A Warm Winter Feast at Sutton Community Farm

This winter i have been spending some great times with the lovely folks down on Sutton Community Farm. It's in South London in a place called Wallington up on a sort of mini plateau overlooking the london skyline. Its a very beautiful site and surrounded by old nurseries and green houses that have been there for generations. I urge you go pay them a visit as soon as you can, you'll have a great day out of it and you'll probably go home with your hands full of fresh veggies to take home and some new friends and a heart full of joy, not to mention a smile on your face :) You can see their fundraising video here.

Dean, Kevin and Charlotte packing veg boxes.

Dean, Kevin and Charlotte packing veg boxes.

The farm site from the boundary of the premises. You can see the old glass green houses to the left and new polytunnels on the right.

The farm site from the boundary of the premises. You can see the old glass green houses to the left and new polytunnels on the right.

Volunteer Day Wednesday

The first day i went for their official volunteer day on a Wednesday, in the morning we picked a lot of different varieties of salad leaves for their veg boxes. I met a lot of their staff and other volunteers and had lovely chats with them, everyone was so friendly and they had huge faith in what they were doing and they were all very politically motivated to grow good food for the community. They cooked a huge beetroot soup and as many as 20 volunteers all sat and ate veg food together, they even had home made bread as well. Super delicious!

Here's the Wednesday team.

Here's the Wednesday team.

A little organisation goes a long way.

A little organisation goes a long way.

The kitchen of the Veg Shed.

The kitchen of the Veg Shed.

Someone's van got stuck in the mud so everyone rushed to help push it clear.

Someone's van got stuck in the mud so everyone rushed to help push it clear.

This plastic sheeting they call pyrex is used to stops weeds growing around the veg crops, hugely reducing labour time.

This plastic sheeting they call pyrex is used to stops weeds growing around the veg crops, hugely reducing labour time.

Vegetable patches overlooking the next door neighbour's house.

Vegetable patches overlooking the next door neighbour's house.


Brassica Time

This time of year is a great time to grow and eat brassicas or anything in the cabbage family. There are so many varieties to choose from, they are super source of nutrients and they grow right through the winter. Many brassicas are perennials so if you plant one in your home garden you can keep picking the leaves for years to come. Kale and Cavolo Nero are two currently very popular varieties they grow at the farm. Trust me, eating these gives you lots of energy, which is needed in the winter time!

Close up you can see water droplets collecting on the slightly waxy surface of the leaves. They have a sort of thin white powdery layer which repels water, perhaps this provides protection from frost as well.

Close up you can see water droplets collecting on the slightly waxy surface of the leaves. They have a sort of thin white powdery layer which repels water, perhaps this provides protection from frost as well.

Charlotte models a bouquet of green kale.

Charlotte models a bouquet of green kale.

Another kind of kale i think, not sure of the name but with a very pretty pink stem. This is probably a more hardy variety as it does not have the netting on it.

Another kind of kale i think, not sure of the name but with a very pretty pink stem. This is probably a more hardy variety as it does not have the netting on it.

The curves of the paths have been laid out with builders barrier tape stacked to the ground, to get a nice smooth curve leading to the Veg Shed.

The curves of the paths have been laid out with builders barrier tape stacked to the ground, to get a nice smooth curve leading to the Veg Shed.

This protective netting is used to keep the frost off the plants during the winter and i imagine it helps to keep pests off as well.

This protective netting is used to keep the frost off the plants during the winter and i imagine it helps to keep pests off as well.

Cavolo Nero is a popular kind of kale of the brassica family

Cavolo Nero is a popular kind of kale of the brassica family

IMG_8463.JPG

Natures Path

They have used locally available wood chips for pathways around the farm. This provides a stable walking surface, stops weeds growing here and encourages micro organisms in the soil. Chips like this are often freely available from local tree surgens who may have to carry them further away to dispose of them, so taking them off their hands can be doing them a real favour.

Wood chip pathways are being laid down at the farm.

Wood chip pathways are being laid down at the farm.

Wood chips close up, looks like this is mostly from cedar trees.

Wood chips close up, looks like this is mostly from cedar trees.

Beneficial fungus' in particular find this kind of carpet mulch a great home. They build a vast network as they would through the forest floor and transport nutrients and deliver them plants through their root systems, this is called the mycorrhizal association. Apparently there are many fruit trees that will not give healthy fruit without fungus around their roots.


