Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Potato Days: community-supported success story

So many potatoes... but we were lucky because we had many helpers on our two Potato Days. Here are three photos and big thanks to everyone who helped. It makes 'Llangybi Organics' feel like a real community. On the Roll of Honour are Rosemary and Matthew (and Zippy, the dog), Joan, Mayumi and Carwyn (who found Zippy a little overwhelming), Christine, Gwenlli and Gethin. Gethin, Gwenlli's son, worked enthusiastically with me having transformed, he said, into a crane. He certainly piled in the tatws.
The two kids, Gethin and Carwyn (below, centre) enjoyed themselves. We had a competition for the funniest potato. I think mine was the best. It was, I was told, like a bottom! Being incurably romantic and not rude, I thought it looked like a heart but then I'm very old fashioned.
And more thanks are due to those who took our call for help seriously. As a result of you putting the word around, we now have a good number of new customers as well as some 'old' ones who've come back again. Word of mouth is always best, we find. Thank you for mouthing the right words.

A reminder: We've almost run out of boxes. Please do return them as soon as you can. You've been very good about returning the strong plastic veg bags. Keep it up. And please don't forget to tick the list when collecting, either for yourself or for one of the groups. It all makes Val's life easier in keeping track of things.

News: Despite the dreadful weather in August, most crops have flourished reasonably well. Jill has made her customary heroic efforts and has managed to produce some fine outdoor crops like the beautiful Romaneso cauliflowers you'll have had in your bags. The peppers have done very well even though the sun didn't shine much. The potato crop was good, despite blight. We have had quite serious problems with diseases brought on by the relentless damp. Disease is always a problem in the autumn but not so much in summer. Almost incredibly, my son Mark, down in Oxford, tells me that the soil on his allotment is parched. He's having to water because there hasn't been rain for months. Hard to believe when living in Llangybi.

Another aspect of the 'summer' weather was the wind: we've had several near gales which have seriously damaged tall crops like beans and brussels sprouts. Many of my plants were blown down, first one way and then the other, so that some have simply snapped off and many others are stunted. Such a shame when they all looked so healthy before the mighty winds. Then came the cabbage white butterfly caterpillars... but you'll have heard enough!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Challenging times for Llangybi Organics

Where have all our customers gone? Maybe it's the recession; maybe other things. But several of our customers have vanished this year and we are wondering what to do about it. So far as we can tell, our veg quality is as good as ever and value for money -- in this era of 'cheap' food -- is also good. At this time of year, we'd normally expect to have 25-30 people collecting boxes and bags every week. Since we started at the end of July, we've been averaging about 20. This is worrying for us as well as wasteful. Jill, in particular, is having to feed good veg to the pigs. Trouble is, we have to plan months in advance what we grow and how much, making assumptions about customer numbers. We always lose a few and gain a few at startup but we had planned and grown veg to feed 30 or so, not 20. Our viability is in doubt unless we can increase the numbers.

Could you help us? If you're part of our wonderful, loyal and supportive customer base, could you do a couple of things to help us? One is to pass on the message that we are looking for more regular customers to anyone you know who might be interested in fresh, genuinely local, organically-grown food. Please do show them what you get or tell them why you choose to buy from us rather than supermarkets. Another thing you could do is let us know if you think there's something we're not doing quite right or could do better. All the feedback we get is very positive; nice for us, but with people deserting us, we do wonder why.

Veg news: The photo (click for large version) depicts veg as picked by Val a couple of weeks back for a typical box. It looks good, doesn't it? At last, tomatoes are coming on stream. Peppers are doing well too although that seems to be down to varieties rather than warm summer sunshine (!). Pests and diseases are taking their toll of certain crops: the aubergines which looked so good are suffering and so are the cucumbers. The potatoes have been smitten, as usual, by blight. Jill at Ty'n Lon polytunnel No. 2 has a worrying new disease problem affecting some summer veg. She hopes it is not the dreaded verticilium wilt. Rabbits are on the increase and we had a man with a gun round last night, shooting the blighters. They were digging small holes in the leeks (which are looking good, I'm happy to say) and other parts of the veg plots at Mur Crusto. I'm having to set mole traps because these creatures burrow away underneath veg and fruit like the raspberries and damage the roots as they search for the humble earthworms which are their food. We at Mur Crusto have hundreds of tiny seedlings and little plants approaching readiness for planting out for winter polytunnel crops: half a dozen varieties of oriental brassicas and lettuces of various types. Anyone like to come and help with weeding and planting?

