The start of the year was once again blanketed with snow for us in Kent and by the time i returned everything was a winter wonderland!
By the time i got fully back into the swing of things though March had started but what a relief and what a change! Not only was the fence up but beds had been redesigned giving a more ornamental look to the visitors area. It made a huge difference. We were also still trialling new (to us) methods of working, a few No Dig beds, and continuing with the successes of the previous year. Straw FTW!
|Transporting the bales downhill!|
Also the Herb Garden was getting a revamp, down came the rabbit fencing giving a more open look and allowing visitors to see more of the garden on their approach. I had enormous fun creating climbing supports for hops around the new entrance, perennial sweet peas had new archways to clamber over at the entrance and exit from the Herb Garden and teepee's were created for our annual sweet peas on the cut flower beds.
I was also able to be a bit artistic with our new shiny interpretation boards! (although the spelling couldve been checked a bit better, always proof read Lou!)
New paths were given a woodchip finish and of course our hens were given a beautiful run. They had made an amazing recovery and were busily getting on with the job of ... well, being hens!
We had a new wash bay to prepare the veg, we were getting on site allotments, we were DOING THIS!! Everything we had worked for was coming together and more, the public visiting us could see the difference, the volunteers were proud and we could see the difference with what we were producing both in quality and quantity.
By June we were making daily harvest that were... well.... i think amazing doesn't even cover it! Providing fresh Organic vegetables to the restaurant, shop and now tho the farmers market. If it seems like I'm incredibly proud of what we achieved its because i am, it was such an uphill struggle for us all to get to this stage and suddenly it was all coming together.
This was the year of the Olympics and I'm honestly not sure how it affected our visitor numbers but it did seem to me that we were having less overall to the property than in previous years, the hype the TV series created finally dying down maybe? The veg garden though was becoming a popular place to linger with its picnic benches placed alongside the Herb Garden, our beds planted with lettuce were becoming a real talking point.
Before we knew it Smallholders was on us once again.
I was very happy in my work, i had no idea that someone was getting itchy feet but shouldve guessed maybe that Amy always planning had another idea for the future....
So, Ok! This changed EVERYTHING.
To say i wanted to be the one to fill Amys position would've been a massive understatement. This field had become my home, id watched and helped it grow, it had taken my blood, sweat and tears, literally. I loved the volunteers, they were my friends. I knew the direction that she and i had planned to take the veg garden in and believed passionately in it. I honestly don't know how i would've felt if someone else was to step in? I could almost see me staying here till i retired!
I was given the position of "acting senior" (this title amused me greatly) and until interviews i was to take charge. These were big shoes to fill and i knew that! Scary.... very scary!
One thing that was going to change, which was something we'd trialed was the no dig beds. They'd worked enormously well & my senior management was totally for it.... Perhaps even a bit too gung (or should i say dung?) ho! but I'll come to that. Matt if you're reading this you know I'm saying this in a lighthearted way as what we did worked!
We started in the polytunnels, oh my god did we start, i cant remember exact figure of what went in there but i think it was nigh on a couple of tons of manure per tunnel. My abiding memory of this time is seeing my manager Matt Jackson standing knee deep in the middle of a tunnel with a hay fork in his hands looking slightly lost, overwhelmed and exhausted. Bless him he worked so hard on them.
Then we moved on to the veg garden proper. Converting our smaller bed system established at the beginning of the year into further divisions with paths in between.
Below is a pic of our experimental No Dig beds, with paths topped with wood chip. This was something id been introduced to whilst working at Ryton and it suited our soil amazingly.
So we forged ahead .... The volunteers put in an enormous amount or work, clearing weeding and preparing
And this was the result, even now looking at these wonderfully straight neat beds, paths finished with a layer of cardboard then woodchip i get a thrill.
Then for the manure, we all "mucked" in taking everything our farmer could provide, our own compost and buying in council green waste. Anything we could lay our hands on. creating a 2 - 3" deep mulch ready for planting when conditions allowed.
It was a huge undertaking and honestly looking back i still cant believe we did it but we did.
The polytunnels got planted with winter salads too.....
|Garlic ready to be split into cloves|
Then finally December loomed and my interview date... Gulp! In my heart i knew i could do a good job but i think if you don't doubt yourself a little in these situations there's something wrong. I'm confident but not cocky. I look around the plot and see what we've achieved in just a few short months, I've got plans in place for the next 12 months but yeah I'm nervous. Our seasonals are leaving soon and I'm finding this hard as once they've gone I'll be entirely alone a lot of the time. Our hardcore vol's will be here though i reassure myself.
|Matt, Linda (seasonal) & volunteers|
|View from the top|
How 2013 would pan out and whether i would get my job only time would tell.
To be continued....