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Home composting – the breakdown!

Here at the farm, we are BIG fans of compost!

We save all our food scraps and tip them into our garden compost heap.

There are lots of ways to bring compost into your life, even if you’re not feeding an army of vegetable fiends twice a day…

Good compost is made from a mix of ingredients – the wider the diversity, the better the compost. You can’t just put veg scraps in a place and expect compost. This makes the ‘not good’ bacteria and not the ‘good’ bacteria.

For a compost pile to work its magic, it needs a balance of carbon-rich ingredients and nitrogen-rich ingredients. Carbon-rich material is normally old and woody whereas nitrogen-rich material comes from fresh, new growth and softer plant matter. 

As plants develop, the nitrogen from the new growth travels down the plant into the roots. That’s why it’s good to leave the roots in the ground! This way, the nitrogen returns to the soil and the soil food web is undisturbed.

We add carbon into our mix by using… Hemp! 

Hemp straw bales are perfect and we also use it as mulch on top of the beds as this adds organic matter to the soil.

Last year, Tom and Alfie had the wonderful idea of building an outdoor shower using a hot compost technique to heat the water. Hardwick Estate is a working woodland, so there’s a lot of wood chip going to waste from the tree surgeons around the farm.

We created an account with Arbtalk and now we get deliveries of fresh wood chip once a month or so! We pile this on top of the piping and it heats the water to a whopping 50 degrees.

With the smell of pine in the morning and a fresh breeze to dry off, the shower is a real composty treat!

There are two main methods of composting. Here’s how to compost in your garden:

1. Short term

Also known as the “Berkeley method” or the “18-day compost”

Normally the compost pile will need more than 18 days as this is accurate if all the material is perfectly chopped up and prepared. That’s not really our composting vibe! The pile needs to reach 55/60 degrees in order to kill off any pathogens (such as powdery mildew), and to properly decompose any weed seeds or roots (like nettles or rhizomes) to avoid spreading them around your garden. 

We don’t always get around to turning our piles quite as often as is necessary for this method, so our compost can take a little longer to finish brewing! Some people are very accurate in getting the right balance of fresh green nitrogen rich materials to old dry woody carbon materials. We’re learning as we go along to get the balance right.

2. Long term

With this method, there’s a lot less to worry about. Moisture isn’t as big a deal because the pile is out in the open. The balance is more forgiving but you still need to make sure there’s lots of carbon in the mix. 

This 6-12 month cold composting technique will not destroy the pathogens, weed seeds or roots. The heat comes from the activity of thermophilic bacteria which will happily do its composting thing as long as they have the right environment. 

How to make your own hot compost:

Make a pile of about 1 cubic meter. We use 1 tonne bags but you can use a wooden bay or pig wire. The balance of carbon to nitrogen needs to be just right. In total, it should be 25-30:1 of carbon:nitrogen. 

Old, woody materials have a higher carbon concentration.

For example, wood chips and cardboard are around 350-400:1 and will take a long time to decompose on their own.

That’s why wood chips are perfect for the compost shower!

Grass cuttings are around 20:1, cow manure is 16:1 and urine is 1:1 which is why it’s good to wee on your compost! 

For the pile to work, it needs to have plenty of air flow to stay aerobic. To do this, you need to turn the pile regularly. For the 18 day compost method, you should leave it for 4 days then turn every other day until it’s ready.

How do you know when it’s ready?

When you have worms!

These little fellas are a great indicator that the pile has cooled down enough as they don’t like the high temperatures. The mixture should also be dark brown in colour and smell like a woodland floor. 

Be careful if you’re using ingredients that are lumpy or sloppy (like cow manure) as this will inhibit the airflow in your pile.

You want to have all the ingredients chopped up small – but not too small! If you’re getting closer to sawdust size, it can also become sloppy and make your pile anaerobic. 

Once the material is nicely broken down and soft, the compost goes back onto our veggie patches in the polytunnel to help the new vegetables grow. What a satisfying cycle!

Composting is an amazing way to use food and garden waste, as well as feeding the soil food web and the microbial life. In healthy soils, more water is retained and the microbiome is more diverse. This reduces desertification and keeps the soil where it should be – on the ground!