Salad Bags

Here's a little taster of whats in their salad bags. I tried everything and it was yummy, please let me know the names if anyone recognises the breed. Thanks :)

Name unknown. Its salty and delicious.

Name unknown. Its salty and delicious.

Winter Purslane (Claytonia perfoliata). Its sweet and tender to the bite.

Winter Purslane (Claytonia perfoliata). Its sweet and tender to the bite.

Name unknown. Crispy, crunchy and juicy.

Name unknown. Crispy, crunchy and juicy.

Name unknown. Taste unknown. Blood colour.

Name unknown. Taste unknown. Blood colour.

Name unknown. Tender Ticklers perhaps.

Name unknown. Tender Ticklers perhaps.


Buiding the Raised Bed Garden

Site manager Kevin has started to build a raised bed from old pallets cut into smaller squares.

Site manager Kevin has started to build a raised bed from old pallets cut into smaller squares.

Kevin's design for the raised bed garden. The blue colour is where the plants will grow and the paths are the spaces between. 

Kevin's design for the raised bed garden. The blue colour is where the plants will grow and the paths are the spaces between. 

There are seven curved beds coming from a central heptagon. This raised bed garden will be a small demonstration of the crop rotation system taking place on the seven big growing areas of the farm.

We cleared the area of debri, racked the wood chips and covered all the cardboard underneath to stop weeds growing.

We cleared the area of debri, racked the wood chips and covered all the cardboard underneath to stop weeds growing.

Marking a central point with a stake we made a heptagon from some timber and put together a heptagon of equal sides.

Marking a central point with a stake we made a heptagon from some timber and put together a heptagon of equal sides.

This way we were able to get the shape pretty precise and see what size our paths and beds were going to be

This way we were able to get the shape pretty precise and see what size our paths and beds were going to be

By the evening we were able to fit the first layer in place using metal strips and nails. I hit my finger with a hammer in the dark and decided it was time to go home!

By the evening we were able to fit the first layer in place using metal strips and nails. I hit my finger with a hammer in the dark and decided it was time to go home!


The Wonderful Wallington Walk

The colours at this time of yeah are very stark and when evening and morning light can bring out some very beautiful colours. It might be winter but life is very much going on all around and its so clear to see along these avenues and front gardens as you walk through the town.

A ball of pink blossom of an unknown tree

A ball of pink blossom of an unknown tree

I'm guessing this tree has been cut down before it falls down due to internal rot but i wonder how the rot got to it at all.

I'm guessing this tree has been cut down before it falls down due to internal rot but i wonder how the rot got to it at all.

The walk from Wallington Station took me ages as it so beautiful. During this cold winter season, the sun sets much lower in the sky.  This gives long shadows and the transition from daylight to darkness is drawn out over hours. The trunks of trees can now be seen with all their peculiar details as day light comes in from the side.

Lots of trees in the UK lose all their leaves during winter revealing their particular branch structure.

Lots of trees in the UK lose all their leaves during winter revealing their particular branch structure.

The winter light shines horizontally against this reflective silver tree bark.

The winter light shines horizontally against this reflective silver tree bark.


Moss Carpets

A carpet of bright green moss on the pavement on a road to the farm in Wallington. 

A carpet of bright green moss on the pavement on a road to the farm in Wallington. 

This moss grows like a carpet underfoot on the pavements.

This moss grows like a carpet underfoot on the pavements.

There is clearly enough moisture and enough soil from decaying matter here on this tar mac surface for life to survive. Although you can see the patch in the middle of the pavement has been warn down by people's shoes, the fact that moss can grow here perhaps means its a path less travelled.


Wood Pigeon, sustainable alternative to chicken?

Wood Pigeon, lichen, moss and aeroplane.

Wood Pigeon, lichen, moss and aeroplane.

Common in suburban parts of the city, Wood Pigeons make very good eating apparently, as they are the tastiest and largest of the pigeon family. I'm sure they would be easy to catch and kill as they are pretty tame and commonly found in these areas. A more sustainable meat dish perhaps? Planes can also be caught but are a little more expensive.


Fun with Hedges

All these different colours from a single bush being used as a hedge.

All these different colours from a single bush being used as a hedge.

Hedges of all different colours and species all neatly in a row.

Hedges of all different colours and species all neatly in a row.