GRAFT

 

museum garden layout

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GRAFT – a soil based syllabus

Based at the Maritime Museum in the heart of Swansea. This is a community garden, arts & educational project led by artist Owen Griffiths in partnership with The National Waterfront Museum, NTH/NYA & Cae Tan CSA.

The basic idea is to develop an educational & social resource which can inspire visiting groups & volunteers to grow their own food. Currently we are working with a local primary school and a number of community groups.

The raised beds have just been completed. Tom & Geoff have designed a cropping plan which Geoff has sketched out above. This will incorporate a range of edible herbs, flowers & vegetables.

A pergola is being erected on which we will be growing squash, beans & flowers.

The garden is part of a wider called ‘Now The Hero’. This will culminate in September with a celebration in Swansea. At the event 500 people per night will be fed for 5 consecutive nights with squash and other produce grown at Cae Tan & Graft.

We hope that in the long term, this can become a training base for Cae Tan working with town based schools & community groups.

Contacts for the project as follow;

Twitter is @_OwenGriffiths_

Instagram is _owengriffiths

Facebook is @OwenGriffiths

Project Facebook @graft.a.soil.based.syllabus

Project Instagram @graft____

Waterfront Musesum 

@waterfrontmuseum

Cae Tân

Facebook @CaeTanCSA

http://caetancsa.org

Furzehill kicks into full action!

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Following one of the latest wettest, coldest springs anyone can remember we finally got onto the fields at Furzehill.

Cae Tan’s main plot was ploughed by a contractor & then we have done further cultivation.

Myself & Francesca spent an hour one evening digging to find the water pipe unsuccessfully. We came back the following morning with extra troops (Lizzy, Abbi & Isabel) to dig over the area we were told we’d find the pipe.

A few local farmers saw myself & 4 young women digging by the gate & all stopped to find out what was going on & offer their opinions.

One of these was Cyril. He was my neighbour as a kid, a local farmer & Welsh cob breeder. Like most local farmers he always thought I was a bit of a weirdo being into that organic lark.

However, seeing me leaning on the gate whilst 4 young women dug out a water pipe I think he may have been converted to organic! In his eyes I’d say he definitely thinks I have totally arrived!

Francesca & her dad got stuck into bed preparation & have got lots of salads planted out, onions are going in today, hopefully spuds tomorrow….better late than never.

Food for Thought

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A few weeks back we hosted an event in partnership with Swansea Food Assembly & The Square Peg Cafe. This involved showing the film ‘In Our Hands’ made by the Landworkers Alliance. Square Peg provided delicious food using our veg & Gower Meadow Beef. The evening was a great success, good fun & inspired lots of discussion.

On the back of this we decided to invite organic farmer & activist Gerald Miles to come & give a talk. Then when our new trainee Abbi said that her & her partner Rhys wanted to cook a veggie feast for our members we decided to combine the two.

So last Friday forty people came & feasted on an amazing three course sit down dinner. 70% were members & as the event was open to non members also.

The dinner was followed by an inspiring & entertaining talk from Gerald sketching out his journey from conventional Pembrokeshire farmer, to organic farmer, to CSA pioneer & international GM activist!!

We will be hosting more Food For Thought events throughout the year. Keep an eye on our facebook account.

There’s People in the Field

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It’s that time of year when people are drawn out into the field again to see whats going on.

Jess & Helen ran a family session today & had 11 adults, 11 kids. They built pathways, weeded doc’s, played games, socialised…..

Every Thursday we have volunteers, both members & non members who come to harvest, sow, weed, chat, drink tea…..

Various youth groups, colleges, garden groups & schools come here for training or for a visit.

For 7 months of the year we have 2 trainees who get involved in all aspects of our work, learning the ropes, getting to know the regular volunteers, getting to know the lie of the land & plotting their way forwards following their time here.

Myself & Lizzie have the pleasure to meet, work & talk with so many different people who pass through. Some become regulars, some vanish to who knows where, but they all take something of the land here with them & they all leave an impression which shapes how we work.

In the 4 years we have been growing, its possible that more people have set foot on this field than have done in the last few hundred years.

Thankyou to all our volunteers, visitors, trainees, kids…..Long may you all come & go, enjoy the field & build a connection to this lovely place.

A Seedy Day out in Newport

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Three members of Cae Tan were lucky to attend a Commercial Seed Saving Training with the Real Seed Catalogue this week at their HQ in Pembrokeshire.

Funded & organised by the Gaia Foundation Seed Sovereignty UK programme. Their mission is to boost small scale sustainable UK seed growers numbers & skills.

During the day we learned about the practicalities & economics of saving seed for commercial sale. Cae Tan will now endeavour to grow a range of seed for ourselves this season, plus a couple of varieties for the Real Seed catalogue.

We will use this season to improve our skills with ongoing support from the newly formed Wales Seed Co-op, Gaia Foundation & Real Seeds. We will be exploring potential markets, including the possibility of gaining biodynamic certification, so that we could sell to the Seed Co-op UK.

We also hope to get Kate from Real Seeds down at some point this year to talk about seed saving, as we are aware this is a subject many people are interested in.

 

Short Rotation Coppice for Fertility

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We ran two training days this & last week with West Wales Willows. During these workshops we explored building fertility on the land through growing green manure crops & short rotation willow coppice.

The basic idea is to work towards becoming self sufficient in growing the fertility that feeds our soils & thereby our crops & eventually us! We also have some really wet ground that we wanted to make use of.

Currently we rely on a mixture of some green manure crops, plus whatever manures & composts we can bring in from locals farms. There is always a risk not knowing what weeds or possibly even chemicals come into our soils with this imported material.

