Spring time arrives at Dry Arch

A sunny sunday attracted the team to get stuck in to some land preparation, watering emerging polytunnel plants and pruning herbs on herby ridge. Even the new rotovator (replaces ‘the beast’) had an airing. There was time for discussion on the future of Dry Arch at lunchtime. Perhaps you can come along and add some wisdom?, we won’t bite.


Biscuits  View across Dry Arch

Sally at Herby Ridge 2015  Phil digging'15

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At Dry Arch we are going to plant 50 new apple trees – and this is where you can get involved!

Sponsor a tree. We invite all our supporters to become members of a new orchardshare scheme. Your support helps us pay for the new trees, and in return you get a share of the produce (in the first year, this will be from the established trees on the site). Sponsorship is £10 per tree per annum (maximum one per person).

Tree Planting & Wassail, Saturday 10th January. We invite you to come along to help plant the new trees, from 11am onwards. At lunchtime there will be some food and drink, followed by a celebratory Wassail and bonfire at about 2.30pm. Musicians are invited to bring instruments and join in an informal music session by the fire. This is an opportunity to become a part of the venture to establish a new orchard at Dry Arch. Entry is free, donations are welcome.

Getting there. The Dry Arch site is at the end of Holcombe Lane, Bathampton. There is very limited parking at the site, so if travelling by car, please park nearby, and walk down Holcombe Lane.

Regular events and volunteering. Even if you are unable to make it on 10th January, please do consider becoming a Sponsor. We will be holding other events during the year and there are regular volunteering opportunities on this very attractive site. It’s within walking distance of the canal towpath, and has lovely views over towards Solsbury Hill and Bath.

To become a sponsor, please send a cheque, payable to “Bathampton Community Co-operative”,  to Alex Robertson, 91 Hantone Hill, Bathampton BA2 6XE. Please don’t send cash in the post. Or you may pay for sponsorship at the event on 10th January.

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Want to visit a produce show with a difference?

Then you need to pop along to Bath Area Growers Alternative Produce Show in Alice Park on Sunday August 17th from 1pm until 5pm.

You may even fancy entering one of the competitions.

For all the details visit the Bath Area Growers website at http://www.bathareagrowers.org

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Herby Ridge celebrates its first year

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Herby Ridge is in full bloom and it was only started last year. Already it has produced lots of curly leaved parsley under ‘spooky tree’. Now other herbs are flowering and attracting lots of beneficial insects to Dry Arch. I took some photos last week amongst the humming of busy bees collecting nectar from self-set Borage & Buddleia.

20140713_180542   20140713_180632   20140713_180417

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Hurrah summer’s arrived!

Hurrah summer’s arrived!
At last, our veg boxes are filling up with our own produce. This week saw young and tender broad beans, purple speckled borlotti beans, onions, wet garlic, bunches of herbs from our own herby ridge, the first courgettes, salads, potatoes and even some gooseberries.

What’s more the sun is shining on our 4 little pigs who arrived last week. The weather has meant they can enjoy the wallow dug out especially for them last week.

The new arrivals enjoy their breakfast

The new arrivals enjoy their breakfast

Our crops are growing well and we look forward to more salads, tomatoes, peppers aubergines, cucumbers from our productive poly tunnels.
Volunteer days continue to be Thursdays and Sundays when we can find something for everyone: weeding, watering, harvesting, scything and soon we will be harvesting plums.

This lovely weather means we can enjoy the refreshing apple juice produced from Dry Arch. It’s still available and has a long shelf life so contact one of the team or email info@dryarchgrowers.co.uk if you would like to buy some.

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Fancy some gentle outdoor exercise this bank holiday weekend?

Tim posted this bulletin to our volunteers this week. Why don’t you come down, see what we’re up to, and maybe lend a hand?

