2021: May news – Sunshine and Showers

May 20, 2021 by General Administrator

This week the steering group finally got to meet for the first time since last June. We enjoyed a farm tour together led by Stephen before our monthly meeting to uphold the vision and development of Canalside – it was great to meet face to face outside after many months on zoom!

May is feeling more like April with sunshine and showers so we’ve been able to make some progress in the fields. And with the increase in warmth we’ve seen some real growth in the plants, especially in the tunnels – even the most raggedy looking tomatoes are now filling out.

But to be honest, the most exciting news of the week is the arrival of our new trolley – after years of keeping homemade equipment going we decided to make small investments around the farm that will make things run smoother. We can now easily transport plants and harvested crops around the site without the wheels falling off!

The new hand trolley

Eleanor, on behalf of the growing team

Photos: Tom Ingall

2021: April news – Weather Report

April 29, 2021 by General Administrator

April has been a tough month for growers across the UK. High pressure has meant weeks with no rain – only 5mm had fallen until the rain came on Tuesday night. To put this into context, the driest April on record was 7.1mm back in 1938 and the average April rainfall in England over the last 4 yeas has been 28mm (2020), 35.4mm, 78.4mm and a very dry 2017 at 17.6mm.

It’s very unusual to have to irrigate bare land just to cultivate (prepare the land by ploughing, power harrowing etc) – let alone for establishing the first cultivations of the season – but this is what we’ve been doing the past couple of weeks. In very dry weather irrigation hoses are left to run on timers overnight but because there have also been a record number of frosts this month this wasn’t possible. A lot of time has been spent on this, as well as time each day covering and uncovering crops for protection from both the night’s frost and the heat in the day – an unusual combination.

As a consequence we are behind on many of our field plantings which have already been growing slowly because of the cold nights, and wouldn’t have survived planting out in the dry ground in these conditions. This also has a knock on for new sowings as we simply have no space in the hotbeds for them whilst the field crops are still there. This may well result in the hunger gap bei

It’s all a juggling act and has been a challenging few weeks for the team. Speaking to other growers we realise there is very little we can do other than pray the rain continues (but not too much!), the frosty nights come to an end and everything catches up. As always it is humbling to know we are really at the mercy of mother nature, who will always have the last word.

2021: March news – Cauli Surprise

March 11, 2021 by General Administrator

We decided to split our ploughing this year into two bulk lots to make it easier for the growers; an early and a late plough. Thanks to the recent dry weather we reached a major milestone for the new season this week having ploughed over half of the land, ready to prepare it for planting.

We hope you enjoyed the first of the over wintering cauliflowers this week. Cauli’s are notoriously hard to harvest – there is a very small window to catch them between being under or over ripe so Stephen had a very happy surprise to find 180 plants perfectly ready on Monday.

2021: February news – New Shoots!

February 11, 2021 by General Administrator

There are tiny signs of spring emerging with new shoots popping up around the place. It’s great to get stuck into the new season, preparing beds for planting and sowing our first seeds: early field crops like kohlrabi and celery and tunnel crops including lettuce, beets and spring onions, as well as planting seed potatoes directly into tunnel 4. The kohlrabi seeds win the prize for showing themselves first – always a little miracle that life wants to grow and a sign that spring is not too far away now.

Words from Work Mornings

February 4, 2021 by General Administrator

Whilst there is much uncertainty in the world, the popularity of CSAs has shown that local food production is an essential, safe and reliable service. We’ve seen a great turnout at our work mornings in the last year, and perhaps due to lockdown are again seeing a boom in people coming to help out. As volunteering work is still allowed, we find jobs where we can space out or work in household bubbles. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get outside and be together in a safe way, working towards a common goal at a time when there is so much separation.

Here’s what our workshares and volunteers have to say:

‘I love the welcome and camaraderie, it’s amazing how much we get done when we work together, this is a unique place’ – Clare (volunteer workshare)

‘It’s the highlight of our week’ – Christine and Dave (veg members and volunteers)

“A workshare at Canalside ticks so many boxes, providing exercise, fresh air, vitamin D and purposeful companionship in a relatively safe, outdoor environment.’ – Zoe (volunteer workshare)

If you’d like to read more from Zoe you can read her blog about joining Canalside here.

2021: January news – Would you rather…?

January 28, 2021 by General Administrator

Well the farm turned into Narnia earlier this week and reminded us how lucky we are to be in this space, bringing a moment of beauty and peace that only a snow scape can – see photos! Alas, it quickly returned back to the familiar mud bath. Harvesting crops in hard frost and snow is always an interesting experience and the team seem to spend a lot of time at the moment playing ‘would you rather’: ice and snow, pouring rain or searing heat. Outcome TBA.

British weather issues aside – we’re turning our attention to spring planting, taking away our old ground covers ready to muck spread for the new crops.

A big ‘thank you’ to our workshares and volunteers turning out on Wednesdays and Saturdays, helping get lots of big jobs done and site maintenance – you’re very much appreciated. 

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.

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