Sun 5 Mar 2017 8:50PM

old Off-topic discussions (closed April 2018)

GH Grahame Hunter Public Seen by 49

This is a space for any topics not covered in a specific thread - and for announcements which members wish to bring to the attention of the group as a whole, and that they prefer not to request for me to distribute in a general email.

So, in brief, for anything the group want to discuss in what is a public forum, but outside the main thread..this is the place.


Grahame Hunter Sun 5 Mar 2017 9:07PM

@wendyalcock Hallo Wendy, you wrote - in the main thread -
_ I made a 100% white, 100% wholemeal and 50/50 (this is the taste I prefer when I use wheat). I found the white to be a bit dull tasting, the 50/50 to be ok and the wholemeal to be really tasty (more than wheat and with a softer structure to the loaf). The 100% wholemeal spelt loaf therefore appeals to me from a nutritional point of view _

I have been making quite a lot of Spelt bread, using sourdough starter. I have found it works quite well with about 85% wholemeal Spelt with 15% wholemeal rye, and as it is a little bitter, in the mix I add a spoonful of treacle. @edna commented to me that spelt bread needs / benefits from less kneading. I think that is also generally true of other 100% wholemeal breads.


Wendy Alcock Sun 5 Mar 2017 10:06PM

Hi Grahame - thanks for the tip, I shall try that with the flour I have left. I'd planned to attempt a sourdough with it, so I'll chuck in a bit of rye too and see what happens.

That's interesting about the kneading time. My river cottage bread recipe book says "Spelt dough just needs to be treated properly. I reckon there are two secrets: a little more kneading than normal - an extra 5 minutes or so; and proving in baskets to hold the loaves up (or make small loaves if you do not have any baskets)."

I went with around 12 mins kneading per loaf and don't have baskets so made them slightly smaller than I normally would, with the extra becoming rolls.


Grahame Hunter Mon 6 Mar 2017 9:50AM

the reasoning behind kneading wholemeal less (this from Dan Leppard) is thiis, and it makes sense from my experience too; to achieve those big holes in a sourdough, it just seems to require 50% or more white flour in the mix..
So Dan Lepard writes..(in _ Handmade Bread _)

  • _ Because as a percentage wholewheat flours contain less gluten, _ you need to handle the dough less and give it a shorter initial rise. __ Be gentle with the kneading, as the bran will tear the gluten if the dough is subjected to a rigorous and extended mixing __

I wonder if you will find that true? ..it is rather a trouble to make two simultaneous batches, kneaded differently but perhaps if you have time...


Wendy Alcock Mon 6 Mar 2017 11:43AM

I sometimes try two different loaves at the same time to see the difference in result, so I shall aim to do this. One small issue is that I have used up my wholemeal spelt making some cinnamon and honey cookies - so I shall have to go out and buy more :)

@johnanthonyallan I think most people will be bread eaters like you rather than makers, Tony, which is why I am keen to grow a grain to make bread rather than oats. Now the vote has gone for companion planting though I will probably sway to wheat as our crop but I shall still have fun experimenting with spelt at home.


Tony Allan Mon 6 Mar 2017 7:23AM

I am only likely to be a consumer and not a baker of spelt bread. It is to be highly recommended. It is a special product. We bought our first loaf at the weekend.


Catherine Arend Tue 7 Mar 2017 2:47PM

There is a crazy recipe on the Shipton Mill site
You don't need to knead at all and indeed in leaps up in the oven and is a bit like cake or soda bread. But I call it crazy because it's not quite like bread that has had time to rest, prove and be kneaded.
Wholemeal spelt can be worked just like white bread flour, you will feel the gluten forming the threads in the dough and you will feel when it's had enough gentle kneading. You're trying to fold in air into the dough rather than pummel it down. It becomes smooth, shiny and bouncy and doesn't stick to the work surface. That's when it goes well... I have done three batches and my recipe, and views on kneading, come from Richard Bertinet's Crust book.


Grahame Hunter Wed 8 Mar 2017 12:39AM

Yes, that's a great book - and some copies came with a cd so you can see his rather unusual slap and fold method.


Matteo De Vos Tue 28 Mar 2017 9:57PM

Hello everybody! How much do you all know about the work being done at The Land Institute in the US?

I see they're doing some interesting work on perennializing major crops to be planted as domestic prairies. I've read a bit on their Kernza perennial grain; an alternative to annuals which supposedly helps address soil erosion, groundwater depletion, fertilizer runoff, etc.

I'm just curious to get people's opinions on this movement.

@johncherry Would Kernza or a similar perennial grain be something you'd be interested in growing in the future? Have you heard much about it or similar projects doing the same?


