Archive for the ‘energy’ Category

The Gardening Year

29 November, 2012

Way back in March in that glorious warm sunny week it all looked so promising for the year ahead. We got some early carrots sown then which was just as well because some of the later sowings produced nothing even with two attempts. Then it all changed to a mostly cold wet summer and party time for slugs and snails.

Snails in the Physic Garden

The plums had plenty blossom but as it turned colder and wetter there weren’t many bees about for good pollination . Whereas last year we harvested full crates this time it was merely a handful. Apples were looking the same but in the end we did manage to fill about three quarters of the cold store.

Plum in Blossom

With all the wet weather this Summer it was very rarely dry enough to do any hoeing so there was a lot of hand weeding and it was a struggle to keep on top of this. Weeding some of the early crops was not a fun task in cold weather as you can see from below as a colleague weeds parsnips in full winter gear. Our chef @suzi4goodfood used the thinnings from the parsnips and carrots for some tasty new season meals.

Weeding parsnips in freezing early May

Despite the difficulty of getting carrots to germinate we did get a very good crop with the variety chantenay red cored being a great success. We also grew some wonderfully wacky shaped carrots of white satin.

Chantenay Red Cored

White Satin

With the incessant rain all the root crops did well with good beetroot , carrots , parsnips and celeriac. It actually shows how much water these need to bulk them up to a good size. The only really failure this year was onions which obviously don’t like the cold and wet and some of them just sat there all season making very little growth and resulting in a very poor harvest. Early potatoes Amorosa (red) and Charlotte were again a great success and went down well at the conference centre.

Amorosa and Charlotte

I wasn’t sure we would get any pumpkins this year as even under fleece in the cold the plants struggled to get going but in the end we got some monsters.

Lovely Pumpkins

Pumpkins on storage shelves

We supply some of the herbs for Neal’s Yard Remedies and keeping the Calendula clean required another hand weeding effort but it was well worth it. We managed to send the flower heads most weeks through the summer somehow finding dry spells for harvesting. Picking the flowers was usually a team effort with help from the office staff who were glad to get outside for an hour.

Weeding Calendula

Calendula in the Neals Yard plot

Calendula harvest

At the conference centre once a month there is now a Shhhh secret supper club which has been a huge hit and are usually sold out within a few days of the tickets going on sale. See website for details  The idea had been to host them at various venues throughout the farm but this proved impossible with the poor weather . However in May we did manage a night outside in the Physic garden by the conference centre starting in the amphitheatre.

In the Amphitheatre

Another course…

We try to supply all the vegetables and fruit for these events and here is a selection harvested for one of the supper clubs.

Supper club vegetables and fruit

Sprouting seeds continue to go down well and there was plenty of colour to add to the chefs selection.

Giant red mustard , spinach beet , rhubarb , canary yellow and white chard.

Its always interesting to try and grow something new and this year we grew sweet potatoes in the glasshouse border and another first for me was borlotti beans. Its a very exposed site at the walled vegetable garden so growing anything tall is not easy but the beans did reasonably well . The sweet potatoes on the other hand although they grew well we only harvested very small tubers .I think we will leave this one for warmer countries. Until this year I didn’t even know they were a member of the bindweed family and it was interesting asking visitors to the glasshouse what they thought was growing.

Borlotti beans drying in the glasshouse

The farm was eventually given permission to install a small wind turbine which was put up earlier in the year in the paddock below the walled garden . Its nearly always windy here although there have been a few rare occasions when it has stopped and birds settled on the propellers.

Turbine with carrots and parsnips

We have a few chickens up at the farmhouse to provide eggs for the conference centre and I was reminded of ‘Chicken Run’ when Russell the rooster tried to make a break for it hitching a ride in the back of our electric buggy.

Russell hatches another escape plan

During the summer a Pyromaniac hit our compost bins.

Burning compost bins

He was trying to hide but we caught him.

You can’t hide in there

In October the Berkshire Countryside Volunteers came to help for a day which included a lovely lunch at the conference centre. One of their tasks was helping to harvest celeriac for storing .If you would like to Volunteer at Sheepdrove see the contact details at the bottom of this link.

Harvesting Celeriac

Now we are making Christmas wreaths for the shops. Lets hope next year will be easier for growers with lots more sun and a lot warmer.

Time to rest up for the winter


Feed-in Tariffs

20 October, 2010

UK wind energy reaches 5GW

23 September, 2010

Wind power breaks big ten

10 September, 2010

The date 6 September 2010 was a big day for the UK. Data collected that day indicated that for the first time around 10% of all electricity delivered to consumers was generated by the UK’s wind farms.

At the peak time of 8.30pm, a record-breaking 1860MW was being generated – largely from Scotland – accounting for 4.7 % of total generation at the time. National Grid also believes that if embedded wind generation (generation feeding directly into the low voltage local electricity networks by smaller wind farms) is taken into account wind generated about 10 per cent of GB’s power during the 24 hour period.