In the long term we would like to grow all of our own fertility through;

  • Green manure crops such as;
    • Phacelia
    • Mustards
    • Clovers
    • Cereals
    • Vetch etc
  • Short rotation Willow Coppice
    • This will be chipped after harvest & the chips applied to the areas of green manures. They will be building soil carbon & increasing soil biological activity.

We currently grow a range of green manure crops, but given the new land at Furzehill, we now have the ability to open out our rotation & account for growing our own fertility too.

We have planted 400 willow cuttings this week through plastic, biodegradable mats & a small section just mulched with woodchip. West Wales Willow generally use plastic sheeting. This can be removed after the willow is established & recycled. However, it is plastic, it reduces biodiversity around the coppice area & looks ugly whilst its there. So we decided to try half of the planting through biodegradable mulch mat. We’ll see how the willow compare in the coming years.

Managing the willow

  1. We will cut the willow back next year & select a few main stems from each cutting. (Next years cuttings will be planted to double our willow area. We’ll d this every year til we have about an acre).
  2. We will then strip the majority of buds so that its energy goes into producing long poles.
  3. After 3 to 5 years we will cut & chip these long poles. The chip will go onto the green manure crops. We are exploring if this will first be composted or not.
  4. The cycle starts again. This way we cut & chip a different area every 3 to 5 years, returning to our original plot once that has re grown.
  5. After 30 years the willow will be pretty tired, so it may be replaced with new willows or become habitat.

Sowing by The Moon & Planets

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We have planned our seasons sowing using the Thun biodynamic sowing calendar. Many seeds are already in trays in the hot box & the polytunnel. Whilst we aim to sow using the advice of the calendar, if the weather is wrong, or we’ve got too much on then the dates will shift. We have to work within our practical limits!

The biodynamic sowing calendar takes into account a number of aspects of moon & planetary influences on different parts of the developing plant. This originates from a time when our consciousness was less individualistic. A time when we lived much more closely as a part of our natural surroundings & were possibly more aware of our group / tribe needs than our own personal needs.

It is well known that the moon has a big influence upon life forms on earth. This is largely through the water element within us, animals & plants. As the moon travels around the earth it passes through a different constellation every 2, 3 or 4 days. These constellations historically have been recognised as having different characteristics which can be related to fire, earth, air & water. Studies in Germany for over 40 years have looked at how these influences effect plant growth. It is largely accepted within biodynamics that as the moon passes through various constellations it wil have beneficial effects on different parts of plants as follow;

Fire – Fruit

Earth – Root

Air – Flower

Water – Leaf

So we aim to sow for example potatoes, carrots & parsnips on a root day. Or peppers, tomatoes & aubergines on a fruit day.

However, theres alot more to it than that! There are other considerations to take into account;

  • Ascending / descending moon
  • Perigee / apogee moon
  • Planetary oppositions & conjunctions

Personally I find it a really useful tool for planning the seasons growing. I’m more interested in getting a feel of how the moon & planets are moving & keeping this in mind as we go about our daily tasks. I’m not really stuck on getting things done on the ‘perfect day’. Theres already so many different activities to co-ordinate through the early season. I find it a great awareness building exercise thats brings another richness to the work of growing.

Seed sovereignty for Cae Tan & the UK

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Our crop planning complete for 2018, we have received our seeds & packed them under my stairs ready for this seasons sowing.

The majority of our seed this year is open pollenated & bought from The UK Seed Co-operative. They are a company seeking to bring seed growing back to the UK & back to the growers who buy their seed.

Seed is a critical element of a sustainable food system. Traditionally growers would have saved their own seed each year as a part of the seasons jobs. As we have moved away from saving our own seed, specialists have taken this over & much seed growing is now done abroad & the seed imported. This means that crops are not adapting to our local climates & a potential source of income for local growers has been exported.

Cae Tan are currently joining forces with The Gaia foundation seed sovereignty project. We will be joining other professional growers in April to train with ‘The Real Seed Catalogue’ in Pembrokeshire, where we will learn seed growing techniques & start on a small scale to grow commercial seed crops.

This adds another small income stream to Cae Tan, whilst preserving both traditional seed saving techniques & locally adapted seed varieties that are available to other UK growers!

 

 

The godfather of UK organic growing spends the day coaching Cae Tan.

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It may look like Captain Jack Radish training up new young pirates, but in fact its Iain Tolhurst who spent the day with a group of us from Cae Tan sharing some of his 40 years of in depth knowledge of organic growing.

Key learning for Cae Tan was around;

  • 8 year crop rotations with fertility building underlays
  • Soil analysis at both sites
  • Fertility building through planting short rotation willow & alder coppice
  • Effective machinery use

This was funded through FCFCG as a Welsh initiative to support the development of CSA in Wales. We hope to have Tolly back once a year to give continued advice & support.

2018 Trainee posts filled!

Welcome to our RDP trainee for 2018.

IMG_0023Abbi Mason has spent the past five years working at Camas outdoor centre for young people & disadvantaged groups, offering them the opportunity to engage with the wild elements on The Isle of Iona off the West Coast of Scotland. Abbi worked here initially as the gardener & then took on the role of centre manager.

Previously to this she worked as a freelance gardener, helped in a school in India & worked on a larger scale organic farm community in New Zealand.

11393726_10204557518634730_3191292346884506633_oIsabel Vasquez Valero is from Spain. She is joining us via the European Volunteer Scheme. She studied her degree in biotechnology. She has been a professional track athlete & coached in this area. She has worked on environmental, youth & growing projects in Taiwan, Iceland, Germany & the Canary Islands.

We look forward to having Abbi & Isabel as part of the team this season.