Monday, June 28, 2010

Farm Update... Barberry Hedging and Cold Animals.

Well, we are on to about our 7th week of continuous rain. Disastrous as it has been for our orchard (our Walnuts, Almonds and Figs have turned up their roots with disgust and new ones need to be planted elsewhere), it did wonders for the pasture, that was until it started to pool over the paddocks. I took some photos on the one morning it didn't rain....

With the fencing all finished, we turned our hands to planting Barberry hedging along the borders of the major paddocks. Barberry, Berberris, is a genus of about 450-500 species of shrubs from 1-5 m tall with thorny shoots, native to the temperate and subtropical regions around the world. The most common species in Europe is Berberris vulgaris, which is the species we have planted.

Some species, such as B. darwinii (below) are banned in New Zealand, due to their invasive nature.

Barberry is to be found in abundance in the English countryside, along with Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) in the many hedgerows and spinnies which pepper the rural landscape. With its sharp thorns it makes a good, dense stock barrier, whilst at the same time providing shelter and protection for wild game, birdlife and other wildlife such as Hedgepigs/Hedgehogs.

Above and below: Hedgehogs and Finches (we have a lot of both on the farm).

Here are some of the 500 Barberry seedlings we planted. We plan to trim them heavily and keep them as a dense hedge. By the time they start to short out the electric fences, they should be thick enough to be a barrier of their own.

Here's a round up of the rest of the farm's inhabitants (excluding the goats, who are down grazing along the brook preparing it for the planting of a row of Alders) ...

First up we have Bella and Edward. They are doing well, although a little on the thin side. They will start to get some silage soon. Bella (bottom) is the intelligent one, who runs over to check out whether you have an apple for her every time you visit. Edward, although a little slower, has the more doleful eyes. It will be a sad day when they 'go on holiday'....

Then there are the pigs - Captain Jack and the girls - who are as happy as, well, pigs in mud!

They have turned half of their paddock into a well cultivated mud pit. At least the higher, dryer end of their paddock is where their sty is.

A picture of a lily on the banks of the brook...

Then there are our horses, Sir Rawdon and Zeus.

Our Dorset Horned Ram, Mr Bingley, and his Girls...

His horns have grown from 1 inch nubbins over the past 9 months...

He was not very impressed at Lord Willoughby wanting to play...

Our Suffolk Ram, Mr Darcy and his Girls...

The lake is finally being lined this Friday (having been post-poned several times due to the rain), and we completed the jetty last weekend. We should have some photos of both next week.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Farm Sign...

Last weekend it was awful weather. The holes which we had dug to foot in the jetty became filled with water (not that that will stop us getting the job done), and the farm animals got saturated again for the 12th day in a row. So we decided to turn our hand to building and erecting our new farm sign for the rare breed farm based in 10 acres of the park.

Our friendly neighbour, Richard, dropped by to help us and brought some lovely rustic beams of Totora with him, which we used for hanging the sign. His partner Sheree also came and helped, and made us cups of coffee :-)

After lots of chainsawing, chiseling, screwing, bolting, and fighting with well soggy soil, we managed to get the sign up...

Bees at Willowbrook Park

Further to our previous post Bees and Hives, we now have bees at Willowbrook Park!. We were approached by a lovely couple who make honey locally, and asked whether we would 'winter' their bee hives in the park. We are hoping to have their bees in the park permanently, and we hope to offer their honey in our country store, given the obvious Willowbrook connection.

Above: The people who own the hives
Below: The hives in situ

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Progress Report....

Dear All,

Sorry we have been incommunicado for the past month almost, but things have become very hectic, what with juggling work and Willowbrook. Over the past month we have been working hard to fence the farm properly. All the temporary fencing has been removed, and the 10 acre farm block has been divided into 7 paddocks, all fully fenced, with lovely 12 foot wooden gates; and a post and rail cattle yard for rounding up the stock and inspecting them / drenching, etc. We have done all the work ourselves, which although time-consuming, and physically draining, has given us a great sense of pride and satisfaction.

Then in the middle of that [fencing] mission, one of our Dorset Horned Ewes got a facial wound (however, following minor surgery and some tender ministrations twice daily, she is now bleating and leaping like before). Then our prize Suffolk Ram, Mr Darcy, came down with an infection in his stifle. I had to carry him over my shoulders the full length of the farm in the pelting rain to the barn, where he too, after a week of TLC, made a full recovery and has been released into the rest of the flock for the first time to 'do his thing'.

