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Jez's Notebook | February, 2017 Archive

Tales from the Farm – The Barn Before the Storm

“TV’s favourite gardener”, Monty Don, inspires Jez Rose, a frustrated behaviourist and amateur gardener, to grow a new life, as detailed in Tales from the Farm. Monty Don’s book inspired Jez to buy a farm in the countryside, create his own garden and write about the joy, obsession and mud.

Serious construction work begins to build the new barn.

Regular readers will know that to date, we have had our fair share of challenges with renovating the farm.

We recently discovered that our water is not from a bore hole as previously told but from an artesian well – and has such a high iron content that it’s ruining sanitary ware and staining anything white that we wash! Subsequently we’ve had to send a sample of water off for full chemical analysis, which will result in having to install a water treatment plant.

However, work began last week on the new barn in the yard – it’s going to be a large, open timber structure with vaulted ceiling and will provide a warm training space for The Good Life Project and somewhere for us to press apples and extract honey. Warm and cosy, it’ll face onto an open courtyard and the vegetable garden.

We’ve been planning it for some time, as you can imagine. Which way

Tales from the Farm – Of Significant Scientific Interest

Nature at its best – the glistening colour spectrum of fresh water muscle shells.

“TV’s favourite gardener”, Monty Don, inspires Jez Rose, a frustrated behaviourist and amateur gardener, to grow a new life, as detailed in Tales from the Farm. Monty Don’s book inspired Jez to buy a farm in the countryside, create his own garden and write about the joy, obsession and mud.

Our nearest largest town, Peterborough, is attempting to become “the UK’s environmental capital”. I’m still not quite sure what that means because we don’t have a food recycling bin collected (which is fine by me as I’ve become obsessed – and a little protective – with making our own compost) and they don’t have a tram or electric buses, that I’ve seen.

However, it’s as bold a statement as it is intriguing, so I’ll keep you all informed! We do have a lot of wind turbines but they’d be silly not to, given that a lot of this area of the country is flat. I’ve just realised that I’m sub-40 and carrying on like a retired librarian: is there something about mid-30s that propels you into composting and building log stores? I’ll ask my therapists.

Anyway, I need to explain the picture of the shells.

There’s a dyke, which runs along the side of the road leading to our house, all along the boundary to the farm and continues

Tales from the Farm – Spud-We-Like

“TV’s favourite gardener”, Monty Don, inspires Jez Rose, a frustrated behaviourist and amateur gardener, to grow a new life, as detailed in Tales from the Farm. Monty Don’s book inspired Jez to buy a farm in the countryside, create his own garden and write about the joy, obsession and mud.

Lavender plants waiting patiently in the greenhouse before all 78 of them line the driveway.

Having already filled two of the raised vegetable beds with lush, organic compost and loamy soil from the garden, today I planted the very first vegetables in them.

I opted for King Edward potatoes, which I filled one of the beds with (one of the few vegetables that wasn’t organically sourced) and Longor shallots and organic garlic for the other bed. I would have taken a

Going Organic! An Inspector Calls…

Behaviourist and broadcaster, Jez Rose, blogs about the process of achieving Soil Association Organic Certification for his Cambridgeshire farm and home to The Good Life Project.

This blog marks the first of many where I’ll be charting our journey to (hopefully) organic status as certified by the Soil Association. Although it’s connected, it is separate to my ramblings about the farm and I’ll continue to write Tales from the FarmI’ll just keep everything about our Soil Association journey separate but link the two where appropriate so you can choose what you want to read about.

Why?

I grew up right next to a farm and spent most of my younger years in and around the countryside – I loved it and still do. Every single day the landscape looks different; no two sunsets are the same and you’ll always see a flower, or insect that you didn’t see before and of course, just like humans, as trees and plants mature, they change.

Despite this lifelong interest and passion for nature, I never thought I’d become quite so obsessed with soil! I wrote about it recently here in my blog series Tales from the Farm, where I’m writing about Mrs Jez and I moving to a rural farmhouse, renovating it and making it home to my research initiative, The Good Life Project.

It’s probably because of The Good Life Project and witnessing the remarkable impact nature is having on

Tales from the Farm – not all sunshine and lollipops

“TV’s favourite gardener”, Monty Don, inspires Jez Rose, a frustrated behaviourist and amateur gardener, to grow a new life, as detailed in Tales from the Farm. Monty Don’s book inspired Jez to buy a farm in the countryside, create his own garden and write about the joy, obsession and mud.

You might be forgiven for thinking that it’s all sunshine and lollipops here on the farm – buying a farm, moving to the countryside and setting up a research project does sound pretty idyllic and it often appears on people’s lists of things they dream of doing in life: giving up on the rat race and moving to the countryside.

I’ve tried to make these blogs honest and a true reflection of some of the challenges we’ve faced since moving in. Deciding to follow Monty Don’s book The Complete Gardener to transform the farm turned out to be a very good idea and has on more than one occasion helped to put everything into perspective and keep us focused and on track. The reality is that I’ve been angry at the previous owners – extremely angry at times – for not

Tales from the Farm – My Secret Compost Obsession

Monty says the secret to a good compost is moisture and air.

Monty says the secret to a good compost is moisture and air.

“TV’s favourite gardener”, Monty Don, inspires Jez Rose, a frustrated behaviourist and amateur gardener, to grow a new life, as detailed in Tales from the Farm. Monty Don’s book inspired Jez to buy a farm in the countryside, create his own garden and write about the joy, obsession and mud.

I’ve been spending a lot more time than usual hanging around the compost heap and just this past weekend, caught myself becoming perhaps a little too obsessive about things laying around the house and the garden; picking up strands of dog hair, tiny pieces of cardboard and separating the vegetable peelings and tea leaves… I’m fairly certain it’s not a midlife crisis or some sort of smallholding breakdown but it’s just the latest progress report from the farm.

Regular readers will know that I’m working my way through Monty Don’s book The Complete Gardener to help turn our bare 1 acre site into something with structure, interest, functionality and dare I say it, beauty. Alongside this, having been raised with the phrase: “if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing properly”, I’ve applied to the Soil Association for organic certification – the first set of forms went off at the weekend. Both of those things combined have led to me obsessing about what’s in our soil. I didn’t want the Soil Association inspector to be the first person to probe my soil, so late Saturday evening I was sticking an acidity monitor into various parts of the garden and revising what Monty has to say about soil and how to be organic.

One thing struck me and that’s that it’s actually quite simple. Obviously, when the bugs and pests and slugs and weeds start in vengeance in the spring, I’m sure I’ll be tempted like anyone to reach for something stronger (and I’m not talking gin) but an understanding of why soil – the soul of our gardens and everything we grow in it – is so critical and an appreciation for its function, will bring me to my knees