Its that time of year when the apples that have been ripening in the autumn sunshine start to fall – but what to do with them all? Apple pies and tarts are obvious choices but how about turning the surplus into delicious apple juice and perhaps some of that into cider?
Start saving your washed out plastic milk bottles and bring them along with your apples, picked and windfalls to Ruabon Food Fest on the 27th September and turn them into juice. Growing Ruabon volunteers will be there with all the equipment need to help you prepare, press and bottle them for you to take home.
Fresh apple juice can be kept in the fridge for several days until drunk or it can be frozen (in plastic bottles) and kept for much longer. Natural yeasts will ferment the juice unless it is pasteurised and so it can be dangerous to store fresh juice in glass bottles as the fermentation process can create enough pressure for the bottle to explode. Apple pressing is great fun for everyone so come along and have a go. Don’t worry if you have not got any apples we have lots to share! You may be inspired to grow your own fruit tree at home? There is room for an apple tree in every garden.
As a lad growing up on a market garden in the 60’s I was often given the task of mowing the grass that grew along the path beside our field to make a small quantity of winter hay for our goats. The tool for this job was an English scythe, a heavy beast with a long steel blade that seemed to only stay sharp for about three cuts. In my dads hands this contraption seemed to glide through the grass with only moderate effort, but as I was 6″ shorter and significantly lighter I certainly earn’t my tea every time I used it. I now own this scythe which has for many years gathered dust at the back of a shed but I confess I had no real inclination to rekindle our relationship, but things change.
With the help of volunteers we have planted over 400 trees, creating Cemetery Wood and these little saplings need some help in the battle for light and nutrients with the well established meadow plants sharing their new home. Hence my thoughts returned to the scythe as a low energy solution to this problem, but with a bit of research I found an alternative to my dad’s old scythe – an Austrian scythe.
I do not remember this type of scythe being available when I was a lad but they are very popular now and I was intrigued to find out more. With a bit of research I found the Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust were holding a short training course in the use of the scythe and also sold the approrpiate equipment to make a start. With a place on the May course booked and the piggy bank raided I headed for Penyboyr yesterday morning where I met eight other trainees and Phil, a champion mower and our instructor.
I soon realised that the simple scythe is actually a highly sophisticated machine that requires a careful set up and precision tuning. We all practised this and built our mowing machines, gaining a healthy respect for the near metre long razor sharp blade before we made our way to a hay meadow. Phil had set it out so we could work in threes cutting six foot swathes across the field. With a little practise under Phil’s expert guidance the lush grass, wet with earlier rain cut as easily as a hot knife through butter and progress accross the field would easily outstrip a strimmer. With only the gentle noise of the blade swishing through the grass it was easy to maintain a conversation and I found the the whole experience very therapeutic. Which brings me back to Cemetery Wood where you can help with mowing and mulching and learn a little more about the ancient magic of the scythe. If you would like to help please ring Jo on 01978 821869 or contact us through Facebook.
With the Woodland Trust trees (420) now all planted our attention has shifted to mulching the ground around them to suppress weed growth and retain moisture in the soil. Hopefully with less competition for nutrients and water this will allow them to get established and make strong growth.
Mr Gary Billington has very kindly given us some wood chip and yesterday delivered a big pile of it to the top of the field where we have made a small start.
This spring with no grazers in the field it is a riot of colour, firstly with a carpet of dandelions and now another yellow carpet of buttercups providing a veritable feast for wildlife. Purple clover and white daisy flowers are coming out and we are hoping that we are able to record all this diversity and would love your help – email or ring Jo 01978 821869
After lots of delays the planting of the new “Cemetery Wood” has started!
Councillor Dana Davies was on hand to mark out where the first hedging plants were to go and help plant them.
Would you like to help create this exciting new food forest and wild life habitat? Volunteers are needed to initially plant 400 small trees which were granted to the community by the woodland Trust, so Growing Ruabon will be organising planting parties over the next few weeks and need your help. Ring Jo on 01978 821869 or contact us through Facebook or our website www.growing-ruabon.net
Volunteers complete the planting of the new pollinator bed in Ruabon.
Over 230 applicants from across Wales applied for free National Garden Centre vouchers as part of Keep Wales Tidy’s ‘Have a Wild Weekend for Wales’ campaign.
Funded by Welsh Government, Natural Resources Wales and the proceeds from the single use carrier bag charge, the aim of the weekend-long campaign was to encourage people to improve food sources and natural habitat for pollinators in Wales.
Volunteers from Growing Ruabon rolled up their sleeves, got back to nature and gave bees and butterflies a helping hand in the Ruabon Garden of Rest. They were successful in applying for a £150 National Garden Centre vouchers which they then used to buy pollinator plants.
During Wild Weekend they turned an unloved, grass covered corner of the Garden of Rest into a new shrubbery.
Jo Smith, said, “It was great to see so many volunteers of all ages get involved in this project. ‘Wild Weekend’ has enabled us to make a huge improvement to the pollen and nectar that’s on offer in the Garden of Rest and hopefully this will benefit our local environment and wildlife. We hope even more people will join us on our next adventure!”
