15 Hens working for their food in the Tractor

The two groups of hens integrated with not too much fuss. It’s taken them less than a week to scratch up 16′ x 4′ and I now have to decide how best to move the tractor with the hens.

Years ago, I heard that Mr Fox is a clever old man, and is particularly wary of human voices. On one of the gardening shows in the ’90s I heard of a chicken owner who had bother with foxes eventually resort to a transistor radio set to Radio 4. I’ll have hens with an incredible general knowledge and handle on current affairs.

With the trailer borrowed from our neighbours, I collected twenty 8′ pallets.
Clearing the poly tunnel at the East Neuk Market Garden, I ended up with a mass of basil and made basil and olive oil. The plan is to make nut-free pesto as well as beet leaf pesto. The only way to preserve it, is to freeze it. I think our freezer will be full.

Winter planting now?

It is that time. I can remember that after the potato harvest, that was it. Soil was cleaned of all vegetation and left exposed for the frost to break it down to a fine tilth. Now I know that’s probably the worst thing you can do; soil microbes die without live roots, nutrients get washed away with the top soil, and the soil compacts.

This is the first winter at The Sanctuary Garden, and so far we have, Imperial Wheeler Cabbage planted, and interplanted with lettuce, Lolo Rossa, Little Gem and Tom Thumb in one bed, winter spinach, Vulcan Chard – deep red stemmed variety, and Winter wonder lettuce. Of course the garlic from the Really Garlicky Company up in Nairn, is in the first bed in the field. It’s been over planted with beetroot, that is now taking off and looking particularly happy.

The water tank has been moved to the corner of the shed, now that I have a pump connected to a hose. It makes it easy watering anywhere in the garden. The only downside is if I fill a watering can and leave the hose in it and turn off the pump, it siphons empty.

Why grow heritage wheat Now?

There was an interesting podcast where heritage wheat was mentioned as a cover crop that provides lots of carbon for the soil microbes after the harvest. Chopped and dropped. They mentioned it grew to around 5 foot, which surprised me as the modern wheat I’ve seen is much shorter, some as short as 2’.

It’s also interesting that the flavour of these older varieties are in demand by bakers as they provide both better flavour and different amounts of gluten, starch and proteins. According to a research papersuggests that modern wheat breeding practices may have led to an increased exposure to celiac disease epitopes

Besides having to thresh, hull, grind, and generally slave to make a pound of flour, it would be an inexpensive way of feeding hens.

It has been ordered and it’s not seed wheat, it’s supposed to be destined for milling, getting around the draconian 1964 seed rules, forcing the loss of valued genetics forever.

Red Lammas. A once very widely grown and popular variety first mentioned in 1650 and lauded as ‘The King of wheats’ By Ellis in 1747. This wheat was probably Elizabethan in origin and may well have been part of the English soldiers and sailors diet at the time of the Spanish Armada. A lovely reddish brown colour when in ear with medium sized hard red grains.

Millers Choice. A modern mix of many domestic and foreign heritage wheats. That just sounded interesting and may provide a wide range of wheat, allowing the selection of the best growing variety for this location.

The planting on the site is detailed as follows

Notill has been around for quite a while, it’s not new its the way nature plants, seeds are dropped on the ground and they grow. Not all of them as they are exposed to being eaten or too dry but enough survive to keep the species going. We need slighly better odds than that to feed 6 billion people so we aim to place the seed where it has the best chance of surviving. For cereals that is about 1 1/2 inches deep (in old money) into soil and covered to keep it away from anything looking for a meal.

My drill has sharp discs to cut any vegetation and also a slot into the ground, seeds are blown in and a following wheel closes the slot and firms the soil around the seed. The old vegetation is left where it should be on the surface as food for all the citizens of the soil from bacteria and fungi to worms mice and beetles. Amazingly it dissapears as the nutrients are recycled and organic matter is taken into the soil. This sequesters a lot of carbon from the atmosphere as well.

What do you eat? Your opinion is important

This is a survey to know what should be grown in The Sanctuary Garden next year. We’re expanding and it’s important we don’t waste time, effort and money growing food you don’t want to eat.

Please fill in this survey, it’s anonymous, so please only fill it in if you’re in the Dunfermline are.

Find out what Unusual winter greens you can plant

Seeds specifically for winter have been purchased from realseeds.co.uk with money you have donated. The seed company encourage seed saving and offer hints and tips on how to do it. Their go-to seed-saving “bible” is Back Garden Seed Saving: Keeping Our Vegetable Heritage Alive. by Sue Stickland. A second hand copy is winging it’s way as I write…..

