Saturday, March 27, 2010

We have lift-off

Our new CSA group has blasted off with great success in the last week. Today, no fewer than five adults and six children showed up for work on a bright and pleasant spring day at Mur Crusto.

Things really began to get moving when Mayumi came to help the day after we'd had to cancel the planned day of action because of bad weather. She and Carwyn helped us begin the long process of clearing the ground and digging the holes for hundreds of fruit plants. And we even got all the strawberries planted out. Later in the week, Rosemary (pictured left) arrived for a fairly tough day of digging and planting. Despite the heavy rain towards the end, we managed to complete the plantings of the entire menage of fruit bushes.

Today (Saturday) was a much pleasanter day for weather and Val and I were almost overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of the support we had. Mike Daly with his children Elin ("I wish I could come here every day!" she really said), Rory and Connan, worked patiently for hours as did Christine, Annie and Mayumi, cutting out old raspberry canes and battling with tough perennial weeds which had invaded the existing fruit beds. This is a horrible job which requires dedication but it's needed if you want a crop of fruit in the summer. (We all do!)

Myrddyn set to clearing the weeds around the blackcurrant bushes whilst Christine's son George and I dug, barrowed and sprinkled manure on the tidied up raspberries and blackcurrants. George explained to me his passion for astronomy and we discussed the relegation of Pluto to a mere planetoid and which was the hottest planet. We reckoned it was probably Venus on account of its runaway greenhouse effect. George pioneered a new difficult route crossing a fence via a tree rather than the boring way through the gate.

At lunch time, we all had a well deserved feed of soup, bread - all made by Val - and cheeses followed by (fair trade and organic) coffee, chocolate and an impromptu meeting. How, Val wondered, should we organise our group? Three points came out from this brief discussion:
  1. each group member should pay some money up front to help cover our costs for seeds, plants, composts and so on. This then provides an incentive for the members to make sure that everything necessary - like helping out - is done to ensure good crops of fruit and veg: a vested interest. We suggest £50
  2. each group member should come and help out as and when needed or when they can. The time each member spends working would be recorded  in a time bank kept by Val. The cost of the produce we supply to members of the group would then be adjusted according to the amount of time put in. How all this will work in practice we don't yet know and we're open to suggestions. Neither Val nor I wish to make vast profits (!) from this enterprise but neither do we want to be a charitable foundation. The fundamental basis for such a group to work is mutual trust. We are very fortunate to have that with all our group members.
  3. members who come to help whilst Val and I are away from 10th June - 10th July could take what produce they needed that happened to be available. I pointed out that I was continuing to sow and plant veg for a continuous supply of at least some items even though we'd not be there when some of it is ready. Work which needs doing during our absence will be grass mowing  and weeding
We ended the day with a very noisy, splashy trip round the lake, scaring off a heron, several ducks and the pair of geese that always nest on the island every year. No children actually fell in but several got water in their wellies and rather damp clothes. And George observed to me that the day was more fun than he thought it was going to be. Let's hope that sets the general tone for all future family helping visits. It's a great place for climbing trees, playing football, and picnics as well as pulling out weeds!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Fruity plans at Mur Crusto farm

We are downsizing at Llangybi Organics as you have probably read here. But we - this is Bry and Val - are not giving up. (Neither, for that matter, are Jill and Mike who are planning their potato co-op at the moment.) Instead, plans are well underway for a pick-your-own (PYO) soft fruit enterprise in addition to the very much reduced veg production. It seemed crazy to grass over the plot of arable land we've been using for the last 8 years and waste all that fertility and relative freedom from weeds. So we're not going to. Instead, we are buying lots of the soft fruit bushes and will be planting these as they arrive from the nurseries. The idea is that any Llangybi Organics customers should come and pick their own fruit during the summer and autumn as it ripens. . The photo shows the 'old' veg plot from which winter crops are now all but finished. If you look carefully in the foreground, you'll see the first row of 10 blackcurrant bushes already planted out.

Cunning plans: Why are we doing this when we claim to want to reduce the work load and give us more freedom? Well we have a cunning plan to cut maintenance down to a minimum. We are covering the soil with woven plastic mulch material called Phormisol.

And what are we growing for this PYO? Here's the list, all delicious berries many of which you never see in shops or supermarkets:
  • Raspberries, both summer and autumn fruiting varieties. We're almost doubling our existing raspberry stocks with 80 new canes and new varieties to extend the season
  • Strawberries - about 40 plants in one long row and 3 different varieties   
  • Blackcurrants - adding 25 new bushes, more than doubling what we have now
  • Whitecurrants - 2 varieties both yielding dessert berries; 8 bushes
  • Redcurrants - 2 varieties; 7 bushes
  • Gooseberries - 4 varieties, some purple, some green (dessert and culinary); 17 bushes
  • Blackberry - 3 bushes of a thornless variety
  • Jostaberries - a hybrid between gooseberry and blackcurrant; 3 bushes
  • and, just for fun, one Gojiberry 
 Joining the Llangybi Organics PYO: We'll give preference to those who've been our veg box customers and, especially, those prepared to come and give a helping hand as we get started. During this month (March 2010), we have to plant out all the above plants. That means digging holes, adding compost and laying the mulching plastic between each row. The existing raspberries and blackcurrants need weeding and the old canes need cutting. If you're keen to join in what we hope, in years to come, will be a bonanza of delicious organic fruit, we need your help NOW! Please contact Val at Mur Crusto farm if you can spare a few hours to help out. Contact details here.

What happened to the fruit  orchard at Mur Crusto? We have around 30 apple, pear and plum trees in a little orchard we planted  8-9 years ago. Val and I have just finished pruning the trees and chopping down weeds round their bases. The sheep, under supervision (they can have a penchant for stripping bark) have been very helpful at clipping the grass (see photo on right). This orchard has not been as productive as we'd hoped but the trees are getting bigger and their fruit is improving. We hope to make some of this fruit available to PYO and veg customers. Everything depends on the weather, of course, but we've had some fine eating and cooking apples in store until early this year.

So over to you... If you're keen on our fruit scheme (in which we're investing a lot of time and money), please come and help us get it growing.