A final visit to Church Farm!
Another glorious day rounds off another wonderful year at Church Farm Ardeley.
This last visit really consolidated the cyclical work that goes on at the farm. During the first trip we planted strawberries, then watered them and saw them grow during the Spring. Today we harvested them ready to be sold in the farm shop or cafe. Nothing was wasted; what couldn't be sold would be juiced or given to the pigs ... and of course we couldn't resist a sneaky taste along the way!
We visited the chickens again and what a delight to see how confident the children are now! Those who had been reluctant chicken farmers during the year now stroked, held and lifted chickens to remove eggs in the coops. There was however one exception to this bravado, someone who has definitely tried to put on a brave face but would never attempt to hold a chicken, (you won that bet Leo!) ... that was me!! So I really take my hat off to those children who faced their fears over these past months, well done!
With good weather again on our side, we were treated to a picnic in the woods at lunch time before going off to feed the animals one last time. : We've all had our favourite moments and for children they're never what you assume: Crystal still talks about walking on the pooh mountain last year, Ashton spent a lot of time wading in mud or cartwheeling across the grass. Marlee and Chloe were among many whose highlight was bottle feeding lambs. For Benjamin and many more it was holding chickens. The list goes on, there are so many great memories!
I am so proud of all the children who have come out to the farm. They have been offered freedom to explore at their own pace and now have an understanding of how the farm operates throughout the year and the safety around that. They have faced fears and risen to every challenge. Those who were more confident have supported those who were hesitant to at least have a go, gently coaxing them through their fears. The group have really come to work together as a team which has been a delight to watch. I hope that these experiences will impact on how they face challenges in other situations.
With more exciting projects in the pipeline, here ends our journey with Church Farm but what a journey it's been! We've learned, we've laughed, we've listened and done, then laughed lots more. Ten sessions over two years and we've always been blessed with good weather. It's been an amazing experience for all and I'd like to thank Rozelle and the fabulous farmers at Church farm for their work and patience, the parents for supporting with appropriate clothes and packed lunches each time, the support staff who have accompanied the trips with such great humour, Mrs Richardson, Mrs Wildes and Mrs Parker, and mostly I want to thank the children for being just the best ambassadors for us at Hollybush School!
A busy Spring day on the farm!
Spring is a really busy time on the farm, planting and growing ready for the warmer weather. The sunflowers we planted last session had sprouted and were ready to be planted out. Rozelle led us onto the path which leads over to the bluebell woods, suggesting that children decide where to plant their sunflowers along the route so that visitors were treated to a sunflower trail on their walk around the farm. The children had put their names onto their plant pots and were given lollipop sticks so that they would be able to find their own sunflower on our next visit when hopefully they will have flowered.
The farm shop is an important element in keeping the farm financially viable. It is of course stocked by the organic produce directly grown and reared on the farm. We saw lots of onions in the polytunnel during our last visit and today we planted more out on the fields which will be harvested next season.
The highlight of the day was feeding the lambs! Some of the ewes which had triplets were unable to feed all their babies so the farm takes the third lamb and rears themselves, feeding them 6 times a day, a total of 1 litre per lamb. The children delighted as lambs tugged eagerly on the bottles. Each lamb was given a name. This year the theme was fruits and veg so we fed lambs with names such as Pomegranate, Celery, Asparagus who Crystal wanted to bring home! The children sat beautifully as lambs frolicked around them and they were given the opportunity to stroke and get up close and personal. Of course hand washing was thoroughly overseen afterwards.
The children are learning all the time during our visits and their increasing confidence was noticeable yesterday. They used their enquiring minds to ask relevant questions as well as develop their curiosity about the things they are seeing and hearing. I watched as the older children supported and naturally nurtured the younger ones. What a fabulous day ... Again!
Spring has arrived on the farm!
The Winter freeze lifted in time for our third visit to the farm and what a beautiful day it's been!
Spring has truly been in the air today; not only because the sun shone for us, but the activities we have been involved in reminded us that Summer is finally on it's way.
The children greatly enjoyed pulling up Kale this morning, the bigger plants turned out to be a bit like pulling 'The Enormous Turnip'! We were astounded by the piles children made. Not many children knew what Kale was so this was a new vegetable for most as well as a novel experience for all. The kale will be sold in the farm shop when it's fully prepared.
Our next task took us to the poly-tunnel where we saw how our strawberry plants were doing since we planted them in the Autumn. The children expected to see strawberries but Rozelle explained that the leaves will grow a little more inside the warmth of the poly-tunnel before being planted out on the beds when the weather gets warmer. We'll re visit them during our last trip to see how the strawberries are harvested before also being sold in the farm shop and cafe.
