Tuesday, 28 June 2011

All talk

Back in April I was asked to go to the annual Innovation for Extremes Conference (Innov-ex) to make a presentation about our journey towards sustainability at The Castle. The conference is held at Lancaster University Business School and was originally set up to promote innovation in the textiles field of outdoor equipment manufacture. However, in the last few years the focus of the conference has shifted to encompass sustainability as well.

You can see my presentation “Committing to sustainability” on their web site http://innovation-for-extremes.net/blog/steve-taylor-castle-climbing-committing-to-sustainability. The whole conference was very interesting. It was great to see what other groundbreaking companies are doing on the sustainability front.

My presentation was very well received and I’ve had a lot of people contact me to find out more. One of them, Sarah Howcroft from Rohantime, asked me to do an interview for her readers and you can see the results here http://rohantime.com/18920/the-greenest-line/
I think the piece is quite a good summary of where we started and how the story has progressed so far.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Spring 2011 in the Castle Garden

This is our second Spring since the Castle Garden project began, and what a warm welcome it was after such another snowy icy winter. On top of that we have been busy making more and more developments to the garden and trying out new things. The first one being this lovely forced rhubarb. In January we put an empty black bin over the rhubarb plant with a brick to weigh it down. In early March we took the bin off and saw this lovely pink tender rhubarb. You usually find it sold in the shops around this time - the famous forced Yorkshire rhubarb grown in huge forcing sheds. You can only keep forcing them for so long otherwise you really stress the plant. The Castle cafe harvested them and made lovely cakes and crumbles.

The Forest Garden
We spent all winter clearing the ground, for the forest garden and at the beginning of March we finally got in all the trees! We planted 1 mulberry, 2 sweet chestnuts, 6 hazels (our nuttery, 3 apple trees, 2 pear, 2 cherry and 2 plum trees, and we already started to interplant with some nitrogen fixers such as eleagnus (which produces edible berries) Siberian Pea tree, some herbs rhubarb, berries and flowers. We also planted a raspberry row and a mini vineyard for some future wine making. This garden will be an ongoing project and will develop and evolve over the next few seasons with more shrubs, flowers herbs, along with the constant mulching and battling with the bind weed and brambles!

Our Apricot tree
This is the second year of the Apricot tree we are growing by the south facing wall at the back. It's one of the first trees to blossom, plus it's amazing to see a few weeks later fruit forming! Other trees we are experimenting with to benefit from this warm area, are a couple of fig trees, grape vines and a kiwi.

Our bees swarming
Our bees swarmed this year from both hives. This was very exciting to see! Swarming is what they naturally do every year when their colony gets bigger. The old queen stays in the hive and the new queen goes out with some of the worker bees to go out to look for a new home. (several thousand of them!) This is when the beekeeper would come to catch the swarm and house them in a new hive. The bees attached themselves to a branch in our Indian bean tree. (they do this while the scout bees are out looking for their new home). Swarming is not too much to be afraid of as the bees are not as defensive at this time. They don't have their brood or honey to protect. The first swarm went into a new hive here and the second one was collected by my friend Sean at Organiclea, who practices natural beekeeping and uses Warre hives.
We will be getting our own Warre hive and a Top bar hive, which have been hand made with the help of two Castle staff, Kerry Simmons and Rosa Gonzalez who are working with Tom Trimmins. We will be demonstrating and learning about natural beekeeping methods. More to come about this soon! More info about it on the biobees website and Natural beekeeping Trust .

Castle Staff and the Garden
Leah who works in the office in accounts has been growing microgreens and sprouted seeds. She has sprouting towers, microgreens all spread out all over the shelves and on the windowsills in the office. She spends most of her time here sitting at the desk and working on the computer, and I'm amazed at what she can produce from her desk! It goes to the cafe on a weekly basis, which is just a few metres outside the office door.
In March, when the staff had a full day workshop day, the last hour and half was spent doing a garden activity.
Potato boxes made from parts of climbing wall inside - made on our staff workshop day, since then James from the shop - our potato monitor - watering and earthing them up! Two of the session stafff Justin and Rachel sowed some wheat as part of The Real Bread Campaign's "bake your lawn" . Rosa from the shop has been keeping on top of watering during the very dry period we had and our new receptionist Christina, has come out to help, and is our tomato pinching out monitor. Min's terraced bee garden and herb garden is starting to look amazing, and the summer will see most of the flowers in a beautiful full bloom!
The cafe staff have been getting involved too picking salads, drying herbs and Kip got stuck in helping Barry with the big pond dig.

What next in the garden?
This summer we hope to be harvesting more from our new cafe plots, watch our new forest garden grow, harvest some fruit, create a wildlife pond, make new seating areas and outdoor exercise areas, create more wildflower areas, and have a garden party and enjoy the produce!