“Plenty of varied work this week. Top of the list is to prepare the new polytunnel for planting out – wiring up, laying soaker hose and fixing doors. There is seedsowing and planting out to be done in the lower enclosure. The brassica plot needs to be wired and netted to deter wood pigeons. If someone would like to build a scarecrow or two that would be great aswell. Cold weather is forecast next weekend so tender plants will need to be fleeced to avoid damage. For the same reason early potatoes just sprouting will need to be earthed up. Then there are the usual everyday tasks such as harvesting, watering in the greenhouse and polytunnels and making the tea for volunteers. Volunteering times remain the same – Wed 10 till 1, Thurs 10 – 12, 1.30 – 4.30, Fri 10 – 1, Sunday 11 till we drop! Hope to see you there. “

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Tim’s Growing Update – Beginning of March 2014

“No work today – wet again!”
This has been the recurring theme in my diary this year so far at Dry Arch. Work may have been limited outside but, undercover, we are well ahead. The salad leaves have been flowing out of the polytunnel – now regularly contributing to members’ weekly boxes and the odd handful taken by volunteers.

This year we intend to increase our output of homegrown produce at Dry Arch. The next two months will be crucial. Land has to be prepared for sowing and planting. Pre-grown seedlings need to be pricked out, potted up, hardened off and planted out in April/May.

If you’d like to join the landworkers now is the time to come along.

There are garden work sessions on:
WED 9.30 to 12.30
THURS 10 to 12noon (Harvesting)
1.30 to 4.30pm
FRI 9.30 to 12.30
SUN 11am to dusk

In March soil prep is the top priority. Once the soil warms up, towards the end of the month, sowing outside will commence. Undercover we’ll be taking care of our seedlings and sowing the half-hardy summer crops – sweetcorn,courgette, squash, tomato, climbing beans.

On the construction front the ‘new’ polytunnels are awaiting ‘skins'; the foundations for the insulated, and ratproof, storeroom need to be laid; two aluminium greenhouses need to be erected; and the multi-purpose workshop, presently at planning stage, will need to be constructed. So there is plenty to do.

February work completed:
Wind damage repairs to sheds and glasshouse
Bridgebuilding over our new stream
Sowing early seeds in containers
Soil prep on raised beds
Compost purchased and stored
Paving laid in small glasshouse
Pathways mulched

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It’s not like farming on the Somerset Levels but …

At least a brief break in the weather made working at Dry Arch a little more pleasant today.  The wet conditions are still making horticulture a bit of a challenge but it does mean we are able to develop our civil engineering talents!

Water continues to drain off Bathampton Downs and into Dry Arch, emerging half-way down our lower growing area and forming an impressive pond at the bottom. Tired of splashing through mud and puddles we’ve built a bridge. Pooh Sticks anyone?


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A Tale of Three Little Pigs (and 25 Turkeys)!

20130612_125634Christmas Dinner 2013 for several members of Dry Arch Growers and their friends and families will be a very different affair than usual as they have reared and grown most of the ingredients!

The story almost began back in March 2011 when at the launch of Bathampton Community Co-operative Dan Smith (one of the founding members) tried to drum up enthusiasm for a Pig Club. For many at that time it was a step too far but when Dan floated the idea in 2012 of a Grow Your Own Christmas project there was a deal more interest. This was mixed in with a fair amount of trepidation about being able to raise animals in conditions that we would feel comfortable with – after all none of us could claim to be experienced livestock farmers!A combination of Dan’s determination (not to mention his generosity in investing in the equipment required), a lot of research and some first rate support and advice from Mike Wright at P.J.’s Pigs and from Bath City Farm meant we felt confident enough to launch the scheme at the beginning of 2013.

By June 2013 a pig enclosure was ready with a delightfully appointed “piggy penthouse” to provide shelter for three pigs. With the help of volunteers a feed store was erected along with a very superior shed for the turkeys.

Our three rare breed British Lop Ear piglets supplied by P.J.’s Pigs duly arrived in June, small enough to be carried from the trailer to their new home but old enough to be away from their mother. We made a small enclosure for them out of straw bales within their field so that they would get used to their luxury accommodation and recognise it as home. Within forty eight hours they had escaped the straw-bale enclosure and were exploring all four corners of their field. Very confident little pigs indeed.