It's nearly Potato Day, all you CSA Group helpers: Over the summer, several members of our trusty group came to help out with weeding and planting out, mostly at Ty'n Lon. Thank you! We're going to be asking for help again with potato and onion-harvesting at Ty'n Lon sometime in the next few weeks when it dries out enough to get them in. I expect Jill will provide a lunch with, I hope, unlimited quantities of cava and cider (or else I'm not coming!).

Monday, July 20, 2009

Llangybi Organics veg boxes ready to go

Starting again: Once again, we're about to start harvesting and packing boxes and bags for our customers. The first collection day will be Friday 24 July, any time after 5pm. Val, who normally manages customer contacts, is away - daughter having a baby - so Jill and Bry are doing their best to be in touch with every customer about the startup. To get in touch, remember there's our contact page on the Llangybi Organics website.

Collecting veg: Everything remains as before including the prices (£11 bag and £16.50 box). You collect from the Swallows' House (by the blue iron gate), tick the list and leave your payment in an envelope with your name written on it. And please would the last person to leave close the main gate. More details on the website.

CSA group success: Val and Bry were able to have their month holiday, camping and mountain walking in Scotland, knowing that help was at hand to keep things going while we were away. Jill also made good use of the group to help plant out thousands of leeks. So many thanks to all our wonderful helpers. It does make a huge difference knowing that we have extra hands on call if we need them. Next big thing will, I suppose, be Potato Lifting Day in another month or so. Can't wait!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Busy times: help wanted soon

This is the busiest time of year for us. The exceptionally fine weather has made some tasks easier and others more unpleasant as we register temperatures exceeding 35 degrees Celsius in the polytunnel. Today, Val and I planted out about 50 sweet corn and 32 cucumbers in these temperatures. Not much fun, but it's a busy time of year - and without any income! - getting all the tomatoes, peppers and aubergines up and growing, ready for when we re-open in July. The pictures are of granddaughter Amy and Val, preparing some beds for brassicas and planting out little brussels sprouts seedlings.

Jill has been filling her second polytunnel with peppers and tomatoes. Remember, that was the one that some of our group members helped put up earlier in the year.

Help please, CSA Group: Val and I (Bry) are off to Scotland, camping, for the rest of June and so we will need help with weeding and other things at Mur Crusto whilst we're away. Arabella will be doing her best to co-ordinate things and if you're a group member, she'll be in touch with you when help is needed later on in June. As ever, group members can help themselves to whatever there is in the way of produce. This will be the first time we've tried asking for group help at Mur Crusto. It will be gratifying to come back and find that everything is in good order on the farm instead of the weedy unkempt mess of previous years. If you can come and help, do bring a picnic and enjoy your time here. You can explore our land and walk down to the lake, a real haven for wildlife. My son Richard will be staying here for the last 2 weeks of June and Val's brother Graham will be here before then so there should always be someone around.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Potato eve and a call for help

Tatws away: Yesterday, in the fog, we got all the potatoes planted at Ty'n Lon farm. Mike and Jill were well prepared and ready to go when Val and I arrived. The tractor and planter worked without hitch - the plough just hit one big underground boulder - and the only complaint I (Bry) had was that the seating (old plastic drums) wasn't very comfy. I prefer more luxury as you know...

Request for help for onion Sunday: Jill and Mike want to get the onions planted on Sunday if possible. It's a long job with 2, half as long with 4 and easy if we have some of you kind CSA group members come along for an hour or two. I've posted Jill's request on OneClimate's Llangybi Organics group page. See Group events calendar and post. If you haven't joined OneClimate yet, now's your chance. It's free and does lots of useful things. Have a look around.

Veg matters: We've had to cease the few bags we were doing because most of the veg has now bolted and has had to be pulled out. So, no more proper veg bags until July, I'm afraid. But there is still stuff available free for CSA group helpers, and there will be more to come. There's still lettuces and leeks plus a few other things and Jill has potatoes which she can bag up on request: free to group members and £4 for 5 kg (or larger quantities, if preferred: 12.5 kg and 25 kg) for customers. Contact Jill if you want them: 01766 810915.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Polytunnel raised: CSA group's first success

Today, our wonderful new CSA group completed its first major action. We successfully got the polythene cover over the frame and secured it into the ground and at each end. Mike and Jill offer big thanks to Rosemary and Matthew (who worked yesterday on digging trenches), Deio (who works 'on demand' - and there have been a lot of demands lately), Mayumi (and her son), Christine (and her daughter), Joan, Mark and Jeff (Shrimala Trust), Helen and John (from Llangybi), Bry and Val (from Mur Crusto farm, the other half of the co-op). It was almost, yes, fun! The weather was fair and there seemed to be a lot of laughter and joking going on. Some good entertainment was Mike and Jill bickering about how best to achieve this or that task. But we all pulled together like a team. Our group was impressively international: Welsh, English, American, German and Japanese, and at least 3 languages could be heard from time to time.

