2020: December news – Moving forward into 2021

December 17, 2020 by General Administrator

As 2020 comes to a close we arrive in a new phase at Canalside.

There is a lot to celebrate and be proud of here. The COVID era of 2020 has demonstrated the success and value of CSAs and local food production. A huge thank you to everyone involved in our success – our members, volunteers, workshares, steering committee and staff all play an important role. The bee club, flower enterprise and Willows Project also continue to blossom and be an integral part of the farm.

Whilst we continue to advertise for a new main grower, the land team are looking ahead and feeling good about the future – assistant growers Lena and Stephen will be joined by seasonal labourer and long-standing volunteer workshare, Eleanor Brown, and have been working on the growing plan for 2021. Also working alongside the team will be Gareth and Becca from Five Acre, our sister CSA in Coventry, providing weekly support.

The team taking us into 2021 – L-R Eleanor, Lena, Stephen

Moving forward into 2021 we are excited about the potential of the farm and have lots of plans to develop the site; buying new land, planting an orchard, creating more social spaces facilitating more connection for members into the farm both socially and through volunteering. Whilst still adhering to COVID rules we are wanting to welcome you to feel part of the place, celebrating the community aspect of CSAs as much as our focus on the agriculture.

The land team – Lena, Stephen and Eleanor

The team at the pre-Christmas sprout pick

2020: November news – Heart Beets

November 20, 2020 by General Administrator

It was the final big seasonal workday of 2020, my final one as head grower here, and hopefully the last one we’ll ever have to do under lockdown, fingers crossed… and it was wonderful, with eager beet-pickers of all ages defying the wet weather forecast and ripping red roots from the earth from sunrise (well, it was 10am and there wasn’t any sun, but I’m pleading artistic licence). All in all we picked 990 kilos of which about a quarter is the golden variety. They are all tucked away clamped in sand at the back of the barn – huge thanks to the clamping team, the unsung heroes of the day. Beets store well in this way until June, so there’ll be lots to look forward to in 2021!

2020 – October news: Rat Attack

October 15, 2020 by General Administrator

Here at Canalside we live in harmony with all of nature’s fauna and flora. However, some animals are getting a bit too harmonious for my liking: someone, or something, has discovered our squashes (which are seasoning in tunnel 3 just now) and invited all its friends and family for a squash party! We suspect the rat, so have set up live traps which so far have failed to entice the offender. Luckily not too many fruits have been lost so far.

Dom van Marsh

2020 – September news: Skinned

September 17, 2020 by General Administrator

‘To skin’ is one of those unusual verbs with two meanings that are the complete opposite of one another. The skin a rabbit is to remove the skin, but to skin a polytunnel is to put it on – as the land team (finally!) did to tunnel 1 on Monday. The main reason to replace the polythene cover is about opacity more than anything else – you can ‘clearly’ see this by comparing the transluscent new cover of tunnel 1 with its 13 year old, virtually opaque neighbour. This will give much better crop growth, particularly in winter. Canalside member Eleanor made a fantastic short video of the work, which you can view on vimeo.

2020 – August news: Roasting

August 14, 2020 by General Administrator

Regular readers of Canalside news will know I love a weather stat, and this week has delivered a few – England has recorded temperatures upwards of 34 degrees for 6 successive days in a sequence that included the third hottest August day for 17 years.

At the farm it has been challenging to say the least for land workers, not to mention the plants – thankfully thunderstorms have brought much-needed rain to quench their thirst. The downpours have helped arguably the most important crop on the farm to germinate nicely: the grass-clover green manure leys that are the biological powerhouse behind our soil fertility. Green manure replenishes soil nutrients and regenerates soil health as well as providing habitat for insects, and it is always a huge relief to see it germinating well!

Dom van Marsh, head grower

2020 – July news: Fine Young Cabbages

July 17, 2020 by General Administrator

I’ve seen cabbages, and I’ve seen cabbages, but I’ve never seen cabbages like this before – not in July, at any rate. Planted just 6 weeks ago these plants have exploded in size and are glowing with health. The work morning teams have been going through clearing out any remaining weeds but the great thing about massive brassicas like these is that the canopies close up to shade out any weeds underneath – meaning we won’t need to go near them again until harvest. Right now you’re experiencing the benefits of this brassica boom with the kale that’s been in the share lately; I wouldn’t normally expect the first pick so early but somehow this year the soil, weather conditions and help in the fields from our marvellous volunteers have combined to give a bountiful early crop.

Cabbage magnificence

2020 – June news: Rain at Last

June 19, 2020 by General Administrator

We’ve tried prayer, raindances and even some of the spells out of Harry Potter and finally it has worked as at last some decent rain arrived for our crops this week. This is particularly timely as we have been very busy getting some important crops in the ground: cabbages, kale and over 5000 leeks have all been planted in the last fortnight. Also, with the maincrop carrots and parsnips just emerging and getting established, the downpours are particularly welcome. The only question is: after 3 months of moaning about how dry it all is, how long before the growers start moaning that it’s too wet?

2020 – May news: Don’t Mind the Gap

May 29, 2020 by General Administrator

The spell from mid May to mid June is the dreaded ‘hungry gap’: the time when the growers are scratching around down the back of the sofa desperate for anything, anything at all vaguely veg-like to put in the share. Well, don’t know if you’ve noticed but that hasn’t really happened this year!

New projects (e.g. the strawberries) have come good, new varieties have thrived (e.g. overwintering broad beans and onions) and our usual staples are all here a bit earlier (e.g. tunnel carrots and potatoes).

The weather has been outstanding for early production (provided we can get enough water out there), but most of all it is down to our superb volunteers, toiling away – at a social distance – in the baking heat every Wednesday and Saturday. You have kept the crops weed free and got the seeds sown, and kept us well ahead of the game at a crucial time. Enjoy the bumper ‘hungry gap’ share!

Virtual blossom walk

April 19, 2020 by General Administrator

The orchard is looking amazing at the moment – the apple blossom is at its peak and the cherry trees that still have blossom have an abundance of it! Hopefully all the blossom foretells of a bountiful crop of fruit this summer, all being well through the growing season.

Click here to watch:

Credits: Filming, editing and music: Eleanor Brown

2020 – April news: Royal Variety Performance: Grafting Apples

April 17, 2020 by General Administrator

What do you do if you plant an apple tree and, after ten years of care, the variety you’ve gone for just isn’t performing? One of ours, ‘Tydeman’s Late Orange’, has given us this problem, with a decade of low yield, tiny scabby fruit and other misdemeanours.

All is not lost – this week Dom has been grafting a new, favoured variety (‘Edward VII’, hence royal) onto the old TLO trees. This involves cutting the tree right back to a few decent stumps (leaving one as a ‘sap drawer’) and in this case cleaving into the wood and wedging two tiny scions (twigs from the preferred variety, cut in winter and stored in the fridge) into the edges of the cleft.

The wounds are taped up and sealed with wax. The Edward VII scions will grow with the vigour of a ten-year old tree rather than a new sapling and will reach a good size in no time, so this is a much quicker way than replacing the tree entirely – those 10 years were not totally wasted.

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