The sun came out just in time for the latest Bath & Bristol Organic Growers‘ Meeting, on the afternoon of Thursday 29th October. Cordelia and Chris from Vallis Veg near Frome had kindly volunteered to host, and there was a good turn out of interested people for a quick farm walk and catch up before the sun went down.
Vallis Veg currently grows on around 3 acres, on a larger site that also houses livestock (small flock of sheep, a couple of pigs currently, and laying ducks for some of the year too), as well as offering camping (complete with composting toilets), and space for forest schools and courses. Veg is grown in the ‘garden’, three small polytunnels (plus small prop tunnel), and some strips in nearby fields, mostly for their small local box scheme, but also increasingly for the Frome Food Assembly.
It was great to swap ideas and tips on crops among the group; Cordelia and Chris are moving towards a no-tillage system, with semi-permanent raised beds mounded up in the garden, and plan to grow the field crops in a similar way. Their late-sown peas were a good gamble (both inside and out), now bearing peas. Windrows of woodchip for making compost was a talking point; mixed with urine from the compost loos, to produce a closed-system compost after three or four years. Bolting kales and slug-nibbled broccolis were also covered; but one key feature of interest was the old Ford van now embeded in the hillside, banked up on all sides with soil and with a green roof growing on top. All the cracks have been filled with cement to keep rodents and other pests out, and this is now their cool storage space.
Thanks again to Cordelia and Chris for hosting, and for the very welcome tea and cake in their warm palatial ‘shed’ house! See you all at the next meeting; any volunteers for playing host in 2016 (involving a farm walk for a couple of hours), please get in touch.
(Apologies for the lack of focus, my camera wasn’t playing ball). I see these naughty little buggers abseiling quite often from the inside the polytunnels, looking for a nice juicing landing spot. Rude.
Finally picked the last of the squash on Friday (barring the odd butternut still hiding under the remaining leafy foliage) – and now the pumpkins are curing in the Little Tunnel, and squashes are curing in the chilli tunnel. The pumpkins were pretty great this year, and I thought the squash were going to be equally good, like last year; however there are probably fewer than I was expecting, especially of the butternuts compared to last year. This is probably due to the weather, and cruel winds that have been persisting pretty much all spring, summer and autumn: squash in particular are pretty fussy about chills. The butternuts have been especially rampant in terms of growing tendrils, but relatively not much fruit set: it’s interesting to see how well they’ve thrived next to the row of artichokes that, once big enough in summer, have provided a good windbreak for them. Many other growers I’ve spoken too have found the same problems this year, and have a much lower yield compared to last year. So I can’t complain really as I’ve been more fortunate than some.
The pumpkins at least were really great, and I’m still finding the odd Baby Bear pumpkin hiding under withering foliage out in the field; in total there were over 40 big baskets of pumpkins, from just 2 rows of plants (approx 70ft long each), yielding a couple of hundred pumpkins (mostly small roast-em-whole-sized Baby Bears, but probably 50+ each of medium and large). While I’ve sold quite a lot of the pumpkins already, there are a hundred or so still unreserved, waiting for the big selling week next week for Hallowe’en: unlike some of the mass produced cheap ‘n’ large versions, these pumpkins are also grown for flavour as well as carving! So if you’re getting a pumpkin this year, don’t forget to use up all that tasty flesh too: my favourite recipe is sweet pumpkin pie, and I’ve also given pieces to trick or treaters when the sweets have run out, which has gone down very well…