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March 2006

Mothering Sunday.....

By Heather 14 years ago

Usually Anne pops along daily in her estate car with the days flowers, but last week several trips took place including a pick up by Nicky in the van.......

English Flower article

By Heather 14 years ago

Here is a link to a flower article about the flower industry including Wiggly Flowers
This year at Wiggly Wigglers Anne put together a record 83 bouquets for Mothering Sunday, but there was a market that none of us had thought of.........those sons and daughters who had forgotten Mothering Sunday!!!!! So that meant that Monday saw another 19 bouquets leave and another 10 today!! Ha Ha - Jodie had to order extra boxes - and quick! In complete contrast last week we went to have a look around a chrysanthemum glasshouse in Holland, where they use earthworms (megrow worms) to oxygenate the soil to promote quicker growth. It was mind bogglingly efficient, tiny plant to flower in 9 weeks, with everything controlled - from CO2, temperature, light, bugs, everything. Automated cutting and picking and trimming and packing means that they produce 50000 bunches every week and nearly all for the UK supermarkets!! From picking to market usually takes 3-4 days but the chrysanthemums last so long, that they can stay in the box for 10 days if necessary.
Well, our flowers may not be as efficiently produced.....................never mind! Anne's bringing me in photos of her farmhouse filled with flowers - no conveyor belts but Anne and Nicky were up late finishing the flowers inbetween lambing.

Podcast 25 from Wiggly Wigglers

By Heather 14 years ago

The Clare Short interview from Podcast 23 makes the press, but what a difference the local and national 'papers make of the same story. You can see what The Birmingham Post makes of it here Bokashi Report . Richard gets up early to record the song thrushes at dawn. Down on the farm, Phil's down on his luck as Lord Bach fails to live up to his promises (who would have guessed it?). Richard resorts to bad language brought on by Snakes Head Fritillary of all things. Then, finally, Phil gets to talk dirty as he explains the thinking behind ‘mucking out’. Richard takes on the guise of the roving reporter again, this time at 'In the Cowshed at Night' where Heather gets her own flipchart and reprises her Prince Charles impression. There's a wormcast from Monty and Alison's ‘Plant of the Week’ is Water Mint.
Catch up on any editions you may have missed in our Podcast Archive at http://www.wigglywigglers.co.uk/podcasts/archive.lasso
Contact us - website www.wigglywigglers.co.uk
We're now number 4 in the Science section of iTunes - way to go!!
1 New Scientist
2 Naked Scientists
3 Nature
4 Wiggly Wigglers

Silent Spring

By Heather 14 years ago

Yesterday was officially the first day of spring and this year we seem to be having a 'proper' winter/spring; where do you think that the old saying "The March wind will blow and we shall have snow" came from? The last few years have been desperately mild. I use the word desperately to address the consequences of changeable weather conditions on our wildlife, rather than the toasty temperatures. Early mild spells often encourage birds to start nesting and produce a clutch of demanding offspring before there are enough grubs about to sustain them.
Last year I put a couple of nest boxes on my house mainly with a view to encouraging a few sparrows, the chirpy spuggies failed to show but both boxes were adopted by the same pair of great tits, albeit not at the same time. The persistent pair hatched a brood of nestlings just prior to a cold snap last year following a period of mild weather, as a consequence there were fewer caterpillars emerging than required and only a few days after they had hatched I watched one of the parent birds air lifting the limp bodies of their young away from the nest. Dark days indeed.
Subsequently the box around the corner was deemed suitable and a second attempt by the same pair of birds was underway. Some few weeks latter we were able to enthuse about the young great tits rattling around like lizards in a tin in their home, battling to get their heads out of the entrance hole in a bid to get to their attentive parents first.
In short it just goes to show how our fickle weather can effect the lives of all that exists around us.

In the Cowshed at Night

By Heather 14 years ago

The first ever Farm event "proper" took place on Saturday evening here at the farm when around 50 people donned their wellies and went "In the Cowshed at Night!"

The aim was really just to start a conversation about the breakdown in communication between the farmer and the consumer and to put a few ideas in the pot about how direct communication whether by traditional methods or using new technology can bring about a positive change.

Many of the people live in the countryside, and wanted to find out whats really going on down on the farm. They toured the cowshed at night and got to see the two sets of twins that have been born this year. They asked lots of questions about all those sticky subjects that farmers often mutter about between themselves, organic versus conventional farming, TB, BSE. We had a mix of people as you will see from their comments - farmer - non farmer, vegetarian, non vegetarian, and also all age groups.

And a live calving? No but inbetween the guests leaving and Phil going to bed number 38 - a half charolais gave birth to a bull calf - and so that meant that there were 5 calves born in the 24hrs before the event and one born 10 minutes after......

