First year at the farm

It’s been a year now since we started our adventure at Sharney Bridge Farm and it’s been a busy one; with a lot of hard work and a lot of learning that will help us with the further adventures we have to come.

Over the year we have been working hard at gaining an understanding of the site, through careful monitoring and small scale trials of different crops in test beds, including companion planting. We have been making observations and recordings, taking soil samples and photographing different parts of the site during different times of the year. By doing this, we have been able to get an understanding of the intricacies of the site, particularly what grows well and where – both naturally and when cultivated. We have been able to see ways that the site can be worked with and improved upon, using permaculture methods, in the future.

We have been rewilding 5 acres; to encourage and support local wildlife and to improve the quality of the soil whilst strengthening it against future degradation and flooding. We have scythed 3 acres for poultry, crops and paths, which has also given us hay, and more opportunities to learn the lay of the land.

We built a shed and chicken coops as well as raised beds and no-dig beds. We have built and mended fences to make boundaries and created edges for wildlife to flourish in. In doing this we have been fortunate enough to observe a wide variety of wildlife, including pheasants, hares, muntjacs, deer and owls.

We have become members of the Permaculture Association – a research charity supporting a network of people and organisations using permaculture and even had research briefings published by them on the application of sustainable technology in permaculture and useful weeds. We have also become members of the Landworkers’ Association – a grassroots union representing farmers, growers and other land based workers.

We have successfully grown test crops, including potatoes, spinach, cress and chives. We have planted wildflowers and harvested berries, hops and of some other useful weeds for making produce.

We rescued chickens from factory farming, thanks to the British Hen Welfare Trust and brought them to live free range on the farm. Heartbreakingly, many of the chickens were taken by a fox but we are still so pleased and proud, that we were able to give them many extra months living free range, happy and healthier lives at the farm.

A huge thank you to everyone who has helped us over the year, we couldn’t have achieved a fraction of this without some fantastic friends and family. It’s been hard work but we have had lovely times too, we look forward to many more.

Written by TreeThinker

Passionate about the Earth and those who inhabit it. An engineer (BEng (Hons), MSEE) from Oxfordshire, UK, specialising in designing for a sustainable future. A member of the Society of Environmental Engineers and a keen environmental advocate who volunteers for several grass roots sustainability groups. I work full time as a project manager for a renewable energy company based in Oxford and also run ‘TreeThinker’ (www.treethinker.org); converting previous pasture land into a rich permaculture farm growing produce for sale locally. I deliver workshops on sustainable living, including building renewable energy technologies, as well as workshops for schools discussing 'Energy as a resource' amongst other topics. I am qualified in ‘Information, advice and guidance’ (level 4) and experienced at teaching practical skills. I'm also a keen cyclist and have a love of wordplay - writing a blog on etymology (www.etymologyotd.com).