The seeds purchased include some interesting cool weather lettuces and some oriental greens;Hhere are a few that sounded interesting:

Australian Yellow leaf – A very large open-headed lettuce, with bright, bright green-yellow leaves that are gently frilled. Good flavour and crunchy texture. Very decorative, and slow to bolt. It makes huge lettuces – you only need three or four to keep you in salads for ages.

Winter marvel – It is a traditional French variety chosen specifically for sowing in late summer and early autumn. It is quite hardy and will do very nicely in an unheated polytunnel or greenhouse, providing salads in winter and spring when they’re most appreciated.

“Komatsuna” Japanese Green – is an incredibly versatile green from Japan and Korea with leaves used as a cooking leaf like Kale or Chard, or used raw in salads. It is delicious, cold tolerant and easy to grow all year

Mizuna (and Red Mizuna) – One of the simplest oriental greens, and gives a very rapid return from a small space. An excellent salad crop, tolerant of both hot and cold weather – with a good texture and flavour.

Mibuna – A quick and ridiculously easily-grown salad for cooler weather. Big bunches of narrow oval leaves which you can just pick by the handful.  Productive and easy to grow, and also tasty cooked.

“70 Days Improved” Choy Sum This variety from China is chosen for its darker green leaves and flowering shoots that are great cooked or raw. The whole plant is edible – harvest flower shoots and leaves all in a bunch when it starts to flower

There are the usual British winter greens of Claytona, Purslane and lambs lettuce

Fava beans from the latin name “Vicia faba” are broad beans. Field beans are broad beans used by farmers to fix nitrogen and the tops used as a feedstock. The beans are smaller that “cultivated” broad beans but taste just the same. They are winter hardy so they’ve been included in the sowings.

What happens when you cover grass for a month?

At the beginning of August, I was interested to see how long it would take to kill grass under black plastic. This is established, long meadow grass. It takes about a month, and probably two for it to breakdown further.

The grass is covered with plastic and cardboard ready for loads of compost, and if I can afford it, another poly tunnel.

194lb donated in August

This month figures have been boosted by potatoes and plums. All organic and all delicious. It’s remarkable what can be grown in a relatively small space.

Beautiful, tasty veggies, grown organically and donated

The potatoes are delicious, and they taste as good as they look; I’ve tried some to make sure.

Made with Rice, Mold and sugar

The organic workshop had to start with the basic understanding that living soils and plant health are critical to good vegetables. Not just pristine but healthy; not just from a plant view point and when considering diet, gut and mental health. They are linked together.

Doing research the most frightening thing is that without soil microbes, all life on this plant would cease to exist. Without microbes plants can’t survive and without plants, well, that’s kinda obvious; no rump steak, chips or beer. I’m making light of a catastrophe.

One way of increasing soil microbes is to lift them from an established area, like a deciduous wood, let them multiply and then store them in bottle. IMO (Indigenous Micro Organisms.) #1 and #2 is the start of the process.

Unfortunately I did not take a photo of the lovely bloom of IMO #1 that had collected. It’s mixed with equal weights of dark brown sugar and allowed to ferment for a couple of weeks, strained and it’s now IMO #2. This is a bottle filled with shelf stable micro organisms that can be added to a bed, foliar spray or compost.

OHN, Oriental Herbal Nutrient takes a little bit to time to make and is now part of the workshop. The process will be split between the two classes. This class hydrated Angelica root with beer, crushed garlic and mixed it with an equal weight of brown sugar. The next class will do the other amendments for OHN, ginger, liquorice root, cinnamon and turmeric if I can find any fresh.

Space saving, easy and cheap way to plant your Lettuce

The second beginners workshop covers seeds and planting up. This includes separating and potting on some live supermarket herbs, about a dozen bay trees planted from seed in a tiny pot and planting seedlings grown here into a rain gutter.

The compost mix is mushroom compost, with perlite for drainage and chicken manure pellets for fertility.

It’s been drizzly for the day so helped with outside watering. Two handfuls of Magnesium sulphate (epsom salts) were added to the big tank so the plants always get magnesium, critical for photosynthesis. When you consider most folk put half a bag of bath salts into their bath, a handful or two is nothing in 1000 litres, 264 us Gal.

Mick kindly dropped off another load of chippings, and they are steaming away. I’m going to use them to make compost by mixing equal parts of bokashi ferment, bark, mushroom compost and fresh horse manure. Another experiment….