Godney Aquaponics

Godney Aquaponics
In the village of Godney, with the beautiful back drop of the Glastonbury Tor, Melv and Sal are embarking on a new venture. Fed up with the poor quality of veg in the shops, they have the ambition to set up an aquaponics system to provide fresh vegetables and salad crops for the village, and with a little help from their hens a supply of fresh free range eggs too.

What is Aquaponics??

What is Aquaponics??
Aquaponics is a sustainable method of producing quality food with minimal external inputs. It is a system that combines conventional aquaculture (e.g. fish in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. Water from the aquaculture system is fed to the hydroponic system where the by-products are broken down and are utilised by the plants as nutrients, and the water is then re-circulated back to the aquaculture system.

Monday 26 November 2018

A lovely day at the office!

Taking advantage of a beautiful sunny day and the calm before the stormy weather forecast we decided to finish the job we started yesterday.

And after two truck loads of logs, several metres of dead hedge laid and of course many cups of tea later...

A tidy job was completed

One down - many more to go - we will certainly have enough firewood for even the coldest of winters.

We gradually worked our way along the boundary, tidying up as we went, weaving the brash into the hedge line.

For the more tricky branches, Melv got to use his new toy - a pole saw - brilliant bit of kit and so much safer for the high awkward limbs.
We ended the day in some lovely late sunshine - the light was spectacular - it really has been another lovely day at the office.

Sunday 25 November 2018

Getting ready for winter 2019

What better way to spend a lovely Sunday afternoon - getting ready for next winter...

A number our trees on the field boundaries are in desperate need of attention, many have grown very large and have limbs that now lean at jaunty angles.  Cutting these back is not just about undertaking the management work needed to maintain the trees - but will also serve to provide the fuel we need for future winters.

So after spending the morning completing deliveries and our 'growing' tasks, such as sowing salads and constructing beds, we grabbed a couple of hours to make a start - there are lots to do. We were also keen to take advantage of the dry weather we have been having - meaning that the fields are dry enough for us to use the truck to collect the logs.

Keen to clear up as we go, a couple of large limbs later we already had a truck load.
With the brash all stacked to one side and the logs ready to load it was time to put our volunteer, Kelly to work... 

Meet Kelly kettle, a storm kettle - an excellent gift from an ex-colleague at the RSPB, which means we can make a brew where ever we are. Just a few dry sticks and a lighter needed this little kettle will heat up enough water for two cuppas in no time. 
All in all a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, with the bonus of generating our fuel for this time next year.

Thursday 22 November 2018

Getting ready for winter

As the days get shorter and the weather a little more unpredictable we are turning our efforts to having a good tidy up around the outside beds and getting ready for winter.

The area directly adjacent to the polytunnel always hangs particularly wet, largely caused by the run off when it rains and runs down the polythene. So to prevent this happening and make this a useable area we have installed a drainage pipe which we will cover with Terram and surface with stone.
Melv first levels the area and lays the pipe covering with Terram which is a permeable membrane and will prevent the perforations in the pipe from getting clogged up, but allow the water to escape.

 We the area now flat, I laid the Terram over the whole area, tucking under the bed and the polytunnel to prevent as much as possible weeds growing up through.

 Melv followed on behind with numerous muck truck loads of stone
This was not only going to tidy up the area and provide the drainage that we needed it was also going to produce a very useable south facing, sheltered spot - which could be excellent for fruit such as strawberries. 

To connect to the new raspberry and gooseberry area to the north we extended the path around the end of the polytunnel. 

 The end result was excellent - and just what was needed, a job well done - no more worries about long periods of heavy rain well known in the Somerset Levels!!

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Fruity future

Our limited supply of soft fruit was certainly popular over the summer and autumn, with strawberries and raspberries very much sort after. Now the asparagus has a new home we have a lovely sheltered area that we can use for our soft fruit in the future, particularly raspberries and gooseberries. We have ordered some exciting new varieties - including a golden raspberry - how exciting is that!!

So with plants on order Melv was keen to get going in developing the area  so that it was fit for purpose and was soon making a start with the building of new beds.

The pressure was soon on, the first batch of plants arrive...
With the first bed complete Melv gets the gooseberries in the ground straight away.

Knowing the raspberries were due at any time we pressed on with the rest of the beds, building and filling as we went, looking to maximize this lovely sheltered space.

All constructed we laid the paths in between, putting Terram down to reduce the weeds coming up and cut down on future maintenance.

With the Terram down we moved the stone in, so there will be limited need for the strimming of edges and keeping on top of the weeds next summer.

Before too long the area soon started to take shape and you could certainly start to visualise those fresh green plants bearing green, golden, red and crimson berries.
Extending the stone round to the back of the tunnel made a very tidy job and will mean that we can use this end as our main access in the future. This easterly end is much closer to the new potting shed and easy access to all the outside raised beds and of course closer to our very entertaining hens!

