After a cold end to 2017, which resulted in an ice rink for a yard and frozen water pipes, we start the New Year full of excitement for the completion of our new base.
The shell of the building, which consists of two log cabins joined by a covered utility area, is nearly finished. The next stage will be for us to install a kitchen area and office in one of the cabins, while the other will contain a large trestle table and sofas so that our young people have somewhere to eat, enjoy each other’s company and relax. All will be heated by log burning stoves, providing a warm, comfortable and inviting place to work and learn.
2018 will also mean the completion of our animal care area. Alongside our mixed flock of sheep, Oxford Sandy & Black pigs, ducks, hens, pony and horses, we will be bringing in rabbits and guinea pigs. As well as having therapeutic value as a way of helping some young people relax and unwind through being to handle and spend time with these smaller animals, it will enable the young people to gain more hands on experience and to further expand their skills and knowledge.
Our animals were all well looked after through the cold weather and some of them, especially the Hebridean sheep, seemed to thrive on being in blizzards. Our carriage driving pony Izzy, Oscar the Clydesdale and our newest horse, Ben the Irish Draught cross, also enjoyed the snow, much to our surprise. Unfortunately, the cold weather has brought to light the probability that Ben has arthritis in his front right leg. Over the Christmas period, he was given lots of rest and TLC and we are now trying him on a new wonder drug. He is starting to look much more comfortable, which is a relief to us all. However, as always, these things come at a cost and the medication is no exception, so we are hoping that as the weather warms, Ben will no longer need this extra support, or it can at least be reduced.
In the vegetable garden, we still have the last of the winter crops in situ, such as kale, carrots and Jerusalem artichokes, and work has already started on preparations for the coming year’s harvest – beds have been dug over and covered, weeds have been pulled up and seeds have been ordered. The last month saw a surge of interest in our produce from a number of different outlets and we are looking forward to some exciting new opportunities in the near future. Watch this space. Our eggs are still hugely popular and, by Easter, we will have purchased our second chicken hut and a further 100 hens in order to try and meet at least some of this massive demand.
We also have a new project on the horizon where our young people will have the opportunity to design, plant and tend to their own individual plots. They will be able to grow whatever they like, include features such as ponds and paths, and harvest the fruit of their labours to eat at the farm or take home. Having our new kitchen area also means that they will have the chance to learn cooking skills, using some of the crops they have helped produce to make salads, soups and so on.
2018 looks like it is shaping up to be a year of great opportunity and progress for staff, volunteers and, most importantly, the young people of Lane End Farm Trust.