People Powered , Nature Driven ....
Hello , I am Paul , founder of Waterland Organics. For over 20 years now I have been growing organically in the Cambridgeshire Fens . The journey has been long but has not finished . Hopefully , this blog will give you an insight into what do and the place where we do it ; It's grimness and its equisite beauty
By pauljonathan, Apr 18 2013 10:14PM
So this morning saw the first real fen blow I have seen for a while . I realised today that there are people who when they hear the phrase ‘fenland blow’ , laugh . One thing is for sure , and that is the image that is conjured up in their minds by this phrase is a few stacks of willow withies away from what a fenland blow really is . Essentially , it is when the tops of fenland fields become dry and this combined with the topsoils fine light structure mean it is easily lifted into the air by strong wind . It occurs mostly in the Spring . This is because much of the land has been prepared as seed beds and is devoid of any vegetation to stabilise the soil . Some growers overcome this by sowing barley on fields they have sown vegetable seed such as beetroot ,carrots or parsnips . The thinking is that the barley will germinate quickly and produce many low level mini windbreaks , which will reduce soil blow by reducing windspeed at soil level . This does work , most of the time .
In the middle of a severe fen blow the air appears brown with a sort of mustard yellow backlight . This combined with the sound of the wind gives you a strange sense of other worldliness , that can only give you a feeling of awe for the power and majesty of nature . It makes you feel as small and powerless as that girl at the start of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ . Your eyes get stung with grit , your ears get full of it and when you bathe the water quickly goes black .
The aftermath can be dry ditches full of drifts of black soil , whole lately sown fields being robbed of sown seed as well as topsoil . Fen people often joke of some farmers field of say beetroot now being spread all over the next parish or he now has a field in the next parish . Joking aside ,this can be expensive . Whole fields have to be re sown and new seed paid for . It is more common on fields without hedges or windbreaks and larger fields . This is one of the benefits of growing a mixture of crops and having a certain amount of grass ley on the farm. By having land in differing states of cultivation wind speeds are reduced and drifting soil is captured . It must be noted that there is only a certain depth of topsoil and once it has gone it will take many lifetimes to get it back again so keeping hold of it must be a priority
By pauljonathan, Apr 12 2013 09:22AM
Things have been moving apace this week . With the Cropshare volunteers doing an amazing job on the onion set and broad bean planting . Me getting the potatoes planted , even though the planter played up , things are looking much better . And now this bit of rain will get the sown parsnips , beans , carrots and beetroot moving . I cant wait to see them . Yes , that is how sad I am . I am really looking forward to see them emerge . The Autumn sown beans are coming on apace and look better with every day that passes . The new chickens are laying more and more eggs , light rain is falling , sun is shining (on and off) , lambs are jumping up and down as though on pogo sticks and the soil is warm enough for me to put my bottom on(long johns up , of course!) . What more could any middle aged fenland farmer want.
By pauljonathan, Apr 2 2013 12:53PM
Never trust a trust an arrogant farmer , garden presenter, or farm advisor for that matter . Arrogance is normally bred out of a certainity that one knows everything on a chosen subject . It follows on from this that if you know everything , there is no point learning anymore , whether by experience or academic study . These people are dangerous . Politicians listen to them , taken in by their brash ‘know it all attitude’, these people never show doubt as they equate that with weakness . Never make a U turn as this would be tantamount to admitting they were wrong , they had made a mistake , they don’t know everything . They are fallible . The trouble with growing things is that isgrowing is inexorably linked with nature and nature doesn’t do anything by the book or diary or by just doing it ‘because that’s what it did last year’ . So when faced with a season like this just planting things at the same time you usually do might not be the right answer .With soil temperatures hanging around 2 degrees Celsius , when you would expect them to be 9 degrees Celsius, should make you ponder what to do . Will onion sets be more likely to bolt if put into soil this cold ? Or will they be alright as long as we don’t get a cold snap followed by a hot time and then another cold time . Will potato seed be alright in soil temperatures of this level ? Probably . But what about if we have a penetrating frost once the potatoes have been planted? With the soil at 9 degrees , the potatoes would be protected , but at 2 degrees ? You can only make an educated guess . If you get it wrong ; well you thought it through and just got the wrong answer . If you get it right , show now arrogance , do not crow , just be grateful everything worked out well this time .
By pauljonathan, Mar 25 2013 10:45PM
Penny postage on soft fruit plants until 12th April 2013 . Just select penny postage from drop down box .
By pauljonathan, Mar 24 2013 12:42PM
Is there anyone out there who thinks that this weather is normal ? Traditionally potatoes are planted by farmworkers on Good Friday , which is always the first Friday after a Full Moon , which , if you garden with reference to the waxing and waning moon means you are planting your potatoes in the correct phase . I fear that this tradition will not be followed by many this year . With a Cropshare day planned for Saturday, with potato planting and onion set planting on the agenda , things don't look promising . It is interesting to note that the Biodynamic calender has Good Friday and the Saturday as inauspicious time for planting potatoes and suggests a date in May for potato planting .If this ends up being the case I think I will have to through the whole month of May without sleeping .As this bad weather continues , our work load is being compressed into a shorter and shorter time and this is worrying . There are only so many hours in the day and in situations like this something always falls off the edge of the list of 'things to do' . This has an impact on what we can produce and inevitably the range will be limited . There is another piece of Farm Folklore which says that inevitably over a 12 month period an average amount of rain will fall . Looks like as well as all the planting we will be having to irrigate all summer ....... Great .
By pauljonathan, Mar 23 2013 09:43PM
CROPPING AND HOLDING NEWS.
Broad beans , overwintered onions and garlic have so far got through the winter unscathed . Parsnips , some carrots , beetroot and more beans have been sown in odd dry periods over the last few weeks . As yet , they have not shown above the ground which , the weather being like it is , must be a blessing from on high . In the ground they are relatively safe though rotting is always a possibility but in our ground, this is very rare . Lambs have been born and are nice and toasty in the polytunnel . More are due but thankfully not quite yet.