Wednesday 14 November 2018

My new office

After 25 years of working for the RSPB, I must admit it felt a little unusual last month when I ended my employment with them. In reality this basically meant that I gave up my office at home sitting in front of a computer to spend my time helping Melv to grow the business - brilliant I was ready to get dirt under my nails every day all day instead of just in my spare time!

In true Melv style - forever building and making sure I was looked after, the building of my new 'office' was soon underway.

Our new potting shed - insulated as well as our house, this was where I was going to spend those cold winter days.

It was soon ready for the window and door, again of a good quality to enable us to easily maintain a good working temperature whatever the weather.
Really starting to take shape on the outside, Melv begins thinking about the inside.
With the floor painted - a nice shiny red - after much discussion Melv sets to making the work surfaces. 
The new potting shed is the place where the salads and water cress trays are to be prepared, Melv makes it fit for purpose and begins to build the frames that will support the working surfaces that will hold the trays ready for seeding.
It was very exciting to see the structures come together inside and I can visualise how fit for purpose it is really going to be, a welcome change from balancing trays on a portable table and compost bags.
The finishing touches...
Shelves in place and a place to hold the compost prepared...
I couldn't wait - I moved in as soon as possible

What an amazing place to work to grow salads and watercress, along with a number of other delights as well as prepare vegetables for sale - perfect.
A brilliant swap for life in front of a computer - the time was most definitely the right time to make the change.

Wednesday 7 November 2018

A lovely surprise at the end of the day

Today, just as it was getting dark, we were in for a lovely surprise...

Jerusalem artichokes - you either love 'em or hate 'em - well we love 'em and in the spring we planted 5 tubers just to provide a taste in the autumn.

However, after one of the driest summers ever we didn't hold a lot of hope out for them producing many tubers. Earlier in the week we had a little scrape around the roots and thought that our suspicions had been confirmed.

But then tonight just as the day was drawing in, we thought we would put our newly purchased fork to good use and dig up one of the tubers - to our amazement we pulled out the cluster of stalks to reveal the amazing sight below...

This equated to nearly 2.5kg of artichokes, from an original tuber the size of your thumb - now that is a fantastic return!!!!

Also one of the Chef's favourite at the Sheppey Inn - using at least 5kg a week - we bagged the first kg for him to try.

And of course we had some for tea - just to do a bit of quality control and make sure they were OK... and they were! ;0)

Saturday 3 November 2018

From muck to money

Our working relationship with our local farmer is perfect, he delivers well rotted cow muck in return for us letting his cows graze our fields - that's rural Somerset!

This arrangement is not only very popular with the hens...

But also provides us a much needed addition to our growing media which we use to create our raised beds.
Having moved up into the next field we have been preparing raised beds ready for new crops. During the winter on the heavy clay fields the ground can get very wet, so there is a need to use raised beds just to keep the growing areas a little drier.
These new beds are being prepared for Mary Washington - she likes a bit of cow muck!
We have grown on 288 Mary Washington asparagus plants from seed and they are now in need of a home.

Once in the ground these plants will need very little attention - so the new beds in  one of the top fields will be perfect. This will also free up a nice sheltered spot next to the barn for our soft fruit.

The big planting begins, with 72 plants in each bed...

Four beds later - 288 plants planted, ready to be harvested April 2020, with each plant hopefully giving us a number of spears each over a 6 week period. How exciting is that - the Sheppey Pub is already inspired and has thought of several new recipes.

Thursday 1 November 2018

Winter stars

As we enter our first winter and working on new ground without a season behind us, our selection of winter vegetables is a little limited,. However in addition to some of the more traditional produce we are using this first winter to experiment a little.

Despite some issues with challenging wireworms - typically associated with ground previously put under pasture - our celeriac has done fantastically well and is very popular with both local people and the Sheppey Inn, who serve it as an amazing puree and as a delightful accompaniment to partridge.

Another popular winter candidate is the khol rabi, again popular and features widely on the menu of the local hostelry.

Winter greens, such as Swiss chard and cavalo nero (black cabbage) are a pleasure to grow at this time of year, no insects to make life difficult and their cut and come again growth patterns means that the more you eat the more you get!!!
Another true favourite is beetroot, and one which thankfully the wireworms don't seem to find attractive.
Keeping on the purple theme - an new one for us is radicchio, which starts off with green leaves which become intensely purple as the winter progresses and the plant matures - can't wait to see and taste this at the end of the season.
Another leafy veg happier in the cooler temperatures is Pak Choi

We are currently trialing Ruby - a red leafed version, and Misty - a small green leafed variety, at the moment the red variety is the front runner, with beautiful dark purple leaves.
Winter can be a challenge in the search for variety, but there are the winter stars out there which means that growing is still very exciting. Finding new stars that sparkle and brighten up any plate of winter cuisine is certainly special and rewarding.

Home grown

Now normally with our horticultural hats on when we talk about home grown we are refering to vegetables. But for the first time since we hav...