Lesley Jones, Chief Executive of Keep Wales Tidy, said: “I am delighted that so many groups across Wales got involved to help our pollinators and their natural environment. They have planted new flowering plants to attract our bees and butterflies as well as giving existing habitats a helping hand. Keep Wales Tidy would like to thank the Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales for all their support, ensuring that the ‘Wild Weekend for Wales’ has been a great success for people across Wales!”
For more information on improving pollinator conditions in your area, or to get involved with volunteering and fundraising for Keep Wales Tidy please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website www.keepwalestidy.org.
The day started decidedly wet but improved by late morning with lots of warm sun. Volunteers transplanted shrubs from an old overgrown bed & made good progress on the new bed towards the rear of the Garden of Rest. By mid afternoon everyone was feeling tired but half the work was done but we got an additional yield as Jo was able to stand on the trailer and remove some plastic that had been stuck in the tree branches for months. Come and join us next Saturday to try and finish it off.
Put on your wellies or boots, grab yourself a spade and join in a community planting event in Ruabon this month!
Do something wonderful for Welsh wildlife and have a ‘Wild Weekend for Wales’ in Ruabon this March. This is the third year that Keep Wales Tidy has run the successful ‘Wild Weekend’ campaign and we need your help again to take action to help improve conditions for our little friends the pollinators.
Ruabon Garden of Rest is one of 217 projects across Wales that were awarded funding through Keep Wales Tidy’s Wild Weekend for Wales, which aims to raise awareness of the loss of habitat for pollinators in Wales and to show just how easy it is to create local habitats for our bees and butterflies.
The campaign aims to improve food sources for our pollinators in the form of pollen and nectar that is foraged from a variety of flowering plants, all from the RHS “Perfect for Pollinators” plant list.
Pollinators are an essential part of our natural environment. Honeybees and wild pollinators including bumblebees, solitary bees, parasitic wasps, hoverflies, butterflies and wasps are important pollinators of our flowers, fruit and vegetables – we need them for our farming, gardening, wildlife and tourism, in our countryside, parks and gardens. By working together on small projects we can make a big difference to improve conditions for pollinators in Wales.
With funding from Natural Resources Wales and proceeds received from the single use carrier bag charge Keep Wales Tidy have given community group, Growing Ruabon, National Garden Centre vouchers worth £150. These have been exchanged favourably at Moreton Park Garden Centre for over forty pollinator plants which will be used to create a new habitat in the Garden of Rest.
We need your help on Sunday 23rd and Saturday 29th March to first prepare the site and then plant it up. Every one of all ages and abilities is invited to take part – come for the day or just half an hour for a chat! Ring Jo 01987 821869 or email email@example.com for details.
Despite more than half a century of living in the countryside yesterday was the first time I have actually had a go at hedge laying. My father had been taught to lay hedges as a lad but had not had the need nor felt the inclination to practise this ancient art. So it was a delight to be booked on to a one day course as a Christmas present from my good lady wife. The course was scheduled for the 15th February at Kate Humble’s “Humble by Nature” Penalt Farm, near Monmouth. A farm rescued from obscurity when the last tenant retired and in the process of being turned into a rural skills centre of excellence by Kate and her team. Humble By Nature
Hedge laying is an ancient craft going back centuries and long before fencing was used. A process of working with and using nature to create stock-proof barriers, wind-breaks, shelter and wildlife habitat with little more than a billhook a saw and a wooden mallet created from a wood off-cut. Intensive agriculture and mechanisation over the last seventy years have resulted in the practise of hedge laying virtually dying out, but with a growing realisation that our current energy intensive systems are ultimately unsustainable interest is growing again.
The journey from Ruabon to Penalt early Saturday morning, through Hereford and Monmouth was picturesque as usual but extremely wet with frequent heavy rain showers, however the weather forecast was reasonable, particularly if you are an optimist.
Arriving without incident exactly on time at 9.45 I, together with nine other willing hedge layers enjoyed a coffee and an excellent slice of flapjack and listened to the safety briefing before we were led across sodden meadows to our hedge.
A previous course had already laid a section of about fifty metres and it looked good, we were to do the next section which had a number of worrying gaps.
Tim and Paul our tutors for the day skilfully demonstrated the process of pleaching using a billhook. Thankfully we were today learning a Welsh style of hedge laying, which is in my opinion more functional and less fussy than some of the numerous other styles. The Welsh style uses significant quantities of old brush wood to create a dense thorny bottom to the hedge protecting new shoots from hungry sheep’s mouths and giving the hedge time to regenerate – and help bridge gaps.
Divided into three groups, each group set about a section, selecting what to keep and what to cut out, with posts hammered into the soil every half metre or so progress was steady. The day passed all to quickly with break for an excellent hot lunch back at the farm and at five o’clock when our sections joined and we were able to add the bindings to the top, holding it all firm and even if I say so myself, looking pretty good. If you are interested in learning new rural skills or indeed can share your knowledge of rural skills please contact any of the Growing Ruabon team and lets see what we can do locally.