The farm is looking mature, this is our 6th summer at Heeley Clough and some of our fruit tree plantings are 9 years old now. The barn and lean-to are largely complete and we have built a clay pizza oven outside the kitchen window which has proved an tremendous success. It will eventually have a roof, possibly a round “natural” structure.
In the barn, the toilet, shower, cold room, main kitchen and solar power system are functionally complete with a second, dairy kitchen to finish alongside, milking parlour, 2 calf stalls, internal staircase, external under porch floor and retaining wall to complete.
We still need to find funding to replace the greenhouse roof & to build a further greenhouse in reclaimed areas of the “Delta”.
We have not had any grant funding this year, some overspend on the lean-to construction and employing a second grower has left us a little stretched. We are hopeful of increased produce income, this will come in late summer.
Other activities ie education and other users of the land look promising re income.
Janes land is the main area of development and we have put much more effort in. This has been somewhat hampered by weather which has been a late spring then a dry early summer. We now have a go ahead to use the top pond as a water supply and are installing a pipe which should syphon without need for power. We may need to install a membrane as the pond appears to leak. We are still creating new beds in the formerly covered areas, hopefully by the end of summer we will have it all in cultivation and have lots of over wintering crops for an early cropping start in 2024.
One thought is a pony or donkey for transport of heavy stuff to and from janes from Heeley Clough.
Fruit harvest is becoming a serious thing now at Heeley clough with soft fruits marketed frozen for smoothie making and apples later. More effort required to prune for apple
buds in August.
We set up a very basic farm shop at the gate to sell plants etc, it has gone well, no complaints as far as we know. Plan to extend to produce with jam etc
We continue to sell mostly to Valley Organics, but have a few new irons in the fire, Tod almighty and a café in Oldham.
We were asked to host a funeral by Mary Clear. The person, John Mounsey who had volunteered his dry stone walling skills a few years earlier and supervised an epic repair where the stream enters. It was a truly humbling event and massively satisfying to see 40-50 mourners in the barn really appreciating being able to leave this much loved man in a beautiful place. We were given some cash which will go to a woodstove for the kitchen.
Overgate held a fund raiser in June , we made pizzas in our new oven and showed off the farm. CMBC totally closed off the road with almost no warning so it was a wonder anyone made it, but many did, including some on horseback, it was a good day.
Growfree will be hosting holiday activities for a week in August with a focus on bushcraft and archery.
External use of the farm is pretty much a new thing. We spotted another organisation locally needing land. They ran a weekend residential which went well there is another planned and others and possibilities for synergy. We are on the look out for other local orgs wanting a place for land based activities. Our USP here is ability to offer overnight camping in a well equipped dedicated space by the stream.
Our own forest school which Mike and liva run as an independent social enterprise continues to do well and generates steady rental.
The existing activities with in care children and mainstream primary continue and we have managed to recruit a second male teacher with experience of supposedly difficult children plus another school in the in care provision field to send children. Mike has been doubling up on this but in the autumn it should be possible to run this without him. Meanwhile we have been offered another very experienced male teacher one day a week in the autumn, we have students lined up and a third, potential teacher, who will shadow. Adding practical carpentry, making, mending, mechanics, archery to our teaching repertoire.
We feel that most of these children really lack positive male role models and its hard to find men who want to do this work, this could be a USP for us.
Climate Challenge college green futures students did their module with us, very successful, but the last under the current funding. Land based skills training remains a priority and there are other funding possibilities plus a possibility that TLC might establish an alternative provision facility for 16-19 year olds which could have a need for a land based arm.
Continued to work at Ferneylee primary where Mike teaches each Thursday- creating a mini farm and will garden. The garden is now a thriving habitat having two ponds -Polytunnel- veg beds and forest garden- we also use the site as a woodchip drop use for paths in our many gardens. Mike has been approached to and extra ½ day at Ferney lee- still in discussion.
Astonishingly we have had 250 offers via Workaway in the last 12 months. Being very selective and prioritising long stayers, we have actually hosted about 20 so far this year. Our feed back is invariably excellent. Local volunteers have also been prolific helpful and great ambassadors for the farm, lunches for volunteers have improved with the new kitchen!
The bee group have a thriving hive and a new deck to work on. They are applying for some funds for equipment etc
Poultry is doing well. We bought goslings locally and will also have Barbary Ducks for sale at Christmas.
We sold the dexter cows last autumn , they were destroying our fences and not getting any easier to handle. We bought a wee highland bull Isaac in January to produce some fluffy cow babies and, hopefully his work is done and we will have calves and milk in October. We will need to recruit volunteer milkers and cheesemakers. Isaac will be sold on in the Autumn.