Sunday, 16 March 2014
Report of : March 11th - Visit to Organic Smallholding
Another 12 members visited an organic small holding near the village of Torrox owned by David and Gill Armstead. Dave and Gill, apart from running a walking, painting and photography holiday business, also run this organic vegetable smallholding. They keep chickens and grow a range of fruit and nut trees. The owners are members of the World Organisation of Organic Farmers or “WOOF” for short. This enables them to benefit from helpers from around the world. These volunteer helpers are called Woofers and currently there are 4 Woofers working on the smallholding.
The farm is tucked away on the side of a hill to the west of Torrox, with views of the sea and neatly placed in a valley surrounded by other well kept and manicured farms. A haven of activity and productivity.
On the club's arrival, the members were offered coffee and homemade – yummy - can I have some more? - lemon drizzle cake, while Dave gave a brief history of the farm and information on the principles of organic farming using the permaculture theory.
Then came the guided tour of the 2 acre farm leading from the house to the chicken shed and compost bins, to the first of 12 huertas all containing different types of vegetables all looking very healthy indeed. The principle of permaculture gardening was described as “working with nature rather than against it”. For example, they use weeds (avoiding those with tap roots) and chopped up chumba to make a thick layer of mulch. This mulch helps to conserve water and provides nutrients to the soil. We've always known deep mulching helps to retain moisture but never thought to use weeds and other dead plants.
During the tour, buckets of dark, smelly liquids were seen neatly placed on one of the terraces. These buckets contained different types of liquid compost in the making: horse manure soaked in water gives a rich liquid which will aid root growth; weeds soaked in water along with fire and bonfire ash will promote fruit and flower growth. An old bucket of tools were soaking in water to produce a mineral liquid feed. All of these liquids can be mixed together in small quantities and diluted to feed all of the vegetables and fruit trees. Why buy liquid feed ever again??
The hen house was open, and amongst the the fruit trees and olives, was the proud cockerel strutting about, keeping an eye on his harem of hens. The clear blue skies and sun on our backs created an idyllic atmosphere, prompting the thought, “ I wonder if I could do this.”
Our hosts led us down to the bottom of their land sharing all of their gardening secrets and answering all of the groups' questions. The plot of ground is under full productivity allowing our hosts to be almost self sufficient for most of the year. A fine example of working with nature and an inspiration to us all.
We walked up the well trodden paths back to the house to taste their home grown and wonderfully tasting marinated olives and a brief explanation of their fully automatic timed watering system. Having bought into the local river water scheme helps to keep the cost of watering to a minimum.
The meeting closed with the members grabbing more of the delicious olives and Cindy running the raffle - the prize being a rose bush won by Bernie.
Without exception the group were so impressed with what they had seen and listened to that a heart-felt vote of thanks was made to our hosts, which completed a very interesting and stimulating visit.
Report written by Greg Starr