RenewableUK Chief Executive Maria McCaffery said:
“We are expecting to see the contribution of electricity from wind gradually increase over the next decade, to around 30% of the UK’s total consumption.”

““If we added together all the wind energy projects in planning to the projects already existing and about to come on stream, we would be three-quarters of the way to reaching our 2020 targets.”

Keep the FiT campaign

3 September, 2010

Peter Kindersley signed an open letter to Chris Huhne this week. More than 20 business organisations and environment campaigners wrote to the Energy Secretary to persuade the government how important it is to keep the Feed-in Tariffs (FiT) and next year’s Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI) for small-scale renewable energy projects.

Read why Peter is concerned…

Eco-buildings Open Days

13 August, 2010

If you live in this area and are interested in greening-up your house or offices, look out for the open days organised by West Berkshire Green Exchange.

These buildings make a statement about energy efficiency – just like Sheepdrove Eco Conference Centre, the UK’s first purpose-built sustainable conference centre.

Harriet Collins will be pleased to arrange a viewing if you are interested in booking a room, or the whole venue, for your wedding or business event. Call Harriet on 01488 674737 today to check our availability. Alternatively if you can’t wait – visit us virtually!

FRIP – Farm Resource Improvement Programme

15 March, 2010

FRIP has been developed to help farmers and horticultural businesses in South East of England and London to improve competitiveness through resource efficiency and animal health and welfare practices. FRIP is a sub-programme under RDPE which aims to simplify the application process and will provide grants up to £25,000 per farm business. The programme will have application windows through the year, and new eligible items may be added for subsequent rounds.

What kinds of projects are covered?

Round One of FRIP provides funding under four headings and items which are eligible for grant funding include:

  • Energy efficiency – e.g. heat recovery devices, heat exchangers and ice builders.
  • Nutrient Management – e.g. mechanical slurry separator systems, macerators, slurry injectors and Global Positioning Systems.
  • Water Management – e.g fixed pumps, UV filtration systems, connecting piping and storage tanks enabling collection and recycling of rainwater from roofs and slurry/silage store roofs (as part of a rainwater harvesting project)
  • Animal Health and Welfare – e.g specialist livestock handling equipment, electronic weigh cells, dairy cluster flushing systems, heat detection systems,

Please note that funding will not be available for renewable energy projects until Round Three due to the current demarcation issues with Feed-In Tariffs.

How do I apply?

The programme is available to all farmers across the region and can give grants of up to £25,000 per farm business. The closing date for applications into Round One of FRIP is: 12th March 2010.

Use the links below to download the guidance and application forms.

FRIP Farmer’s Handbook

FRIP application Form

If you have any difficulties downloading these documents, please email to request that the forms be emailed to you.

For further information contact:

Helen Dallas, RDPE Projects Coordinator
Tel: 01483 484297

Monster chipper to munch local wood fuel

12 September, 2009

We’re looking into wood chip boiler systems, and one of the hurdles is the lack of certainty that you can get the wood chip you need, and when you need it. We could produce our own, if we had a monster chipper – which has to be of the right design, to produce suitably shaped chips.

So it’s interesting to see that a new local company has been started up with RDPE money to buy the right kit. Wessex Biofuels has emerged with help from a £50,000 grant from the local LEADER fund.

Feed in Tariff

22 August, 2009

dark red sunset at SheepdroveGenerating electricity from the sun is a great idea, and Sheepdrove Organic Farm has invested in several kilowatts’ worth of solar photovoltaic panels (solar PV). Although the technology is set to get cheaper – or so they tell us – price is a major factor in deciding to buy.

Feed-in Tariffs will make a big difference, because the financial payback on solar PV will suddenly look a lot better next year. F.i.T. is the new catchphrase for the rewards you will get per unit (kWh) that your PV panels create.

After long campaigns by environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth (which Sheepdrove supported) the UK Government finally took on the FiT idea. Now it has announced plans for a Feed-in Tariff scheme for households, businesses and communities investing in solar PV, and all this should start in April 2010. Part of its Renewable Energy Strategy, this new FiT scheme will pay even if the energy is not exported from the premises.

We spoke to James Hoare at Ardenham Energy, who installed the huge 32-panel PV array at the Sheepdrove Farmhouse.

James said, “The FiT looks like it will be 31 pence per kWh generated, and 5 pence per kWh exported.”

If you would like to help support an effective Feed-in Tariff for solar energy in the UK, you can ask your MP to sign the Early Day Motion 689.

Greenjack under attack?

10 July, 2009

the ecotricity green union flag

Have you seen the Ecotricity green union jack? It seems to have been pirated (!) by EDF Energy for their recent adverts.  Many now see this as a greenwashing campaign (like whitewash but with a green veneer) by the French company EDF… and Dale Vince, head of Ecotricity, has shot a broadside at EDF on his Zerocarbonista blog!

Dale says: “I’d like to declare today to be National Greenwash Day”
read more…

It does raise the issue of truly green energy – you might like to join the greenwash debate on Facebook – or check out why we are on Ecotricity and how to switch!