Chairman’s report Oct 2013.
We were at Siobahn’s new place yesterday.  It was fascinating.  The story of how she got there would make a TV series better than Downton; and the story of what she intends to do with the place would make a TV series better than Riverside Cottage.
It made me review, in my mind, what a summer of visits that Sogs has had.
Have you got a moment? Good; then we will go through the summer together.
                Attingham plant fair (fayre?-we never did resolve that one.)  For an inspirational place to spend a day there is no finer place than the walled garden at Attingham.  Have you been there?  If not then you should go as often as possible. As a helper at the Sogs stand you would have got in for free, but not next year.  For the walled garden gardeners, May is the busiest time of the year, so next year there will be no fair in the garden but there may well be a similar event elsewhere at Attingham.  The good news is that if you a NT member you can still get in for free.

                 Fordhall Farm. If you want a dose of enthusiasm go to Fordhall and meet Charlotte.  Her enthusiasm never fades and it is infectious.  There were lots of new things to see, they never stand still, except to smile at you and make you welcome.  Sogs has known Charlotte and Ben and the Hollins family for years and years and they have never failed to inspire, to enthuse and to amuse.  If you have not been there then you should go.

                 Lower Wallop Farm. Wow! What a walk!  What cattle!  What sheep!  What crops!  What weeds!  If they could market Charlock they would make a fortune.  This is a family farm that has changed as farming has changed and as far as Sogs is concerned it has changed for the better.  Just one more wow!  What cakes!  If you get a chance you really should go there.
                   Annual coach trip; Sarvari Research Trust.  David Shaw spent the day showing us around.  The sun shone.  It was HOT.  There was only one cool person there, but that is another story.  The Sarvari Trust is all about blight in potatoes and tomatoes.  Or, rather, the absence of blight.  They are developing resistant varieties; and doing rather well at it; but it is somewhat dependant on one man’s enthusiasm.... now where have we come across that concept before?......Sogs is hoping to bask in this enthusiasm, and reflect it back to David Shaw, by having the 7 varieties of Sarpo seed potatoes at next year’s potato day (8th Feb. Montford village hall, our 10th pot day, more special than ever, you DO need to be there)  If you get a chance to go to the Sarvari Trust then jump at it, as a bonus, it is on the coast in glorious Wales.

                  Shrewsbury Flower Show.  See the Flower Show and die, forget Naples, it does not rain enough there.  Not that it rained on this year’s Flower Show.  Or if it did we did not notice, for two reasons; 1, we were inside the marquee, 2, we were basking in the bright smiles of a public who were delighted to see such a magnificent Sogs display.  Now here is a do that you should go to and can go to.  As a Sogs volunteer you will get a free ticket; and, if you also volunteer to help set up on the day before, it doubles the fun.  Ask yourself, why do you go to parties?  To meet people, to chat, to joke, to laugh, to be smiled at, to drink, to eat, this sounds like an average Sogs do to me.

                  Treflach Farm.  Not even the rain could dampen the enthusiasm that we found here.  Treflach is in modern day England, but its heart, and its weather, is in Wales.  It was proper Welsh rain; the kind that comes from all directions at once, including up, the kind that drifts across the landscape in great skeins, the kind that makes you glad that your skin is waterproof, because no coat yet invented is totally proof against it, the kind of rain that you can carve your name on...........we loved it.  Apart from the rain it also had pigs and apples and things, go there and see for yourself because; “It is a family enterprise building a resilient and sustainable community that regenerates the natural environment and nourishes local people”.  And it does!

                  Siobahn’s Place
Sogs likes to visit member’s gardens, we only visited one this year, the last visit of the year; and boy-oh-boy was it worth waiting for?  YES it was.  Take all the frothy nonsense and superlatives and adjectives and nouns and past participles and gerunds and words of praise from above and double them and they would still not be half enough to describe the wonder of this visit.  Given the story of how Siobahn has come to this wonderful place (literally wonderful, and that’s literally used in the literal sense.)  If Siobahn ever says to you ‘pop round sometime’ reply, without hesitation, and practice this, “I am free at any time between now and eternity, I can drop everything at a moment’s notice and cross flood and fire to be with you by the time the kettle is boiling.”  You will be glad that you did.


Evening Visit May 23rd, Fordhall Farm, Market Drayton

What could be pleasanter than a spring evening outing in the countryside? But this was 2013 and it was the spring that still thought it was winter. Those of us who had brought warm hats and gloves were envied by those who hadn’t. Charlotte Hollins made up for the cold, however, by her verve and enthusiasm.

 SOGS coach trip to the Sárvári Trust, July 21st

With continued interest in the new breeds of Sárpo potato and their resistance to blight our visit was looked forward to by many.  Belonging to Bangor University and based at Henfaes Research Centre on the North Wales coast, the Sárvári Trust took some finding.  David Shaw, the man behind the project, met us on the main road and took our coach driver down the drive to prove it was possible (and that we could get out again!).  The place was really quiet, being a Sunday and after a brief introduction to the place, pointing out the necessary ‘little rooms’, David took us to a barn where we were able to make a circle of straw bales to sit on to listen to him.

