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The hens are gone, compost and marmalade... - Soil Association Apprentice

Soil Association Apprentice

Emma Heseltine blogs during her placement at Hadrian Organics

The hens are gone, compost and marmalade...

Whilst I was away there was a tragedy. A sneaky four legged fiend got into the hen house. It was a massacre, we had 24 hens and now there are only 10. I’m kind of glad I didn’t see the carnage, it must have been horrible. I know a fox has to eat too but it did not need to kill that many. Sad times at the farm, no eggs for anyone for a while it think, the poor girls must be traumatised. We have some pullets on order but they won’t be ready until March. Our sad little brood will have to survive until then. The fox is unlikely to be so lucky.
It’s almost time to start getting things planted, it seems like spring might be around the corner despite the recent cold snap. We are planning to get the tomatoes going in the greenhouse and get the sweet peas in. So what we really need is some compost. In steps me with a fork, the sieve and a plastic sheet. First I try the stuff in the top compost heap that we discovered the other week when we were re-arranging it. The heap over the wall from the car park where all the trailer poo/straw goes was looking a little unruly and was spreading into the orchard, so the Halo group and I decided to split it in two and turn it over. We found some great stuff at the bottom that had been merrily composting for quite some time so put it on one side. I try to sieve this but its a little bit claggy and after a frustrating 20 minutes of turning the handle on the sieve I only have a measly 3 small pots of compost. Time for a better plan. I head down the garden to the other heap, the one the gardener keeps for best and find some much more suitable stuff. Soon I have 12 pots ready for planting. Now we need to get them a little warmer, it’s actually below freezing outside now, so they go in the conservatory to warm up. In a couple of days we will be able to start planting I think.
We are starting a new fence at Willowford. There is a long stretch to be put in so we start hammering in the posts. After a post knocker incident (why is the top loose? That wont work!) we have to do it with the maul, a long an arduous process. At lunch time I am sat admiring the lovely sunny wintry day when the curious Angus’s come down for a nosey. What’s this? A row of scratching posts just for us? No! Get lost! I shoo them away, the posts are fine, and if they couldn’t take a little mauling from the cattle they wouldn’t be much good.
The halo group proved their enthusiasm for anything jam-related in autumn so we are getting them on to marmalade making this week. Whilst some of the guys help finish off the wall we have been working on at Wallace field the rest of us get chopping and squeezing. The electric juicer makes life a lot easier and soon we have several pans on the go, chopping the peel and debating thick cut or thin? High peel or low? We are going to enter one of their jars in the marmalade festival at Dalemain at the end of the month, in the community group’s category. I hope they win!

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