Grahame Hunter Mon 3 Apr 2017 1:18PM

3 April 2017
@johnanthonyallan You wrote
_ 0170403 Would it be possible to show automatically the date that a message is posted on this string? Or should we - GRAHAME - enter a date of origin ourselves? _

I think it is a good idea occasionally to put a date..loomio automatically and unchangeably puts comments in chronological order, with a note eg __ 5 days ago __. If there are a few entered dates, then that can help people orient themselves in the string.

So, for example, I have started this reply with today's date..


Tamsyn Forsyth Sat 15 Apr 2017 7:10AM

15th April 2017
Hi all, I hope you are enjoying the Easter weekend. Such fab news about the spelt seed!! Matthew and I made some fresh pasta for dinner last night using a 50/50 ratio of wholemeal spelt flour and 00 fine grade flour and it was delicious! Great texture and flavour, it worked very well. We served it with a slow cooked beef ragu 😊 Attached is a photo of it before it was cooked.


Wendy Alcock Sun 16 Apr 2017 8:55AM

That looks delicious Tamsyn :-)


Grahame Hunter Wed 19 Apr 2017 7:33PM

19 April

Not a group event

The bluebells are actually pretty phenomenal in the woods near to where the Spelt has been sown. If any few of the group have an urge to fly the city and to _ come out over the weekend, perhaps on Sunday, _ I could show you where they are, and point you at the pub for lunch. We could also see where the Spelt lies concealed in the ground. John may or may not be around. Let me know, and if less than 5 at once, I can collect you from Stevenage station.
Grahame - __ [email protected] __


Wendy Alcock Fri 21 Apr 2017 7:41AM

I'm away this weekend but will definitely try and make any future ad hoc weekend visits - thanks for suggesting Grahame.


Veronica Lopes da Silva Mon 24 Apr 2017 1:12PM

Hello all!

I know that we could all do with more opportunities to come together and get to know each other, feast, and talk about food and our relationship to food. I am part of a group organising a Sacred Sunday Disco Soup at the Skip Garden on May 14th and would love to see some of you there! There will be cooking, there will be activities, there will be talking, there will be feasting and (hopefully) there will be sun! Feel free to bring a dish to share too...

For more information:

To register for the event:



Tony Allan Wed 3 May 2017 7:56PM

Dear Grahame

Did OurFiled get some rain today Wednesday 3 May?


John Cherry Sun 7 May 2017 5:42PM

I'm afraid not. Or, at least, not so that you would notice. Not much forecast either.


Tony Allan Mon 8 May 2017 6:27AM

Dear John
Many thanks for your comment.
What happens regarding the germination of spring sown crops if the conditions are as dry and as cold as they have been this past April and May? I presume this is the worst season since 2010-2012?. How are the winter sown crops faring?


John Cherry Tue 9 May 2017 3:03PM

A lot of the later spring sown crops around the country, are sitting in dry cobbly seed-beds, waiting for rain. We've held off doing any more, until we get rain (only got a field of linseed to go in and it doesn't mind May sowing). Looking at our spring beans this morning, drilled at end of March and still emerging. At least everything we've planted is growing after a fashion, one of the many benefits of not moving the ground...

Winter sown crops are hanging on at the moment, rather than hitting peak growth, which they should be just now. Yields will be down across the board, but if it rains soon everything will cheer up ok and we'll not lose too much. On the lighter, sandier soil farmers are suffering rather more, and because we have (smugly) accumulated organic matter in the soil over the years of no-tilling and cover-cropping, we are a bit more drought tolerant. Every %age point of SOM (soil organic matter) will hold 20,000 litres of water per acre; humus is like a sponge, storing water as well as fertility.


Tony Allan Tue 9 May 2017 5:22PM

Thank you John, Your commentary is very useful indeed..


Darren Fri 19 May 2017 1:54PM

If anyone is really interested in soil and is free on the 27th - 28th May bank holiday weekend.booking for the SoilHack Gathering 2017 in Somerset is still open until midnight Sunday. http://www.feedavalon.org.uk/soilhack2017/


Abby Rose Sun 28 May 2017 9:50PM

Thanks for a great weekend @darren4 :) - Soilhack was really great!!


Abi-Aspen Mon 19 Jun 2017 6:23AM

Heya team!

There is an upcoming #OurFieldWeston trip 22nd/23rd June at the farm. Some fun foraging and milling will be occurring! See the link below to sign up:


Also Joanna is running a summer Fireside Festival at the end June/start of July. Links below!



Grahame Hunter Fri 23 Jun 2017 8:07AM

The upcoming trip is of course in July, not today as written 22nd/23rd June..same date numbers.


Matteo De Vos Tue 20 Jun 2017 10:11AM

Hey everyone!