    He began by telling us about this non-profit making trust that also works with research on tomatoes and needs grants to continue.  Thompson and Morgan pay £400 per ton for the seed potatoes even though they cost £500 so it’s easy to see how finances are dire.  He has one assistant and one research assistant at the moment from the University.  There are plans for a ‘sister’ company to sell seed and work on advertising and loans are being sought to finance this.

David spoke of the usual farming methods of potato cultivation, which involve getting yields of 25 tons per acre or 2 kilos per plant.  Modern intensive methods mean pests and diseases have to be coped with and very often this means spraying every week.  Chemicals are needed also to make the potatoes store. Our supermarket potatoes may have been sprayed as many as 20 times and agrochemical companies make big profits.   Most varieties are susceptible to virus and this builds up in the tuber making saving own tubers a risky business.  Blight also evolves to beat any resistance; Balfour and Valor for instance.  Potato seed tuber producers find that certification is expensive and if virus resistance could be achieved a lot of money would be saved. 

The Sárvári potato was first bred by the Sárvári family in Hungary 40 years ago as a response to their Soviet bosses requiring a potato that could survive their climate and also resist blight.  The resultant crosses, using South American and Mexican seeds found in the Vavilov seed bank not only had this blight resistance but also vigour, the ability to suppress weeds, deep roots to survive drought, and high yields too.  A few years ago the family sent seeds to David to carry on their research.  Incidentally the name Sárpo comes from the combination of Sárvári and potato and is pronounced Sharpo.  The first two new potatoes were floury and not loved by people but the later varieties are proving to be much better.


At this point we were ready for lunch and so some of us went the short walk to the beach and others the short walk in the other direction to Abergwyngregyn to the cafe.  On our return we were met by student Jamie, who is doing research on blight resistant tomatoes.  He took us to his field where 66 varieties were growing.  Once blight is in the area he deliberately infects his plants and studies how they fight off the disease.  Plants have some natural ability to fight off the blight.  They sense the blight spores landing on the leaf and the plant kills off its own cells round it so the spore is marooned.  This ability and others like it are in the plant’s genes and it is that Jamie is trying to find so that he can cross the plants with this ability.  He also looks for flavour and yield as this too is important.

Finally we were able to visit the potato trial fields which being July were looking lovely.  David explained that along the rows, between each different variety, Blue Danube was grown with its distinctive foliage and flowers as a marker, which is a big help when harvesting.  Plants were kept weed free where possible especially when a willing band of organic gardeners came to visit. (See our website for pictures). David was so chuffed; 20 minutes for us would have been all day for him.

Tips learnt on the day:

If you want to store potatoes cut off the foliage and leave in the ground for 3 weeks. Harvest, dry and store in sacks in a cold building.  Shárpos will keep till April this way.  Early Shárpos can still be planted in July for a late crop 60 days later. Don’t leave tubers in the ground over winter as the spores carry on living in the tuber.  For tomatoes, removing the sideshoots helps keep the air flowing round the plant and reduces the susceptibility to blight.  Google the Sárvári Trust, click on the news tab and read an interesting blog from David.
Sue Bosson


Daily Telegraph 27.10.2012. In article by John Walker: Disposal of blighted potato haulms: Cut-off blighted potato tops do not need to be burnt or sent in plastic bags to landfill, but can safely be buried in the compost heap, as the spores do not survive composting. Affected tubers should be disposed of by drowning in a bucket of water or burying 2 feet deep.


 “Hug-a-Slug”: Slug Workshop with Chris du Feu

Who would have thought that slugs could be so riveting?  An email from Shropshire Wildlife Trust was too silly to refuse.  A whole day learning about slugs. Any of you who have stewarded at the Flower Show will know that the Slug Question is the most asked problem.  So around 10 of us turned up to learn more.  Others, like me, were there to learn how to eradicate them, and one lady was there as she was slug phobic.

And what fascinating creatures they are.  Emerging from the primeval slime very early in the earth’s history, some retained shells, and some took their shells into their bodies, hence some slugs are more closely related to snails than to other slugs.  We learnt the four different categories – round tailed, keeled, semi-keeled and shelled, and we learnt the different body parts- which were their eyes, foot fringe and breathing hole. We learnt about their sex life, but this is too steamy for SOGS magazine.  We also found out how, with climate change and by hitching lifts with man (and woman) they spread over the UK. As they are not the most loved of species, they are not as well documented as birds and butterflies, but can give us lots of information. 

Chris spent time identifying our own collection of slugs, and those from the Field Studies Centre, which we collected, so now I am equipped with more knowledge for the flower show.  But a love of slugs probably won’t go down too well.

