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.

Wednesday 20 November 2019

One for my Dad

One of my late dad's favourite was broad beans, not just the taste of them, he used to love the whole process of this rather special vegetable. I have very fond memories of sitting on a spring Sunday afternoon shelling bucket loads of broad beans, ready to eat and for storing in the freezer.

The other great thing about broad beans is the planting of them in the autumn, following their slow growth through the winter to then watch them put on a spurt of vibrant growth in the early spring ready for a May harvest. The first taste of spring they are delicious and very versatile, as part of a gravy dinner, in a risotto, or as a salad ingredient.

November is one of the preferred months for planting so it was in the diary, but first we had to build a large bed - as we planned on planting rather a lot.

To be located in the top field we laid the timbers out for a new bed ready to house at least 300 bean plants, this together with the use of existing beds we aimed to double this.

As Sal finished the bed building, Melv began to fill with muck from the local farmer, the plan was to use this well rotted material as the base and to make a hole fill with a peat free compost and plant directly.

All done and dusted in an afternoon, just as the sun was going down, the beans took their place next to a strip prepared for next years Jerusalem artichokes!! 

Less than 3 weeks later as if by magic the beans start to show...

Now all that is left to do is to watch their progress through the cold winter months, thriving on all the winter has to throw at them, their bright green fresh shoots bringing light in the dark winter days - lovely - then there is the added bonus of eating them in the spring - Dad's favourite was broad beans and bacon!

Tuesday 19 November 2019

Expanding to cope with demand

It is brilliant to be able to say that due to the demand for our baby leaf salads we are now expanding our winter growing area to be able to ensure continuity of supply for our customers. To do this we are installing a second polytunnel, which will be designed to house our LED growing lights which have now been adjusted with new light modules.

The new tunnel is 4.3m wide and 14.7m long, the tubes arrived and we set to with the process of the installation.

Location decided Melv began to mark out, install the footings and lay the tubes in place, of course he had plenty of help from our feathered friends.

A fraction the size of our main tunnel, it soon started to take shape and the frame was soon assembled.

Sal followed on behind with the hotspot tape, which is placed round the metal frame to prevent the deterioration of the plastic caused by the tubes heating up in the sun.

The framework complete, a trench is needed to hold the polythene in place and provide important drainage, this was a job that was very popular with the girls - an excellent feeding opportunity!!

Humidity is a massive factor to consider when growing baby leaf salads through the winter, to cut this down we are sealing the ground with damp proof membrane, which will also tuck down into the trench to aid the flow of condensation off the polythene and out of the tunnel.

The first calm spell - which at one time seemed few and far between, we unrolled the polythene along side.

In no time at all and just as the sun was setting it was draped in position

To provide the assurance that it would not end up wrapped around the Glastonbury Tor on a windy day, we tucked the polythene into the trench and filled it with water.

The girls confirmed that this was a good move and approved of their new drinking trough!

Pleating the ends is always a little tricky, but my it was starting to look smart, both outside and inside

Outside the water in the trench was replaced with stone

All that was left to do was the installation of the doors - no problem for Melv and we soon had two functioning entrances - lovely.

Standing back to take a look, it fits in a treat with our existing infrastructure

Exciting times - bring on the revamped LEDs - just in time for the big Christmas switch on!

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Inspired by food on your doorstep

As many vegetables fade away at this time of year there are a few that start to come into their own and it is just to great to know that they are an inspiration for some of our local cuisine.

It was time to dig up the Jerusalem Artichokes and the Head Chef, Keiron Ash, from The Sheppey Inn wanted in on the action.

Melv cut the stems back and used the fork to unearth the roots and we all anxiously waited to see the tubers.
Much to our delight, they lit up what was a rather gloomy Saturday afternoon - they were plentiful.
Like a very large bunch of dirty grapes the tubers dangled from the stem.

Melv and Keiron began to harvest the Jerusalem jewels.

There were some real sizeable tubers and they served to inspired the Sheppey staff...

they eagerly continued to collect them, chatting about how they could be served and would appear on the evening's menu.
We harvested just 3 plants and collected well over 7Kg.

They cleaned up a treat, ready for their trip to the Kitchen, where they would be scrubbed for a second time and prepared for roasting. Slightly nutty and savoury, these tubers are like a cross between an artichoke heart and the best potato you've ever had. Fantastic roasted, when they caramelise, or use raw when they have a taste a little like water chestnuts.

Next we headed for the Salsify beds, sown for the Christmas menu, Chef wanted to give them a try, yet to try these we were eager to taste them too.

Keen to get his hands dirty again, Keiron delved down for the long roots, a little like parsnips they produce a large tap root.
Chef reported that they were beautiful when roasted and had a taste like a refined parsnip and true enough when we had a taste later they were delicious.

Not a bad size, considering we were over a month early.

Finally to complete the afternoon's harvest it was time for the Celeriac.

Treated to a bit of sunshine to end the day, it lit up the beautiful rounded roots.
Melv trimmed the stalks and the rich liquorice aroma was released, known for their distinctive aniseed taste, they too are delicious as a roasted vegetable, but often pureed, by the Sheppey, which compliments a variety of meat dishes and other roasted elements such as the artichokes.

Three stunning and often over looked root vegetables, which might not regularly feature on many pub menus, but were to become the stars of the show for Saturday evening at the Sheppey...
From the charcoal grill:
Lamb neck fillet, Godney salsify, artichokes & celeriac, wilted greens with a red wine sauce

Delicious and all ingredients sourced from under a 5 miles radius and all the vegetables from less than 200m away at Godney Aquaponics, harvested minutes earlier - inspirational for sure!!

Friday 8 November 2019

Out into the big wide world

A beautiful day and just past their 3 month birthday it was time for our young bantams to spread their wings.

We opened the gate and the dedicated mother led them out to join the rest of the flock, we watched on nervously, realising that many of our birds were over 50 times bigger than the young chicks.

They soon found their feet under the watchful eye of Carpet.

And they were soon mixing with the other birds, both Bluebells and Lohmans alike

and even visited the feeders in the barn and were well received, with no confrontation.

A very successful first outing in the big wide world, the young family returned to their pen and proudly gathered together on top of the water pump contented - Melv and I were so pleased and very, very relieved!!

Monday 4 November 2019

An autumn clean to let the sunshine in

This time of year as the daylight hours are much reduced and the intensity of the light also low, it is time to ensure that the polythene on the polytunnel is letting the maximum amount of light and sunshine in.

It was time for the big autumn clean, equipped with a very long telescopic cleaning pole and the recommended cleaning solution, Melv set to work.

From the inside it was easy to see how dirty the polythene had become, the cleaning solution we were using needed to be applied and left to do its work.

It was a great job to get done, knowing the difference a simple clean will make...

And after just a few days it was as if by magic the polythene started to shine as the green film disappeared.

And as a result the inside of tunnel is brought to life as the sunshine makes our salad leaves shine.

Amazing colours and shapes and a welcome addition to any salad lovers plate...

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...