There was also my talk, illustrated by Monty, where we had a chat in the sitting room about how the consumer and the farmer have grown apart and ways which we can start to change the situation, which was interesting.

"In the Cowshed at Night" at Lower Blakemere Farm was part of the LEAF's "Speak Out" campaign which seeks to encourage farmers to take opportunities to explain how quality British food is produced and discuss consumer concerns. You can find out more at www.leafuk.org/leaf/

The food and drink was all from local produce:
Pickled Onions - Jackie Payne
Beef - Topside from Mr Lloyds at Craven Arms through James Heggie
Crisps - Tyrrells in Herefordshire
Fruit Cakes - Rosie, Rhian and Oakchurch Farm Shop
Bread - Credenhill Bakery
Fruit Juices (most popular of the evening was Prapple) Ragmans Lane Farm
Butty Bach Beer - Wye Valley Brewery
Cider - Paul Stephens Newton Farm
Flowers - Al and Anne

and was put together by Rhian, Rose and Noelle. Many thanks to them.

Of course we did a feedback form and asked people what they liked/didnt like and here are the responses:

What did you like? Seeing the calves and cows looking so happy and well cared for.
What didnt you like? Leaking wellies!
What did we miss out. Where to buy local beef
Comments Nice to hear other peoples opinions
What have you learnt: Lots and lots and I feel reassured about how the cattle are cared for.
K Summers

What did you like? The crisps. The very clean straw in the cowshed. The food and drink. Happy looking cows
What didnt you like? Driving home (!!)
What did we miss out. nothing
Comments I would not like to swop places with Phil when cows have problems calving
What have you learnt: Heather doesnt like Tescos. Lot of paperwork with cows.
The Fenns

What did you like? Seeing contented obviously well cared for animals
What didnt you like? Not sure if full lighting on all the time in the cowshed wouldnt stress? Could it not be dimmed a bit?!! (Dont laugh Farmer Phil)
What did we miss out. nothing
Comments Very informative.
P. Parry

What did you like? Everything
What didnt you like? Climbing on and off the manger
What did we miss out. What we dont know we cant miss
Comments Really enjoyed the evening. Good appreciation of how hard farmers work
What have you learnt: I must be vocal and demand.
The Collins

What did you like? Great evening out. Had a chat and a laugh, and saw how it should be done
What didnt you like? needed more notice
What did we miss out. Woolly hats and gloves
Comments Nice to hear other peoples thoughts
What have you learnt: Massive room for improvement on informing people on what they are eating and drinking. This is really important for the way forward in farming
P Stephens

What did you like? A great pleasure to be in your cowsheds
What didnt you like? I dont think generally peopl are willing to spend enough time money or attention on food. Perhaps it needs to be more expensive - or scarcer.
What did we miss out. nothing
Comments I do think you have been very generous with your open house and wellies.
I feel unhappy about pigs - I think they have a worse time that cattle and sheep
E Wilson

What did you like? The time of day the event was held and the variation.
What didnt you like? Not knowing who everyone one was and their background
What did we miss out.
Comments Whens the next one! We should all bring a guest that is not normally subjected to this type of thing! Well done!
R Puzey

What did you like? The whole evening was a brilliant idea
What didnt you like? n/a
What did we miss out. nothing
Comments Really interesting evening couldn't quite hear what Phil was saying but got the jist. Thank you
What have you learnt: Bulls are very big close up
Caroline and Mel

What did you like? Good idea: the debates: seeing the cattle
What didnt you like?
What did we miss out. Masses, but it was impossible to cover everything in one session
Comments Great to get people talking. Where do you go from here?
What have you learnt: How difficult it is to motivate people to change their patterns of behavior
Anne C

What did you like? The visit with the cows, the stimulus to think differently; the informality
What didnt you like? nothing
What did we miss out. Explanation of LEAF. Groups were a bit big to gear all the q and a's especially in the cowshed. Maybe we missed things there
Comments Really pleased that you did this. Let us know when you do it again
What have you learnt: About calf rearing. Thinking about not accepting what you get in restaurants and supermarkets, but asking about sources in a positive, non confrontational manner! You made us think!
Nancy and Derrick

What did you like? Very informative, relaxed atmosphere
What didnt you like? Phil could do with talking louder. Difficult to hear at the back
What did we miss out. It would have been interesting to know that value of the calf from birth to butchers shop.
Comments Very enjoyable evening - food for thought. May be useful for promoting local produce
What have you learnt: DEFRA - animal passports; tags; different way of farming beef to my parents
P Cianchi

What did you like? Presentation first class. Knowledgable
What didnt you like? cold in cowshed, were the cows cold?
What did we miss out.
Comments Very enjoyable evening, food and drink excellent.
What have you learnt: Farmer must get closer to the consumer. What a blog is.
Tony and Pauline