So – here is the lowdown.  Not all slugs eat your veggies.  Larger slugs, are benign, and help recycle dead and decaying matter. Tiger slugs, (stripy ones) are carnivorous and eat other slugs. If you put slugs into a compost bin, the herbivores will recycle your greens, and your tiger slugs keep the population down.  Or so goes the theory!  Not sure what happens when you put compost on the garden.   And those huge yellowy blotchy slugs you find in your greenhouse or water butt are good.  They eat slime, so keep the windows clean for you.

So, learn to Love A Slug!  Maralyn Hepworth

The Edible Bus Stop
This is an organic community garden founded by local residents on an unfenced, open strip of land, which sits beside the #322 Lambeth Hospital (towards Brixton) bus stop on Landor Road, London SW9.
The project started in earnest in March 2011 when a couple of neighbours got together and posted 400 leaflets through doors asking if anyone would like to join them in tending a neglected piece of local land? Their inspiration being the smile that was brought to many a local’s face when watching the various guerrilla garden patches thrive over the years on the plot. The response saw 40+ enthusiastic people turn up on the first digging day and the transformation began.
The mission is to create a lush organic growing space for edibles & non-edibles. Run by volunteers, the garden aims to fund its upkeep and development through grants, award schemes and private business sponsorship. They wish to establish a garden that reshapes the locality, supports community cohesion and brings people together to nurture their environment. They seek to promote food growing in small inner city gardens by providing educational opportunities for organic gardening skills and methods to inspire.

Garlic quote: “Since garlic hath powers to save from death,
Bear with it, though it makes unsavoury breath.” (12thC).

Crab Apple Jelly
2 lbs washed quartered crab apples (do not peel)
Granulated sugar

(NB Red apples give a beautiful pink jelly; yellow or green give a golden jelly.)

a) Place apples in a deep pan and just cover with water. (Ideally use a jam kettle)
b) Slowly bring to the boil and simmer for one hour
c) Mash in the pan, then transfer to a sterilised jelly bag and allow to drip overnight.
d) Measure juice, place back in clean pan, and add 1 lb of sugar for every pint of juice
e) Reheat gently, stirring to dissolve sugar, until boiling
f) Boil rapidly for about 10 minutes, until setting point is reached. (Use a jam thermometer if available, otherwise test on a plate, every few minutes, for skin wrinkling)

g) When setting point is reached, remove from heat and pour carefully into clean jars and seal.

Lavender Sorbet (Sunday Telegraph 22.4.2012)
Melt 200g caster sugar in 450 ml water in a saucepan. Add tbsp. fresh lavender buds and simmer 10 mins. Leave to infuse couple hours. Sieve out lavender. Add 2tbsp each lemon juice and vodka. Pour into container & freeze.

Cuttings, all from the Daily Telegraph

DT 15.6.2013 Save Our Giant Hot Pink Slug! This bright pink eight inch long slug is to be protected in its only habitat, the 5,000ft Mount Kaputar in NSW, Australia. (Colourful it may be, but it had better remain there! Ed).

DT 26.4.2013 Ivy one of the most important food sources for honeybees. It provides most of the pollen and nectar bees collect in autumn when building up stores of honey for the winter.

DT 29.3.12 Japanese Knotweed – another weapon in the fight to eradicate it: There may be an addition to the psyllid bug (which is a sap-drinking insect, specific to the knotweed, now two years into the release phase).  Research is going on into a leaf spot fungus which has the capacity to specifically attack the knotweed.

DT 24.8.10 Eat berries to help the brain.
Strawberries, blackberries and blueberries contain high levels of polyphenols, which help brain function. Eating berries coloured deep orange, red or blue can even reverse the loss of brainpower.

DT 29.3.2011 Linseed reduces production of methane from cattle (from both ends!). More than 100 dairy farms are adding linseed to the cattle feed to reduce burping and breaking wind, and thus make a contribution to reducing greenhouse gases. It is good for the cows, and milk production is increased.

DT 4.10.2013 Diesel ‘Hiding’ Flowers from Bees
Southampton University scientists have found that pollutants found in diesel exhaust fumes alter the levels of chemicals released by flowers to enable honeybees to forage for pollen and nectar. This could be exacerbating the problem of bee decline.

DT 16.6.2012 Ken Thompson writes: It is not true that watering plants in bright sunshine can scorch the leaves. It is however a good idea to avoid watering in the heat of the day as it may lead to excessive water loss by evaporation. The best time is early morning.

DT 23/7/2013 Nestle is to plant 75 acres of wild flower meadows around its factories and farms, to attract butterflies. Mike Dilger, vice-president of Butterfly Conservation, hopes other businesses will follow suit.













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As it was so cold I didn’t take notes, but if you have not been to Fordhall Farm recently, or indeed never, you can find out all about it on their website.


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