I (Bry) am particularly delighted at the way things are working out with this group help. I've nurtured the idea since the start of Llangybi Organics and it really works! So once again, I have the pleasure of reminding group members that you are very welcome to come and help yourselves to veg - particularly at present where there is a massive surplus of green leafy things in Mur Crusto's polytunnel. (For some reason, Jill hasn't got anything growing in her new tunnel except a few scraggy nettles!)

I've put a photoalbum online here which depicts all the final stages of the Great Event.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Last box day... but there's more

Last box and bag day: 27th February: All you diligent people who read their newsletters and the notices we post in the Swallow House will know that the time for the last boxes and bags has come and gone. We should be re-starting as normal on in late July 2009. We'll let you know when.

Tell a friend! Meanwhile, if you like what we produce and intend to remain with us, please recommend us to your friends so that we can add a few people to our waiting list. It's important for us to be sure about how many customers we shall have as we have to plan, sow and plant for you months in advance. Contact details are here.

CSA group veg: If you look at our new Photo Album (there's a permanent link from the left column of this page), you'll see several pictures which I (Bry) took on the last day. And just look at all those rows of veg in the polytunnel! They're all free for our CSA group members who are welcome to come and get what they want when passing by. Available for the next few weeks are Lettuce, Purslane, Pak Choi, Mizuna, Rocket and a few other green things. We also still have lots of potatoes, a reminder of the bumper harvest which group members so kindly helped harvest back in September.

Small bags for customers who want veg: In the past, we've deliberately grown veg to keep at least some of you supplied until April or so. This year has been different in that we've tried to grow it but much of the veg was damaged or killed outright by the bitter cold we've had. But - as the album shows - some has survived well and is now growing again and we may be able to offer small bags of fresh greens for those of you who would be interested. Val will probably send an email to you all if and when we're ready to do this and we'll pack what we have for Fridays as usual. The price depends on what we have to offer. Jill also has hen eggs which you could request her to bring to Mur Crusto to collect when you collect your small bag.

If you aren't a member for the CSA group (who will be coming to help us from time to time) and don't want smaller bags of veg in the coming weeks, thank you for your custom and we hope to see you again in July.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Llangybi Organics new CSA group meets

Thanks to all those who were able to come to our first ever Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group meeting. I (Bry) don't much like meetings but this one was a good one. There was a lot of laughing and we enjoyed tea and cake as we sketched out a preliminary idea of how it would all work.

Who was there? Val, Bry (from Mur Crusto farm, where the meeting was held), Mike and Jill (from Ty'n Lon farm, with whom we have an informal co-operative partnership to grow all the veg and fruit for the boxes and bags), Arabella (who has kindly agreed to be the Group co-ordinator), Mayumi (and her son, Carwyn), and Mark (from the Shrimala Trust). All (except Bry) are depicted in the rather poor photo I took of the gathering. Left to right: Mark, Mayumi, Carwyn, Arabella, Mike, Jill, Val. Two other potential group members weren't able to come that day: Rosemary and Christine. There may be others too and, of course, anyone can join at any time. There is no minimum time commitment.

What did we agree? As with all 'proper' meetings, we ended up with some Action Points:
  • Bry to arrange an online calendar so that we can all find out what's happening when. This will be a Google calendar via OneClimate.net's Llangybi Organics group page. I'll let you know when it's all set up. You'll need to join OneClimate.net but it's free and all you need is an email address. It's a social networking site (like Facebook) but for doing something about climate change
  • Val to organise a 'phone tree', whatever that is. Something to do with last minute contacting of everyone in case an event has to be altered or cancelled because of bad weather. Or the reverse, if the weather is unexpectedly good (it happens...)
  • Nominal group help days will be Tuesdays for Mur Crusto and Thursdays for Ty'n Lon, and Sundays when convenient. This doesn't mean we expect group members to turn up every week; merely when we request help with some major piece of work which has to be done. Examples are potato picking, planting out leeks or onion sets, weeding carrots - that sort of thing where many hands make light work
  • What's in it for group members? It's FUN we like to think, working together to get a task done in a pleasant environment (each farm, I mean). There's a good deal of amusing chat which can be in any language but usually English, Welsh and - sometimes - Spanish. And there's more: the opportunity for each member to take home such veg or fruit (e.g. raspberries from Mur Crusto) as happens to be available in the amount she or he needs as 'payment' for the work. We'll let you know what's available so if you wish, you can come and get stuff even if you're not working. We will also try and grow the things you specially like. Arabella wants peas and Mark wants artichokes. We are going to do both but you have to come and help yourselves!

