Newsletter 5 - Winter 2013

Farming

Sorry, it is such a long time since I last wrote, we have been so busy, and yes I am going to talk about the weather! We farmers can’t get away from it, and it runs our lives. What a summer – even today with a nip in the air the butterflies have still been around. Mind you we did have snow in the middle of May, we were having a farm tour at the time with a group called Pathways. They ended up on the television.

Cattle

The summer seems to have rushed by, we have had some beautiful calves and bought yet more new Highlanders. Here is one with her bull calf.

One of the black girls had a calf, another miracle birth as the neither of the bulls (in theory) were anywhere near her! Time will tell if it was the Highland or the Short Horn bull. We are crossing some of the Highland girls with the Short Horn to get a bit more weight on the carcass at the same time as keeping the characteristics of the Highland. Easy calving, low input (i.e. you don’t have to feed too much concentrates), fantastic mothers, live outside, meat that has a good marbling and is low in cholesterol and high in protein. Here is a table done by the Scottish Agricultural College for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food comparing pure Highland meat with other breeds.

Cut Fat g/100g Cholesterol mg/100g Protein g/100g Iron g/100g
Pure Highland Rump 4.2 48.5 22.4 2
MAFF All Beef Rump 13.5 63 18.9 2.3
Pure Highland Shoulder 4.7 42.2 21.6 1.9
MAFF All Beef Shoulder 10.6 63 20.2 2.1
Pure Highland Sirloin 7.1 37 21.8 2.3
MAFF All Beef Sirloin 22.8 67 16.6 2
Pure Highland All Cuts 4.5 40.9 20.7 2.1
MAFF All Cuts 15.6 64.3 18.6 2

We shall have some beef (and lamb) ready for Christmas so please email if you would like some. Trevor at: clunvalleyorganics@googlemail.com or Jacky at: jackyharrison51@hotmail.com.

We have brought in most of our crops now, the hay, silage and barley and have just started on the potatoes. We have trimmed the hedges, weaned the lambs and castrated the bull calves (a necessary job I’m afraid!)

WWOOF

We have had an enormous amount of help and fun with our WWOOFers – World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.  These are volunteers who get free bed and food in return for working on the farm. We have had people from all over the world such as China (Keil) who was the first; he was in the middle of a 4 year degree split between Liverpool and a Chinese University. We have been through France, Spain, Holland, Japan, South Korea and probably others that I have forgotten. Ernesto from Spain was a journalist taking a break; where as our Japanese WWOOFER was a sociology student. They have been enormous help, good fun and we have had some great meals. Japanese food is one of the favourites...

They did a lot of the jobs that needed doing but get left, like painting The Bales, clearing and disinfecting the barn, finishing the new shed.

What Else has been happening?

Sketching

We have repeated the art courses with ‘Highland and Horses’ and Landscape Sketchings with glorious weather. There is some real talent among our students. We are having four more workshops before Christmas – including making corn dollies at half term, (31st Oct) bring your children and Christmas Garlands (14 Dec), portraiture (1st Nov) and Christmas Spice Workshop  (23rd Nov). See the web site page http://www.clunvalleyorganics.co.uk/workshops.htm.

Sketching

We have had many farm tours and walks. The most difficult was one with Estonians and French, in a Cooperation Visit run by the AONB team. (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) where I had to stop after every two sentences for translations – you can imagine how hard that was!  However, they arrived at 3.30 and questions were still flowing at 6pm!

photo

Education and Care Farming

Students

We had another week with the students from Brynllywarch School last school term and this school year we have two students coming every Friday for the day. They have their own responsibilities, so Jack, for example has to feed the sheep first thing. We presented Achievement Certificate’s at the school.

Cleaning

This is Jack cleaning out the truck.

We are also having students from Shrewsbury College of Art and Technology every Wednesday afternoon. Here is a recommendation letter from the head of the Enrichment Programme to support our application for a grant. The grant is to build up the Care Farm area and the students from SCAT are helping us.

Shrewsbury College of Art and Technology has just re-organised its departments to facilitate the need to focus on the new government targets. This is aimed at ensuring every student will be employable and employed once leaving full time education. This includes both our less able students as well as those who are high achievers.

Our new structure includes departments such as, Engineering, Business and IT, and Pathway to Progression.

We are also developing an Enrichment Programme. All students, of which we have over 1,100, are advised to enrol in such a programme. This is aimed at giving students real experiences and challenges in working environments and develop their confidence and life skills. For example the brightest could be developing a set of promotional material for a business, or working in charity shops, or some could just be doing something basic like planting carrots, collecting eggs or interacting with animals.

Our principal, Steve Wain, encourages students to engage on and off-campus in a wide-range of enriching events and activities and is particularly keen on learning in an outdoor and stimulating environment.

We have just had our enrichment day where students enrol with different organisations in order to gain life and work experiences. Brynmawr attended the day and we are very pleased to have such a different set of challenges available to our students. We are sending Art, Engineering, Business, IT, Construction and some less able students to help with the Care Farming project as well as doing some farming work.

'The project at Brynmawr will expand the offering that Trevor has developed and its continuous improvement will give many different opportunities for our students to work on or experience.
The team input and enthusiasm to our work so far has been fantastic and I am only too pleased to be able to support this application and see the Care Farm develop.

The good news is we got the grant! We have been awarded £3,000 from the Shropshire Hills AONB’s Sustainable Development Fund to create a self-contained Care Farm area and facilities (polytunnels, fruit cage with soft fruit and fruit trees, raised beds, hen house, pig ark and run). Progress on the Care Farm area will appear in the next newsletter. For more information on the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty visit http://www.shropshirehillsaonb.co.uk.

cooking      bread

So far the students from SCAT have helped pull through the cable so that we can have computer equipment in The Bales (any donations of any working kit would be gratefully received), started to dig the foundation for the cob oven (weather has stopped much progress on that), started developing a leaflet for the Care Farm, done some machine maintenance and written to the mayor and local MP for a charitable donation for the Care Farm. We hope to do some craft work and run a stall just before Christmas at the college.

And towards the end of last term we had Bishop Castle’s Primary baking bread and learning all about wheat and yeast. They had a great time.

Shearing

We have run some smallholder courses, and don’t forget you can ‘Be a farmer for the day’ – buy a voucher for that unusual birthday present.

Other Stuff

Woodland

We have taken on the grazing of Mason’s Bank – another Shropshire nature reserve. It was a commercial forest that has been felled, and by grazing it should slowly turn back to a rich diverse site. We will let you know the progress on that over the years... it will take a long time. 

Black Highland

The black highlands on Masons Bank in October. The red calf is just poking out above Rona.

Let’s hope the winter is kinder to us this year.

Best wishes from all at Brynmawr.