Our animal care rota swung into action with the pigs being visited and fed twice a day. All went well without mishap for several weeks as they began the process of rooting up the field. One (whom we named Andouille or Andy for short) was clearly smaller than the others but all of them began to put on weight rapidly. Our first experience of the emotions farmers must feel when their animals get sick struck at the end of July! One Monday morning Andy suddenly went off his food. Not a problem we initially thought. All the advice we had was that occasionally a pig will have a bit of a stomach upset and will stop eating – maybe for two three days- before getting back to normal. Well we watched him carefully. He tried to eat but after a few mouthfuls he would turn away and throw up. He even began to throw up after drinking water. We became seriously worried and so the vet was summoned the next day. Sick he may have been but he gave the vet a real run-around before he could be corralled for examination. The vet said he could hear a bit of a rattle in a lung so injected a powerful anti-biotic. Then he broke the news that the pig would need two more injections over the next two days …and here were the syringes for us to administer them!

We put out an appeal to the animal care rota for a volunteer to administer the first dose and Julia bravely stepped forward. Again we discovered how uncooperative and fast-moving a sick pig can be! Anyway with three of us having eventually trapped Andy in the ark Julia crawled in and did the deed. Unfortunately Andy didn’t really play ball and part of the dose failed to make it into the pig. Time for another call to the vet! His advice was to use the second syringe and come and collect another one for the next day. We also needed another volunteer for the second dose as Julia had to go to work. It fell to Jan and Dan to play “chase the pig” later that day and then Dan did the pig wrestling and Jan did the pig injecting.

The next day after a trip to Bristol to pick up another dose it was the turn of Alex and Keith to do the pig wrestling and managed to get the needle in. We watched and waited. Worryingly the pig just seemed to get ever more lethargic in what continued to be a pretty hot spell. He just seemed to spend huge amounts of time just standing, looking into space and continued to be off his food despite being tempted with fruit and other goodies which we hoped he’d like and would provide him with energy. We even put sugar in the water supply.

On the Friday afternoon Phil spent an hour or so watching him closely and managed to tempt him with a banana which he managed to keep down and a drink of water. Encouraged by that he called for more supplies of fruit! All was looking hopeful until just as Jan arrived with more bananas he appeared to stumble. “Has he done that before?” said Jan. “No” said Phil and with that Andy rolled over onto his back with his legs stiff in the air, not moving! We were convinced we’d just seen him die…a third of our herd! However, after a bit of a nuzzle from his litter mates up he got again. Even so, we were pretty sure this was the beginning of the end so we called the vet for advice on putting him down. The vet was a lot more positive than we felt and said it was far too soon to be thinking of that. Well, we reckon the pig overheard Jan talking to the vet because by Sunday morning he was up for his breakfast with the others as if nothing had happened. He then went from strength to strength and made up for lost time in feeding and putting on weight. In fact he became quite aggressive to the other two in making sure he got at least his fair share of food and by December he was no longer the smallest of the three!SONY DSC

August was also when we took delivery of 25 Kelly Bronze turkey poults: another heritage breed. They were of various sizes and at that stage easily managed. We installed them in their house (which some members reckoned could easily have been accommodation fit for Centre Parcs) and left them to acclimatise in the hope that when we let them out they would take themselves in automatically when it got dark. Dan had installed a sophisticated entry system on their shed which meant that when it got light the doors would open and when it got dark the doors would shut: hopefully with the birds inside. Some hope as it turned out!20130820_092531

After two days it was time to let them roam and that first evening Phil managed to get them into the shed at about 6.30pm quite easily and he confidently went home for tea expecting them to stay put and the doors to shut at dusk. However, when he returned at 8pm to check he found that they were all outside in a tight flock, comfortably snuggled down in a clump of cut grass which made a very comfortable bed. Phil managed to get them back in the shed again in about ten minutes or so and waited for the sensors to shut the doors as it got darker. He waited…and waited…and waited. He adjusted the sensors to the highest sensitivity but still the doors would not shut! It was 8.55 before the doors actually came down. Phil left hoping that the bright moonlight would not cause the doors to open again!