And the first event? Polytunnel-raising; provisionally 22 March: Mike and Jill have bought a second-hand polytunnel. Putting up these structures isn't difficult though it is time-consuming. Once done, the really tricky thing is to get the polythene cover on. This is where they need as many people as possible to help unroll it, pull it over the frame and hang on to it while it tries to behave like a paraglider or hot air balloon whilst the whole thing is fixed tightly. The event will be at Ty'n Lon farm starting 10.30 for 11 am but does depend on there being light winds and fairly warm weather. This is where email contact, this news page, the OneClimate calendar and the phone tree will come in useful.

We, from both farms, are delighted to have this new source of support which will enable us to keep growing and keep going... if it all works. You can post anything you want on the OneClimate group pages, including photos. I propose to start a Google photo album for photos anyone takes of our various activities. We look forward to the polytunnel-raising First Event at which there will be unlimited supplies of cava, wine and beer. Actually, I just made that last bit up. Sorry!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Llangybi Organics Newsletter - February 2009

versiwn cymraeg
Firstly, thanks for sticking with us through the dark wet winter months and sorry for our sometimes rather muddy veg, or the occasional onion which has started to rot.

Future veg supplies - bags and boxes finish end of February. We have enough veg to continue with the bags and boxes until the end of February. Unfortunately we have lost a lot of veg because of the severe and prolonged frost, incuding some in the polytunnel. We intend to resume the veg again in mid/late July, but will contact you to confirm, nearer the time.

Eggs: If you want to buy eggs after our closedown, please contact Jill directly (01766 81091), (but not many eggs available at the moment).

Packaging: Thank you for returning the Soil Association bags and boxes for re-use as this helps reduce packaging.

Keeping in touch: The latest news from Llangybi Organics' two farms is online in the form of a weblog at: http://llangybi-organics-news.blogspot.com/ (i.e. here!). It's frequently updated (with photos too) and replaces the old-style newsletters on the static website. If you wish to find out the latest happenings, do connect. You can leave your comments too if you wish.

Thank you for your support during 2008.

Val & Bry, Mur Crusto, 01766 819109 Jill & Mike, Ty'n Lon 01766 810915
Website: http://www.llangybi-organics.co.uk/


Cylchlythyr Menter Organig Llangybi - Chwefror 2009

Diolch am aros efo ni drwy fisoedd oer a gwlyb y gaea', ac am beidio â chwyno am y mwd ar eich llysiau, neu'r ambell nionyn sydd wedi dechrau pydru.

Cyflenwad o lysiau yn y dyfodol - bagiau a bocsus yn gorffen diwedd Mis Chwefror Rydan ni'n gobeithio y bydd digon o lysiau i ni barhau gyda'r bagiau a bocsus tan ddiwedd Chwefror. Yn anffodus, oherwydd y gaeaf caled dan ni wedi colli cryn dipyn o lysiau i'r rhew, yn y caeau ac yn y polytunnel.

Rydan ni'n bwriadu ail-ddechrau'r llysiau canol/diwedd Mis Gorffennaf, ond byddem mewn cysylltiad efo chi yn nes at yr amser.

Wyau: Os byddwch chi eisiau wyau ar ôl inni gau, cysylltwch â Jill (01766 810915) (ond does dim llawer o wyau ar hyn o bryd).

Deunyddiau pacio: Diolch am ddychwelyd y bagiau a'r bocsus Cymdeithas Bridd. Mae hynny'n arbed llawer o wastraff. Cadw mewn cysylltiad: Yn lle'r cylchlythyrau ar y wefan, mae gynnon ni weblog bellach. Mi gewch weld y newyddion diweddara' o ddau dyddyn organig Llangybi ar http://llangybi-organics-news.blogspot.com/ Bydd yn cael ei ddiweddaru yn aml, ynghyd â lluniau. Cysylltwch, a gadewch sylwadau ar bob cyfri.

Diolch ichi i gyd am eich cefnogaeth chi yn 2008.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Frozen solid!

The freezing weather has caused us some considerable difficulties. The ground is frozen solid and so are the vegetables. Even so, by judicious use of a crowbar and a little (grand)child labour, we have heroically managed to produce a reasonable set of boxes and bags this week.

Even the veg in the polytunnel has been frozen with my thermometer regularly recording -3 or -4 degrees overnight. If the freeze continues, we may have problems because, of course, nothing is growing and the daily freezing and thawing does the veg no good at all.
We'll do our best but we just thought we should let you know what's happening in this unprecedented freeze-up.