The highlight of the day for almost all was seeing the newborn lambs. One of the ewes gave birth to twins a few hours before we arrived. She was a new mother so had been penned off with her lambs to keep her calm whilst she got the hang of what she had to do. We saw her placenta as she gently pushed it out and talked to the children about what it was. The initial "urgghh"s turned into fascination as the children learned about the function of the placenta during pregnancy. We loved an up close and personal experience with some of the lambs which were up to a few days old. The children loved stroking them and gave them a fair bit of hay to keep the mums going. In a few days they'll be released into the field. Such a lovely experience and one I feel really touched the children.
With Easter on the horizon, after a run in the farm's natural play area, we returned to our room to decorate Easter eggs. The children were given access to paints and very 'blingy' stickers. Us adults were astounded at how quickly the children settled and calmed right down as they concentrated and carefully decorated their eggs which they were allowed to take home. Most eggs made the journey!
It's been a truly fabulous day and as ever we have been hugely impressed with the children's behaviour. Children take on the opportunities given in such an enthusiastic way, even when they are out of their comfort zone. They encourage and support each other and embrace the freedom that the farm offers. Me? I feel tremendously proud of our children and privileged to be a part of this wonderful journey!
Take a look at some of the photos from our day.
Visit number 2 to Church Farm, Ardeley
Not even a cold, damp January day can detract our resilient Hollybush farmers from having more fun on the farm!
I remain ever impressed by the efforts taken by Church farm to maximise their opportunities in order to keep going. We know from last year that they have a large orchard of over 900 fruit trees and of course we planted strawberries last session, all of which will harvest fruit to be sold in the farm shop or cafe later this year. Today our farmers were harvesting herbs which the farm will send out in their organic vegetable boxes which are delivered to people in the local community. The children cut their own sage, bay leaves and rosemary and made little bunches which were tied with string. The rosemary smelled lovely and reminded us of roast potatoes on a Sunday lunchtime! It was quite a fidgety job but the children were very good at helping each other. They then added a label which said that the bunches had been made by children from Hollybush School and each child signed their own label to personalise the bundle. They looked lovely, very decorative and definitely appetising.
The next activity saw the children engrossed in den making. Each group split into 2 teams and their mission was to build a den which they could all fit inside. I was expecting them to finish with a shelter but not our creative bunch! We had straw carpets, a willow wreath, a water shaft, seats for everyone and even an ammunition area to ward off unwanted guests.
The farm tour showed us how the farm and it's jobs change over the seasons. Last time there were 120 turkeys here but only 10 were left today. Everyone enjoy their Christmas lunch? The animals were mostly in the smaller pastures at this time of year so they can be fed and looked after in the colder weather. The children were somewhat alarmed yet excited to be feeding the bulls!
The farm was a sea of mud and water today much to the children's delight. We only had one boot come off in the mud but well done Benjamin for keeping your smile!
Have a look at today's pictures, we've had so much fun! Thank you to Rozelle and Tom, our fabulous hosts and also to our coach driver who welcomed us back on board with a cloth to clean our boots and a cheerful smile in spite of the somewhat soggy state of us! We're already looking forward to trip 3 when lamb season begins!
So another year begins at the farm and yet again the beautiful weather has enhanced what has been a truly fabulous day!
The first session is always interesting because many children were joining us for the first time and didn't really know what to expect. For example some came with a fear of chickens but left having fed and picked up chickens by themselves in the free range field. Mathilda walked straight into the field and even before we'd shut the gate, decided to have a cuddle with the first bird that she came across! Many including me dare I add, were slightly more cautious; although by the end of the day children unanimously agreed that feeding and running with the chickens, then categorising the 296 eggs which our children collected, was the highlight of our day.
Additionally today we did a farm tour where we saw the winter fields and met the many animals living there. Sophia said she has seen black and brown pigs but saw pink pigs for the first time today and they even had piglets. All the children learned to talk turkey; we gobbled and they actually gobbled back to us! We have been told that unfortunately the turkeys won't be there on our next visit! The cows were huge and according to Jacob "smell awful"! Alfie even saw a fox running across a field. We visited the farm shop and cafe and saw some of the eggs and vegetables harvested and sold there, all sourced from the farm. The strawberries we planted later during our day, will eventually be sold in the farm shop when we harvest them ourselves next Summer ... and no doubt taste a few too!
The children as ever were an absolute credit to Hollybush School and this was endorsed by Rozelle who said she'd have us back everyday ... a very tempting offer!
Enjoy some of todays' highlights. As for Hollybush farmers, we are already eagerly awaiting our Winter return just after Christmas .
Dr Finley, a stick story! Part 1
During our last visit to the farm Finley Cakebread picked up a stick which he was asked to leave at the farm where it would be looked after until our next visit. What Finley didn't know as he reluctantly agreed to say goodbye, was that this would be the start of an adventure for his stick, now appropriately named Fin.
Enjoy this lovely story of Dr Fin, written with dedications to Finley Cakebread, by Dave Hobbs, co-farmer at Church Farm Ardeley.
Task: Find your favourite day and draw a picture for Dave's book. Or maybe you can write a story of your own special object.