I’ve been so looking forward to today: an opportunity to visit a farm where permaculture is practised. What I hadn’t expected was for it to be a full day out – and such an entertaining one at that!
When we arrived, there were already a few other people there, getting to work on replanting strawberry runners. These were actually in a more traditional-looking field, which was covered in a special plastic mat to suppress weeds. Holes had been made in it with a blow-torch, in which individual plants, or in this case strawberry runners, could be planted. Unused holes were covered with pieces of carpet (mostly pre-loved doormats) weighed down with stones to stop weeds getting in.
Whilst being shown round the forest garden later on, I learned that strawberries had been used initially as a means of covering the ground while fruit trees and other plants had been getting established. However, these were no longer productive as the taller plants created too much shade for the fruit to ripen. On the other hand, there was a cornucopeia of other fruit, ranging from plums and raspberries to a Chinese fruit that looked like a red blackberry, though in fact it did taste more like a raspberry.
Just as well I had eaten a hearty lunch, otherwise it would have been very tempting to clear the bushes. Instead I was full to the gills with homemade tomato soup and bread, followed by some lovely cakes (also homemade).
Following the look round the forest garden, it was time to move the sheep from the field into a pen so that they could be inspected for any health problems. Fortunately, there were none but the sheep being easy to get hold of meant the children had the chance to do a bit of petting.
Last but not least, we enlarged the field space for the pigs, which meant increasing the size of the electric fence. Then the pigs would have new ground to rootle through. Before this activity, though, we distracted them with a pile of strawberry runners we hadn’t been able to replant, along with green potatoes and sweetcorn plants. I think the pigs weren’t the only ones who enjoyed that!
Now, back home we are about to tuck into our first cucumber. This is also a much-anticipated event and one I hope will be repeated in the not-too-distant future as much as another trip to Old Sleningford Farm.
© Helen Butt, September 2014