Do you have any hot composting tips? Let us know!

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How can hemp seed oil help my health?

UK-grown organic cold-pressed hemp seed oil, oh how we’ve missed you!

So luxurious, with your emerald tones, nutty flavour, and heaps of nutritional goodness.

Omega oils galore! We hear your brains and muscles crying out with joy.

Just in the nick of time to start training for that marathon…

Where’s it been hiding?

Hemp is a relatively new crop in modern agriculture, even though it was one of the first crops cultivated by humans.

Somewhere along the way, we went from seeing the ease and versatility of this plant to losing sight of all the benefits it offers to the soil as well as the people.

Now we’re on a mission to bring it back! The health benefits of this wonderful seed just keep on coming. With a perfect balance of omega fatty acids, plus phytonutrients and vitamins, this oil is a must for anyone focusing on their nutritional health.

We are currently applying for a new licence to grow hemp on our farm*. Over the past year, we’ve been partnering with other farms across the UK to help them grow hemp all over the country.

We believe that cooperation and collaboration builds resilience. By supporting each other, we can build an ethical industry from the ground up!

Our organic cold-pressed oil is a deliciously simple way to consume hemp seeds.

Drizzle some over your warm meals, mix into a sauce for salads, or keep it pure as a tasty and vibrant dipping oil. What a treat to have in the kitchen!

Very few plants are as climate friendly as hemp. It’s a fantastic rotation crop, regenerating soils and trapping carbon from the atmosphere.

Hemp removes impurities from the soil, so it’s really important to buy organic. That way you know you’re getting all the benefits with none of the toxins!

We bring all our freshly harvested seeds back to the farm to be processed into products for you lovely folk.

How should I use it?

Hemp seed oil is affected by high temperatures so it’s best to avoid frying with it or overheating it. 

Did you know you can also apply this 100% pure hemp seed oil directly to your skin, hair and beard?

Our Hemp Seed Moisturising Oils have added fragrances (as well as one with CBD extract!).

You could even get creative and mix your favourite essential oils for a personalised scent.

All in all, this wonder oil is tasty, versatile and packed full of nutrients.

With a spoonful of hemp seed oil, you won’t need to help the medicine go down!

 

 

*Our licence was revoked in 2019 and we had to destroy our crop worth £200k:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49082533

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we are growing solidarity

The Project

In January, we launched the Growing Solidarity project. We are fortunate to have the means to be on bountiful land where we can work, live and collectively grow organic food. We recognise the importance of nature connection and want to do what we can to provide access to others and to share what we have got. We know that there are many people that don’t have the opportunity to be connected to nature and harness its possibilities.

We are working with Reading Refugee Support Group (RRSG) to deliver seeds, seedlings, soil, and support to individuals and families in our local migrant community. As we cautiously approach an easing of lockdown, we are reopening the land that we are part of on the Hardwick Estate to the RRSG community. We are offering our space to connect to nature, rest, solialise, share and grow together in a beautiful natural setting. 

Working together

From choice comes empowerment

We believe that everybody should have the opportunity to grow food and medicine to sustain themselves, their families and their own communities. Our aim is to listen to the individuals and families that we work with, provide resources to support the ideas that they come up with, and empower them to shape the project and take it in directions that they choose.

Sharing soil

Sowing seeds

Before the crisis we were regularly opening up our farm for the project. As we were unable to host people during lockdown, we have been connecting with people directly at home. Each week we deliver a range of seeds and plants to homes, along with planters (up-cycled from pallets!), soil, tools and knowledge about growing. What we bring each week is lead by the individual or household. People can choose to fill up their own planter, and choose the seedlings they want.

During our visits, new gardeners have given us their own pickled delicacies. People have also been sharing their seedlings and produce with others in the community. Through sowing seeds in a literal sense, it is our hope that this project can be a seed from which all kinds of fruits will grow!

The growing team at no.69

Crisis expands our imaginations around what is possible

As Canadian activist Naomi Klein puts it, “the status quo is an emergency…in this moment of vulnerability, we must shine light on what is possible and carry this forward into building a different future”.

