she is!

She’s a pedigree Oxford Sandy and Black and she is now the proud mother of 8 healthy piglets.  They all seem to be doing well and Missy is a very good mother.  At a week old they’re just beginning to venture outside – that’s where the fun begins for Missy!

osb piglet 1 osb piglets 2