I mentioned the rain. My Word, it has not rained as hard or as long as it has for the past 2 weeks for years. Never mind, it has been great for the plants.

Meanwhile Peter, along with our friends Darin and Richard, has been making all the raised potager beds (36 beds, all 1 foot high, 10 feet long and 5 feet wide). He is due to finish those next week, so we can get them filled with the top soil and compost. Some of our plants for the potager have already arrived. They include medicinal herbs for our natural remedy range, and herbs for making natural cosmetics and hand and body creams. There are also many culinary herbs and seeds, including 10 Camelia sinensis trees (used to make Chinese black tea). Others include:

Aloysia triphylla (Lemon Verbena)
Anethum graveolens (Dill)
Apium celeriac (Celeriac)
Arnica mantana (Arnica - good as a natural bruise remedy)
Asparagus officinalis (Asparagus)
Chamaemelum nobile (Roman Chamomile - a relaxing infusion)
Crocus sativus (Saffron)
Echinacea purpurea (Echinacea - a natural immune booster)
Foeniculum vulgare dulce (Florence Fennel)
Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem Artichoke)
Juniperus comunis (Juniper for the berries - for making our own Gin!)
Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree - for medicinal oil, and the wood shavings are great for smoking trout and salmon)
Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm - for teas and ointments)
Mentha citrata (Eau de Cologne Mint - for tea)
Mentha x pip. citrata basil (Basil flavoured Mint)
Mentha x piperita (Peppermint - for tea and ointments)
Manarda Cambridge scarlet (Bergamot, hot pink)
Manarda didyma (Bergamot - red)
Manarda didyma fistulosa (Wild Bergamot - Purple)
Nicotiana tabacum (Tobacco - useful as a natural insecticide)
Ocimum basililcum (Sweet Basil)
Ocimum tenuiflorum (Sacred Basil - perfumes)
Oenothera biennis (Evening Primrose - medicinal oil)
Origanum vulgare (Marjoram)
Pelargonium capitatum (Rose scented Geranium)
Pelargonium chocolate (Cocoa scented Geranium)
Pelargonium nervosum (Lime scented Geranium)
Pelargonium Rober's rose (The finest Rose scented Geranium)
Physalis alkekengi (Chinese Lanterns - ornamental pods for arrangements)
Physalis peruviana (Cape Gooseberry)
Polianthes tuberosa (Tuberose - used in perfumes)
Rosmarinus off Blue Lagoon (Blue Rosemary)
Rosmarinus off Remembrance (Pink Rosemary)
Rosmarinus off Tuscan Blue (Light Blue Rosemary)
Salvia off Pink form (Pink Sage)
Salvia off. Purpurascens (Purple Sage)
Salvia officinalis. (Sage - for culinary use)
Satureja montana (Winter Savoury)
Tanacetum parthenium (Feverfew - natural migraine remedy)
Thymus 'lemonspreader' (Lemon Thyme)
Thymus vulgaris (Common Thyme - for culinary use)
Thymus Westmoreland (Turkish Thyme - strongly flavoured)
Valeriana officinalis (Valerian - used as a relaxant)

We have also planted up our citrus grove, in the middle of the orchard, leaving enough room in the middle of it for the Orangery.

This coming week I am placing all the water troughs in the paddocks and finishing the stock yard. I am then moving on to making the jetty for the lake. The lake liner was finally finished last week and shipped down from Auckland. I have to get the jetty built in the next fortnight so that the liner can be installed around it (with large rubber 'boots' welded around each of the jetty posts, into one continuous form with the rest of the liner).

Last week I also drove to Wellington and back (a 16 hour trip!) to collect a boat which we had bought for the lake. It is a traditional styled row boat, which I am going to restore with lovely brass fittings, and varnished wooden seats. We are going to call her "The Lady of The Lake".

That should take us up to the great planting weekend of July 10-11, when a group of friends are gathering for the weekend to help us plant nearly 3000 trees around the park. I need to start putting in markers and border-lines, so that everything is ready to go on the big day.

So, there will be lots of before and after photos and progress pictures to share in the coming weeks. Once all that is done, order and sanity may once again prevail, and I may be able to return to the gentile art of blogging more regularly.

Till next time,
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