We exist in a time of disconnection and fragmentation from each other and the natural world. We see investing in connection to one another, our communities and the land as a necessary stepping stone towards a better future. And a more resilient future. Growing Solidarity offers one of those steps.

@MollyCostello

For more information about the project visit our Growing Solidarity page here: hempen.co.uk/growing-solidarity/

To support the project, please donate here – each time you shop with us, you can show solidarity with our local community!

 

 

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Growing hemp at Hempen in 2020

And now, in other non-virus-related news…

Hemp farmer in a field of hemp

You may have seen our news from July 2019 about losing our ability to grow hemp. Since then, lots of you have been keen for an update, asking us whether we’ve got our licence to grow hemp back. Well, it’s been rather a long and complex process of legal advice, back and forth with the Home Office, debates and scenario planning to get us to the point where we can give you a proper update. So sorry about that.

And unfortunately, for now, the short answer is no – Hempen are not growing hemp directly this year.

But don’t worry, it’s not as straightforward as that! 

Why aren’t Hempen growing this year?

Before I explain properly, just to clarify a detail. Technically, “Hempen” the organisation can’t hold a licence. Again, not as simple as it sounds – hemp growing licences are held in the name of the tenant farmer on the land or landowner, as growing hemp is a farming practice (we’ll ignore the fact hemp is regulated by the Drugs & Firearms division for the purposes of this point!) – in our case, this was the very brilliant, experienced organic farmer James, then one of Hempen’s directors.

OK, back to the main point.

Rest assured that our long term vision is still very much rooted in the cultivation of hemp. And that’s what we’re still doing on a daily basis. The only change is that there’ll be no plants growing on this farm, this season. 

The main reason is one of the complexities around growing hemp in the UK: in this case, the Home Office’s request for a compliance visit to the farm before deciding whether to issue the licence. Not only is this costly, it is also a challenge for James, who would hold the hemp growing licence. Here’s why:

Most arable cereals (e.g. wheat or barley) are sown in March. Hemp is generally sown in the UK in early May (after last frosts). Usually, organic arable farmers will grow more than one crop in their rotation (part of organic principles and maintaining soil health). In order for the farmer (in our case, James) to decide whether they can sow hemp that year, they need to know if they’ll have a licence to do so by March. Because if not, they will, quite logically, choose to sow another crop, rather than risk having their fields lay bare.

Hempen farmers prepping the hemp seed drilling

The Home Office requested their visit for mid-March. The risk was, that if the application was turned down, James would have missed his chance to sow other crops, leaving empty fields and losing all potential revenue. And no-one wants that, when it’s already such a challenge to be a farmer. So the decision was taken to sow other arable crops instead.

No hemp?! What are you doing instead? Where is all the organic hemp for your products going to come from?

Though it is a little disappointing that we won’t have beautiful acres of hemp flourishing here in our part of south Oxfordshire in 2020, it won’t have any negative impact on our business, and we’ll still be helping acres of hemp grow!

It gives us the chance to focus more on our goal of increasing the amount of organic hemp grown in the UK. Alongside our own harvest, we’ve been collaborating with other organic farmers around the UK since 2016. And while we’re not growing here this season, we will be continuing to collaborate – to help more farmers grow and develop, and also source our seed-to-shelf UK organic hemp, so we can keep up with the rising demand! And our aim is to have hemp blowing in the breeze here at Path Hill again next year.

Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to continue produce locally-grown, organic nutritious foods like hemp to bring food security in difficult times. We’re grateful to keep having that opportunity. Love and peace to all.

We’re always looking for new partners, so if you're keen to grow hemp, do get in touch - email us! And follow us on social media for all sorts of goings on - links below.
#SaveUKCBD saveukcbd.org
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Changes for the better…

The world we share is rapidly changing, and we are watching each day as more news of coronavirus (COVID-19) comes through. It’s the main point of conversation lately and it’s changing the way we live our everyday lives. Plans we had are gone, or on hold, just like that. 

Our sympathies are with those who are most affected by this, especially our loved ones. And key workers have been called to action, the people on our minds are our nurses, doctors and NHS staff working overtime and without the proper protective equipment. We are genuinely feeling the effect this is having on our community and friends. 

