Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Words and moving pictures



Smaller farms; run with ecology; as well as profitabilty in mind. 
They seem to be a flavour of the moment...

Further investigative researchers ; only coming here now; seeking words and  pictures.

A piece of film I hope I never have to witness; or at least not without a few years intervening first, at any rate.

In accord with the far distance custard creator pictured here; I'm no big fan of having my photo taken; so the prospect of being filmed is even worse. 
A tad too late now methinks; to become part of the unselfconcious 'selfie ' generation.

But you soon forget the camera; and who can resist the probing of an interested interviewer?

And imagine being paid; to go on about stuff; that most people; would give generously for me to shut up about?

In truth, it was a bribe that got me into this situation in the first place.

"If you fill in this "Productivity on small farms*" Survey; and get it in by the deadline; I'll send you a fabulous new knife."

Well; I think we all; if we're honest; have our price. 
And it would appear I'm really quite easily persuaded; with promises of shiny new things.

So several months after having filled; and filed the document; (literally at the eleventh hour)  and subsequently forgotten all about it; a missive arrives.

Turns out this operation is actually doing rather well; in the numbers game; both in terms of productivity and profitibilty... The two don't always correlate; interestingly...

 "Can we come and find out how?"

"Other people may find it useful; and it will help promote the cause of smaller farms in general."

First reaction?

 "Arrgghh no thanks; way too self concious..."

But then; "Oh get over yourself; why not"


 It is nice if is someone is interested in what you do; and how you do it. 

And having to answer inquiries as to how it is all achieved; does concentrate the mind; on those issues.

I won't attempt anything like the full depth and range of topics covered and explored that resulted from over four hours of interrogation... 

Sounds formidable; but it was actually quite a lot of fun....

 Some of the key points arising; that contribute massively to prosperous productivity:  (prosperous that is for small farming, it is all relative, being a primary producer is unlikely to overburden one with riches at this scale)

The land itself makes an enormous difference; being early warming south facing sandy loam in one of the balmiest valleys (weatherwise) in the country.

 And this plot being owned; not rented, so that long term investment in windbreak planting, irrigation, and other such beneficial strategies make sense.
If you were renting on a short lease; how could you invest for the long term in infrastructure that might take years to repay?
It's not so much ownership in terms of property that's important; it's more about being able to think; and plan ahead; reasonably securely.

And that perennial favourite of the estate agents...

The location; within a community that has enough people interested in buying the produce of the land.
 Folks who see for themselves the value of nutritious and delicious food; and perhaps who even care enough about the environment in it's widest sense; to seek out a product that makes some tiny difference?

And that same community that values good food; but is also willing to lend support over such protracted; and energy sapping shenanigans; like obtaining planning permissions for barns; polytunnels; and onsite accommodation. All very necessary for the effective running of a mixed enterprise.

It's not some random chance that the majority of farmers and growers live on their land.

And even more vitally perhaps having enough good folks of the valley who will come and help produce the stuff too...

Mechanisation is a vital part of the production system here. It's not only that i enjoy charging back and forth on the tractor in the late afternoon sun. 
But machinery will never replace the human skill and effort required to bring forth the greatest bounty of each individual crop... For instance going back for multiple harvests from each plant, which wouldn't be possible with greater mechanisation, or a 'time is everything' approach.

Those industrious people should (in my book) be paid twice as much for what they do; but that's not quite how 'real food' in our culture is valued; yet.

Certainly not whilst 'property' in the form of bricks; enclosing not very fresh air; is so costly for most householders; whether they rent or buy. It sucks up most folks income before their thoughts even turn to the food on their plates.

Maybe; one day; things will change.... 
But whilst I'm dreaming of some faierietale land; where landworkers are valued properly........

 The fair maiden pictured here; is actually getting on with the job of settling module raised plantlets into the Serengeti like conditions...

And she might opine; if she wasn't just so very patient and accommodating.....

"All very well taking pretty pictures.... But spinach doesn't plant itself you know?"



In fact I think I may have slightly overdone the planting and weeding work myself over the last couple of months; as both elbows are grumbling to the point of tetchiness....


But no sooner that mentioned; than help is at hand again... It really is a case of knowing the right people...

A magical salve marked 'Soothe' (Yes it does) arrives. 
Containing wintergreen, and other wondrous unguents; it smells good and powerful.

And; from another source; some medicinal powderd Turmeric; used as an anti inflammatory tonic in ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. 

One of those 'it can't do any harm' and may well do some good type remedies. Just stir a spoonful of it into your dinner. 

Or; (and I haven't tried this yet; but 'Girl any day I can get her' assures me it's most palatable) mix it with coconut oil; and black pepper; and spread it on toast...

Mmmmm Toast...



I did get back to it eventually. And the lower bed is now filled with the same amount of rainbow chard. Then all was given a good soaking via hosepipe; fed by borehole installed nearly ten years ago now.
The elbows really would have rebelled at carrying that many watering cans.

The patch above the spinach beet; meanwhile; awaits one final cultivation with the tractor; and spring tines..

Then it'll be hand broadcasting (sideways peasant style) a mixture of ryegrass, red, and scarlet clover, to hold fertility, and the soil itself over the Autumn and winter months.
When we might, one hopes, get some  much needed rain...
Light sandy soil will dash off down a slope at an alarming rate if its left uncovered in a downpour. And soil is ultimately where all proper food production; starts and ends.



Can I lay my hand on that knife? 
Well; things do get put in pockets; then taken off site by accident.
 But it's very similar to this one; minus the lion..

And this reminds me too of needing to dehydrating further greens; to take away. That is one downside of your body getting used to lots of good food.

 Working out how to port two weeks worth of it; if you're lucky enough to have fabulous farmsitter; who will look after things whilst one escapes from 'living the dream' 

'First world problems' indeed...

Three of my favourite things; a decent notebook, a pencil (they never let you down) and a well honed knife.... Lion optional; but a nice touch... Grrrrr!


* Some might question this relatively small patch being referred to as a Farm, rather than a 'smallholding'... Why does it matter...? Well much like the term 'peasant' used in this country; more often than not; as a term of diminishment..
instead of as a reference to someone; who knows how to produce useful stuff from landwork.

Small holding is often used as if to denote 'playing at it' ... 'hobby farming'.... Not to be taken with any degree of seriousness.   A "three wilted chickens, a lame sheep; and four gone to seed cabbages" type of operation.

Yes it's only words; but words can be powerful tools; and we might take note of how they are used... 

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