Friday, 18 June 2010

Office chairs

We need some new office chairs so I researched 'eco' chairs - I found a company called Steelcase who manufacture operator, manager and boardroom chairs to a high environmental standard.

Then I located a company who refurbish these chairs second hand (being good quality they can take some refurbishing). So we will get a few of these and see how they work out.

Friday, 11 June 2010

The bees have arrived!!!!

I'm terribly excited- our first hive is now buzzing with bees. Ian, our expert beekeeper delivered the swarm this morning. They seem to have settled in fairly well. In the first few days we expect some activity as the bees will be getting to know their new home. They will be using landmarks and the sun to orientate themselves. We'll be getting another hive within a few weeks and we'll be letting them settle in the first year. Next year, Ian will be running beekeeping courses here at The Castle and we can expect our first Castle honey harvest!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Castle Garden Spring 2010

A very happy Kerry finishing building the mini plots and one of the neighbours being the first in March to plant out her veggies

After a harsh winter and some confusing cold days then hot days in the Spring, the castle garden has been a surge of activity.

Springtime apple blossoms on the trees we planted in February. the transformation always amazes me, especially when they start off looking like bare twigs.

As well as the plants and wildlife, people come alive and get busy too! The garden is really starting to take shape and Spring has really transformed things. It was really worth the garden team's hard work over winter and it's been great to see a lot of green emerging from all the fruit trees and bushes we planted in February. Hopefully we will at least get some raspberries and strawberries this year. (whoever spots them first!) The fruit trees and rhubarb will we hope to harvest next year after another year's growth.

We kicked started this season with the Spring Equinox. We had a weekend workday, with showers of course, and we planted a new hedgerow along the front near the roadside of the castle. Thanks to Nick our medicinal herbalist, who chose lots of native English hedgerow bushes, shrubs and trees, which will not only shelter us from the noise pollution from the road, but provide a great habitat for wildlife, and interesting things for us to harvest – Hazel, crab apple, silver birch, elder, hawthorn and blackthorn, and sneaked in some others we are trying out such as goji berries and cherry plum trees. The day ended in a celebration with a bonfire, cider and a few equinox songs and spring detoxes.

Nick giving providing us with a medicinal dose of cider to help us plant the hedge

A few more workdays in April saw us planting up more vegetables for the Castle and a variety of herbs on the hill, and I'm also making the most of some of the south facing walls by planting an apricot, figs, grape vines and a kiwi (which will climb a trellis made out of climbing rope) We hope to get a great variety of climbing fruits to go with the theme of the place. I even found some types of strawberries with interesting names. There’s the climbing “mount everest” strawberries and the tumbleberries, I got in especially for Tumble the Castle’s maintenance manager, who’s been a great help.

Green woodworking with Tom Trimmins

We’ve also made use of lots of free giveaways from the neighbouring construction site, wood for raised beds, steel toe cap wellies, and a smokers shelter made into a greenhouse. Thanks to Tom Trimmins, our latest garden team member who's a great carpenter and woodworker. He fitted it out with lots of shelves. Watch out for any green woodworking workshops he’ll facilitate. So far he's had us making mallets, spoons and plant labels with the sycamore wood from the garden.

We’ve been making the most of the lovely young fresh nettles. The café using them fresh and drying them to make nettle tea and I’ve started to make nettle feed for the garden. It's a great free source of nitrogen for the plants. A homemade feed from it is easily made by collecting nettles, putting them in a porous bag and leaving it in a big container of water (like a giant tea bag) Leave it for 20-30 days, and dilute it with water and water around and on your plants. A warning however, this is rather smelly.

The Castle's own veg plots have done really well with the salads. The café having already had at least 7 or 8 generous harvests. This hot weather has been bringing on a really fast growth! They’ve had a lovely mix of red orach, coriander, bronze arrow, green salad bowl, rocket, and land cress as well as the odd radish which don't make it to the cafe.

Starting from May, the staff have been offered some paid working hours to help out in the garden. Two staff members have already come out so far, and expect to see some more, helping outside with the weeding, seed sowing, harvesting, digging, building, and of course enjoying the sun and rain.

Min enjoying the sunshine while she's weeding the castle veg beds

The Growing Communities Microsite

We’ve finally finished all the beds, and with the help of some very strong volunteers, managed to shift 9 tons of compost into them. We've been planting all Spring

and had our first harvest the other day - nearly 6 kilos of lettuce to be sold locally via Growing Communities.

Next in the garden, is our second annual garden party and the arrival of our bee hives.I’ll be there at the garden party, potting up seeds in various containers. Come sow a seed and take it away - as part of the One Pot Pledge campaign

Finally to add, we've had some press coverage - see: The Evening Standard

Also a nice big article in the Stoke Newington Gazette on the 3rd June. BBC Radio 4 Farming Today is covering the progress of the Garden over the next 2 years. For those early risers listen out for the odd programme. It's been on 3 times already!

Hope to see you at the Garden Party!