Thursday, 24 March 2011
Yesterday Suzie and I visited Aston Hall Farm, on the Spetchley Estate, for some up to date training on hosting an Open Farm Sunday event. It seems long ago since we hosted a training event at Overbury and I just wanted to make sure we were not missing a trick or two.
The theme for this years event is 'Discover Life on Britain's Farms' and really opens up our farms for a great day out for all of the family. But how do we get our visitors there? That was the first part of the training. Depending of the size of event we wanted to host, there are lots of tools in the box; from parish magazines and postcards for small local events; through posters, banners and local newspapers for medium events, ending up with a chart topping national event using national media, tv and radio, the choice is ours.
The second aspect of the training, was once the visitors are here, what do we do with them? We looked at activities engaging our main senses, not just sight, but smell, feel, taste and hearing. How many people just stop in our busy lives and listen? The blackbird or the skylark singing proudly as it rises from the field, the sound of a far off child laughing at a new discovery.
We learnt how to make a visit personal, "this is my farm", "this is how we do things here on our farm". Engagement that's the key!
After a great game involving, leaves, roots, fertiliser, pooh and grazing cows, (I will blog about that another day), we went onto a health and safety (fake crime scene), we were the CSI farmers. Different aspects were explored within our scenario and how those risks can be managed. Don't forget farms are dangerous places and we should never underestimate the risks that we all face every day. But there are simple ways to avoid or reduce the risks. Fencing off areas that you don't want people to explore, putting up signs and moving machinery inside and locking it away. We must also remember the hand washing facilities that are required, liquid soap, running water and paper towels.
Tuesday, 22 March 2011
Today I am at the Royal Agricultural College near Cirencester with managers and lecturers from many Agricultural Colleges around the country. The idea of today's training is how we can use the tools developed by LEAF to educate students, of any age. Tools such as The Green Box (which Caroline Drummond LEAF - CEO is holding up), Speak Out Training, LEAF Audit, notice boards and the LEAF Marque can have a real impact on farm about getting our message across. The message is summarised with 'LEAF on every plate and every gate'.
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Thursday, 10 March 2011
Over the past month we have been paying special attention to one of our Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAM) right on the summit of Bredon Hill. The Kemerton Hill Fort is thought to be about 2700 years old and was built in the Iron Age period of time.
Over the years the field has changed with some quarrying taking place, to provide local stone, maybe for houses or stone walling. As a result we have an area of erosion, where the land has slipped away.
The erosion was uncovering some very interesting changes in soil type, colouring and even an old bone or two. The erosion here has been caused by heavy rain, sheep movements and general wear and tear. The dark area of soil (left) is thought to be a hole for a post, maybe a fence for corraling cattle or even part of a house. There are other areas of the hill fort that are suffering from erosion by mountain bikes, (we will tackle these bits another day).
Under our HLS agreement we have secured some funding to repair the erosion scar's, thus protecting the archaeology for future generations. Adam (Worcester Archaeological Service) was employed as part of the repair to survey and record what was being uncovered, before the face was sealed up again. GPS measurements, readings and photographs where all taken as an official record of the event.
After the excavations had been completed the repair work could begin! Leigh Watts, who is a local landscape gardner, was detailed with the prescription to repair, as detailed by English Heritage.
Stone from the quarry was used to build up the main layer and the final dressing of soil was collected from within the field boundary, by collecting up mole hill dirt! We actually collected a JCB bucket load, it took a while but luckily the moles obliged! This dirt was then spread over the stones and within a plastic mesh to stop further erosion until grass can establish. The grass seed will be collected later this year again from within the field boundary, although I'm sure there will be some seed from within the mole hill dirt that will start the process off. The sheep netting is a temporary boundary to stop unwanted feet and mouths disturbing the fresh soil. The final picture shows the half compeleted repair but you will be glad to know that it is now fully restored!
Saturday, 5 March 2011
Yesterday was a first for Farmer Jake. I was asked by LEAF to give a talk about blogging and twitter to a group of 10 farmers as part of a funded two day course. The course was aimed at giving these farmers the skills and tools to host inspirational farm visits.
I was taking part in day two of the training session along with Susie and Patrick (from Green Shoots Media) who were talking and demonstrating photography and film. This picture shows Susie going through a selection of photographs giving tips on light, shade, framing and many other tips, the paparazzi hold dear to their hearts! I spoke to the group for about 20 minutes explaining, how I started blogging and tweeting, who inspired me and when I started. Then the group split up for a more in depth discussion about how to blog, what skills are needed, how long it takes and so on. We talked for a while about twitter as well, and I see a few more followers for No1FarmerJake (thanks) I had a really great morning, engaging with a wide range of people coming from different farming backgrounds. They all had one thing in common, wanting to enhance the experience of visitors onto their farms and for that I applaud, each and every one of them. I look forward to reading some new blogs and news from each of the farms as and when they start to appear. Good luck everyone.
Wednesday, 2 March 2011
For the last couple of months we have been keeping pigeons at bay with many different tactics. This one is rather fun, it's called 'Hawkeye' and it rotates in the wind, reflecting sunlight with the reflective strips. They work well as part of the overall mix controls, these have to include gas guns backed up with shooting. It is important to protect the crops from these pests, whole fields can be decimated by large flocks. The value of rape is being pushed up again following the oil price and world supply and demand issues. As spring crops are planted and different food sources become available the pigeons will migrate away, and the crops can then hopefully grow away from any damage caused. Well this seems to have worked well. back in the editing suit (AKA-The Office) just a few changes and to let you all know that I have set up a youtube site which will be showing video footage of the farm and the activities that we do. Click HERE if you would like to have a glipse, then hit the subscribe button to keep upto date with our activities.
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