Thursday, 21 January 2016

WWOOFing at Crooked End Farm

Back in August I spent a week volunteering on an organic farm, something I'd wanted to try for agggeesss. Originally my plan had been to go abroad but I thought hey, why not just go somewhere in the UK.

Crooked End Farm in Gloucestershire is run by Simon who is one of the most enthusiastic people I've ever met. He was more than happy to tell me all about his intricate irrigation systems and even the secrets to growing the world's largest tomato vine!

WWOOF by the way stands for 'World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.'  By WWOOFing you go and live and work on an organic farm for free but are paid in meals, accommodation, experience and fun!  And it's a great way to travel on the cheap if organics is your thing.  I shared my week with three lovely Frenchies and a German :)  I thought I'd maybe lose some weight after a week of farm work but we were fed so well I think all the cake, carbonara and home made Chinese easily counteracted the soil shoveling!

The farm in the Gloucestershire hills near the Forest of Dean

The village of Ruardean

My cosy shed (left) with the geese shed behind.  One night they were a bit restless and kept me up for a good hour.  Could have sworn they were playing football in there.

The plant nursery polytunnel with thousands of baby swedes, turnips and lettuces to prick out and replant into plugs for the market garden. 

The farm shop

Simon's clever vertical radish growing system complete with harvested rainwater irrigation

A few of 80 new and very silly chickens. We had to spray the hosepipe at them to stop them eating the radishes on the walls of the farm shop.

The geese. They weren't quite grown up yet and still had some baby feathers.  I learnt a gaggle of geese makes for great protection against a fox attack.  They were to move in with the chickens once grown.

The market garden beds organised and operated on permaculture principles.  None of the beds are dug over (as this upsets the soil's ecosystem) but built up in layers of decomposed bark chipping (from the paths) and rotted manure.  One of our main tasks was preparing and planting the beds and harvesting salad leaves for sale in the shop.

A bed we prepared and planted with swede plugs grown from seed in the nursery on site.

One of the semi feral farm cats

The polytunnels at the bottom of the market garden.  One evening I went up there to water the crops after a very hot day.  However it was like the sky looked down on me and said "I'll get that" because within minutes this massive black cloud had swept over and it was bucketing down.  I had to run to the polytunnel for cover.

Inside my shelter during the sudden massive rain storm.

Inside the second polytunnel where the day before we'd been tying up the tomato plants.

Whilst stuck in there waiting for the rain to clear I entertained myself by photographing the vegetables.  This is a beautiful red chard plant.

Some lovely mushrooms. Mushrooms are a great sign of health in a permaculture system as their underground network of mushroom 'roots' (called mycelium) carry nutrients between the plants.  That's why permaculturists don't believe in digging the soil as it breaks this underground plant/fungi intranet.

The view after the rain had passed.

My favourite photo from the top of the hill.

A drawing I did shortly after my trip. 
'Mauvaises herbes' meaning 'weeds', something I leant from the French.


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