The next night Phil decided to check on them a little later so that he would not have to hang around so long. At 8.10 it was still light so Phil went into the polytunnel to do some weeding, thinking he’d have plenty of time to get the birds in before the doors shut. Big mistake! When he came out it had clouded over, the turkeys were happily sitting in their clump of cut grass…and the shed doors were shut. What was worse it started raining. With that Phil opened the main shed door and started to herd the turkeys in. Unfortunately they were in no mood to play ball and did not like being separated. As soon as Phil got three in and turned to get the rest, out would pop the first three. Phil called Jan for help. By that time it was properly dark and Phil had to resort to picking the birds up one by one and depositing them in the furthest corners of the shed where there was a low level window. Simple things that they are, the rest of the flock huddled against the glass on the other side so they could still see their chums! By the time Jan arrived there were 19 birds inside the shed clearly somewhat traumatised by being unceremoniously picked up and dumped in a corner. Jan kept guard on them while Phil chased the others around the outside of the shed until he had caught the last one. By the time they had finished it was nearly 9.30 and raining hard. Phil and Jan decided that maybe turkeys were not quite as clever as they had thought!

The turkeys never really did get the business about taking themselves in automatically at night and so we eventually disconnected the door sensors and resorted to herding them in. Everyone developed their own strategies for getting them inside: the most popular being enlisting friends and families to wave arms around but Hannah probably came up with the best solution which was to hold a bamboo cane in each hand to encourage them toward the doors. We never imagined at the beginning of the year we would become such experts in turkey behaviour by the end!

Meanwhile the pigs were putting on weight rapidly, were taking great pleasure from the mud wallow we established in one corner of the field and were making great inroads into rooting up the enclosure and fertilising it naturally! They were always pleased to see us morning and evening but only because we were a source of food! As time went on they became ever more enthusiastic at “greeting” us, or, to be more precise, at trying to be first to the trough before we even started emptying feed into it. The feeding tactics then became trying to distract them with fruit and vegetable in one corner of the field while running to the trough with the bucket of feed and hopefully avoid being bowled over by a sprinting porker. The pigs, however, developed their own counter tactics and would happily eat the vegetables we would throw for them but continue looking over their shoulders to see if we were on our way to the trough! As the year progressed the enclosure became muddier and muddier and by the time it was for them to go it was pretty much mission accomplished in terms of preparing that area of the site for cultivation. The pigs had done a wonderful job at rooting up the field.SONY DSC

By the time December arrived all the animal carers certainly agreed that feeding and caring for animals is a much more pleasant experience in the summer than it is in the winter so there were probably mixed feelings as Dan made preparation for the slaughter and butchering of pigs and turkeys. Again Mike at PJ’s helped us out by collecting the pigs early on a Thursday December morning and taking them to the abattoir for us. Dan went with them and saw our pig rearing experience right through to its conclusion. As we had always intended the pigs went to slaughter with minimal fuss and maximum care.

With the turkeys due to go on the following Sunday we crossed our fingers that they would not fall victim to turkey rustlers whose operations we had seen reported on the news. Thankfully all went well so we did not lose a single turkey to predators (animal or human) or to disease and we were able to deliver all 25 birds to the processors for dispatch and preparation for the oven.SONY DSC

That Sunday afternoon Dry Arch seemed very different with no birds or animals moving around and making a noise at the top of the growing area and it will take a little bit of getting used to them not being around. However, wading through mud on a wet and windy winter morning probably will not be missed quite so much!

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The Magic Shed is here.

I’m pleased to report that the Kilter Theatre Company shed has been set up at Dry Arch near to the earth oven. For those of you who don’t know,Image it was a “set” for a production by the Kilter Theatre Company which they have performed around the area. We will be “hosting” the shed for hopefully the next year before it goes to its next home.

Like many Dry Archers it is quirky and charming. It will be a great place to sit to contemplate life, the universe and vegetables.

It is made entirely out of salvaged materials with plenty of scope for further enhancement. It’s already been embellished with the policeman’s helmet from one of our deceased scarecrows and I’m sure some of our (especially younger) visitors will find things to add. I’m sure it will prove useful.

To find out about the Kilter Theatre Company go to http://www.kiltertheatre.org


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