What did you like? Going around the cowshed was really good, especially seeing the calves - just a pity they'll all end up on someones plate!
What didnt you like? The fact that the calves will end up on someones plate - but thats life.
What did we miss out.
Comments Great idea - really agree that farming should be more transparent. I'm sure many people buy organic because they feel that this is some guarantee of good animal welfare.
What have you learnt: Very interesting to learn about the weaning of the calves/cows etc.
J and K Claridge

What did you like? Good to get local views and thoughts
What didnt you like?
What did we miss out.
Comments Difficult to see a workable solution
What have you learnt: More about the cuts available and where they come from

What did you like? Very thought provoking evening. Seeing the cattle
What didnt you like? The thought of the cattle being killed - but its reality!
What did we miss out. Maybe the drawing up of an action place. Was an influential forum - I'd like to be part of an action group.
Comments Fantastic, I'll help spread the word.
What have you learnt: Awareness on the welfare and future of farming. I didnt know the farmers are so dissatisfied with the impersonal methods. I now know they are.
S Hancox

What did you like? Hev's talk, beer and grub
What didnt you like?
What did we miss out. The mud - where was it?
Comments Good bash
What have you learnt: That folks are interested in farming afterall, or completely nosey

What did you like? The cowshed tour - this was excellent. Very interesting and great to be able to see the cows and calves so close. Also "Farmer Phil" was open to any questions
What didnt you like? Nothing really, thanks to Heather and Phil
What did we miss out. Perhaps something about people's attitude towards food i.e the reason why the supermarkets are able to dictate is because people are led and influenced by marketing which tells us what is "good" food. i.e focusing only on certain cuts of meat etc and convenience. It is their attitude towards food that needs to change before the consumer can assert influence over the market.
What have you learnt:Lots
Sarah F

What did you like? Stroking a day old calf ....ahhhh
What didnt you like? The cold
What did we miss out. A calf being born (Hev promised...)
Comments Overall very good evening. Glad I came. Ta
What have you learnt: What goes on in the clanky old shed
Jo from Wigglies

What did you like? Onions
What didnt you like?
What did we miss out. Nothing
Comments Very good
What have you learnt: The cuts on a cow

What did you like? The animals (bulls especially). The hospitality
What didnt you like?
What did we miss out.
Comments An excellent idea
What have you learnt:The single suckler works economically. Open up the channels of communication.
P Scott

What did you like? Liked all the information provided about food and farming. A magical experience.
What didnt you like? The cold, although was so enchanted by the evening soon stopped thinking about it.
Comments Great to have an insight into how "real farmers" produce and their thoughts.
What did we miss out.
What have you learnt: What a blog is and more about cattle and production
L Cochram

There we are..... your comments please.

Worm Composting Question of the Week

By Heather 14 years ago

This week's question is sent in by Marinda and answered by Jo at Wiggly Wigglers.

Hello Wigglys
I have had one of your Can-o-Worms for about a year,
and it/they are doing fantastically well - eating most
of the kitchen waste from a family of 5. It is sited
outside my back door in a corner of two walls (south
and west facing). I have kept the unit which has a
Rain Cap, wrapped in two layers of thick bubble wrap
all winter - unwrapping about every three weeks to put
in a supply of kitchen compost from the caddy and an
old nappy bucket outside, plus some worm treats. After
all this intense cold I was amazed to find that they
were working really hard and composting everything.
They have eaten two hessian mats too, even though I
keep giving them vegetable waste regularly, is this
normal? I have plenty of mats but was concerned that
they were apparently so hungry. I give them egg boxes,
vacuum cleaner contents and shredded cardboard and
newspaper too. I am onto the top (3rd)tray now and
have discovered a couple of small but significant
problems. The main one being that as I cannot lift
heavy objects I have to wait for a willing assistant
to lift the layers off, but also I am unsure about how
to decant the bottom tray as there are always some
worms in there. The information sheets seem to
indicate that the compost is ready when the worms have
moved out of the particular layer and I don't know if
they should get into the garden and I don't want to
dig it out in case I chop them up. Quite a few seem to
drift down into the sump as well and some of these die
- they don't drown as I leave the tap open dripping
into a watering can - v good liquid fertiliser.
Any advice please?
Many thanks Marinda

Jo replies


The worms will eventually eat any matting that you put on top. If they eat it quickly, then you need to be adding even more dry fibre with the waste.
I would try to add the waste at more frequent intervals, maybe once a week instead.

The easiest way to remove the worms from the tray you'd like to harvest is to move it to the top,
take the lid off and leave them for about 1 hour in daylight. This should force them to move down away from the light - although if it is quite dense, you may need to take a bit off at a time.

It is normal to get a few worms head down into the sump tray, but if there are lots going down there over a short period of time there may be problems above (usually it's if it is too wet).

Kind Regards