Somewhere inside us, we all knew at some point something had to give, the polarised society between the rich and the poor, the constant increase of the destruction of our rainforests, the continual rise in the production of toxic plastic, the mass drive for profit and greed. We are living in the time of the anthropocene. 

A crisis brings up a time for unimaginable change, and this means that we also have a chance to purposefully and positively affect the trajectory we were previously on.

‘’Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken, depend on the ideas that are laying around.’’ Milton Friedman. 

“We know this script. In 2008, the last time we had a global financial meltdown, the same kinds of bad ideas for no-strings-attached corporate bailouts carried the day, and regular people around the world paid the price.”  Naomi Klein

Watch the video and read more: https://interc.pt/2IOfBQb

Right now, governments and big business will use this crisis to push through policies that were very distant discussions before, for the worse or for the better. This is a time of great danger or opportunity. 

There have been some more drastic measures taken that are not nice for any of us, like being home bound for the foreseeable. For those of us who can, a more positive outlook on this situation could bring about ideas and policies that were once seen as far too radical or unfeasible. In fact they are actually happening overnight…

But what would be disappointing for us and the generations that follow after us, is for big industries to be bailed out, again – the ones that are causing the most environmental damage, with complete disregard in being inline with the Paris Climate Agreement.

What changes would we like to see for the better of all? Potentially permanent changes that could fight poverty and the climate crisis, at the same time mitigate the chance of another disaster of this kind. How and in what ways should we be returning back to work in responce to these problems? How should we value jobs that sustain quality livelyhoods and empower a greener future?

4 Day Working Week Campaign

“100 years ago we won the weekend & the 8hr day. Today we sure as hell can win a #4DayWeek.”

At Hempen we encourage a model of working 3 days a week, and for residents 1 day a week for the community. A shorter working week could improve the economy, our environment and our society as a whole. We don’t want to be confined to our work, needing time to rest and play. Less work could also mean we address inequalities, lack of time to live sustainably, and help to reduce carbon emissions. 

"In the rush to return ro normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to." Dave Hollis

Universal Basic Income

At the very least, temporary enactment of UBI for three months throughout the crisis would mean the spike in renters being evicted recently could have been avoided. Every day we hear new ways in which the government plans to help alleviate financial hardship, though many businesses and people are left behind or left in uncertain circumstances. If UBI was to be brought in for a few months, we can see how it might work for our economy in the long-term. Leaving people without a means of income in this crisis induces stress, which in turn lowers our immune systems, somewhat counter productive.  

If 8 men have as much wealth as the rest of the world, it seems possible that more wealth could be shared. The Spanish are introducing UBI! If you feel inclined then sign the petition for Basic Income: https://bit.ly/2QDIClE

For Hempen and for other like minded start-ups and independants, having access to UBI provides freedom, so that more people can create projects that are built from their own passions and skill sets. And especially now when so many may face unemployment or lack of work, this could help spir society on with more environmental, social and conscious work. Though we are not talking about a small UBI, this needs to be enough UBI to cover average rent prices and food per week or month to work effectively, and not just be a token amount.

Real Support For Key Workers

Bolster the National Living Wage, Save the NHS, Encourage Food Security by Supporting UK Farmers. 

In this emergency, we get a rare reality check of the type of jobs that are important. As our country heads into lock-down, NHS staff, cleaners and food producers are noticeably some of the key workers in our society. Note that the likes of airlines, banks and such are not in this mix.

Here at Hempen, our products are classified as food, and we continue to go about our daily business with some adjustments. We are already planting vegetable seeds to help create more food for our community, and are searching for ways to use our fields to be of more use. We hope many others are using their own gardens and gorilla growing in an abandoned or unloved spaces. Now is the time for councils to open up unused spaces to communities. There are signs of a global food shortage ahead, so we are calling for a government package to protect local food supplies and increase production. If you like the sound of that, please sign: https://www.change.org/LandArmySupport

We can be part of the debate and changes ahead, lets stay active!

Written by Sophia, Member of Hempen

Be the change you want to see.

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