I would like to do a follow-up podcast episode on OurField surrounding the decisions we've taken so far, your thoughts on the project, and more specifically the latest decision we took with regards to fertiliser.

I'd like to hear from as many of you on just a few questions. I'll then compile the answers into a little mini-episode. Here are some of the questions I'd like to ask.

  • How have you found the experience so far being part of OurField?
  • What have you learned so far?
  • What do you think of the decision-making process of OurField?
  • How easy was it to answer the question about whether we should add Nitrogen to the field?
  • Looking at comments from others as they voted, did you reconsider at any time?
  • What are the risks and benefits you considered?
  • Now that the decision has been made not to add Nitrogen, how do you feel?
  • How different was this vote to the previous vote on what crop to grow?

If you're interested, let me know and I can organise a quick 5-10 minute call via Skype, landline or mobile.

@johncherry I'd also love to hear back from you on your general impressions of how things are going so far.



John Cherry Thu 22 Jun 2017 7:15PM

I'd be delighted to talk to you, Matteo, about this.
My overall impression so far is that it's all going very well. It is a fascinating addition to have 40 people sitting on my shoulder as I make decisions about the crop...we seldom think beyond the local grain dealer when we consider what to do. Will the grain have enough gluten or protein, will it have a decent bushel weight etc etc? With the collective breathing down my neck, it's more like: what will it taste like or how healthy is the soil?


Matteo De Vos Fri 23 Jun 2017 9:46AM

Fantastic. I want to hear more! This all sounds so fascinating.
As I suggsted to John Allan, we can proceed in a number of ways.
I can call you in the coming weeks, or we wait until the camping trip in July to do the interview in person, or we can do both!
Abby from the Farmerama podcast also told me they're looking to do a podcast that weekend, in which case we could do a collaborative joint effort.


Tony Allan Wed 21 Jun 2017 7:41AM

Dear Matteo
I'd be pleased to Skype about the decision making process. tonyallan202


Matteo De Vos Fri 23 Jun 2017 9:42AM

Great to hear!
Are you also joining next month for the camping trip?
If so, might I suggest we do the interview in person? If not, happy to do it over Skype. Or both!
Let me know your thoughts.


Tony Allan Fri 23 Jun 2017 11:38AM

Dear Mateo [I ma nor sure that this message will reach you or whether it goes to the list]

I am not planning to be at the camping weekend. I shall be at Groundswell on Thursday next week until 2.00 pm..


TonyA [J A Tony Allan)


Abby Rose Fri 23 Jun 2017 2:08PM

see you at Groundswell Tony!! :)


Abby Rose Fri 23 Jun 2017 2:11PM

@matteodv I am happy to get a recording at Groundswell with @johnanthonyallan and then share it with you. Let me know if there are any questions you want to ask in particular!


Matteo De Vos Mon 26 Jun 2017 1:26PM

Great idea @abbyrose !

Some of the questions I had in mind, in line with the recent Future Farm Lab post:

How have you found the experience so far being part of OurField?
What have you learned so far?
What do you think of the decision-making process of OurField?
How easy was it to answer the question about whether we should add Nitrogen to the field?
Looking at comments from others as they voted, did you reconsider at any time?
What are the risks and benefits you considered?
Now that the decision has been made not to add Nitrogen, how do you feel?
How different was this vote to the previous vote on what crop to grow?
Any other general comments, suggestions, or feelings about the experience?


Tony Allan Tue 27 Jun 2017 6:21AM

How have you found the experience so far being part of OurField? VERY valuable. One is hesitant to contribute as one's technical knowledge is limited.

What have you learned so far?

LOT'S of agronomy. Weeds are a very difficult problem.

What do you think of the decision-making process of OurField? REMARKABLY effective and informative.

How easy was it to answer the question about whether we should add Nitrogen to the field?
IN 2 out of 3 decision making processes I changed my vote very late in the process on the basis of the on-line exchanges. Like almost every farming decision it was difficult.

Looking at comments from others as they voted, did you reconsider at any time? YES

What are the risks and benefits you considered?

THERE are too many to list.

Now that the decision has been made not to add Nitrogen, how do you feel? COMFORTABLE

How different was this vote to the previous vote on what crop to grow? IT was easier. There were many - but fewer - issues to consider than in the crop choice decision.

Any other general comments, suggestions, or feelings about the experience?

THE comments from John Cherry are very important indeed. At the same time his very reflexive responses make the process very constructive indeed. I'd like even more technical inputs from the agronomist and John. I'd also like very much to identify the key metrics, including accounting metrics, that we need to generate to ensure that the outcomes of the project have impact.


Abi-Aspen Tue 27 Jun 2017 8:00AM

Hi all!

Just a reminder for the #Ourfield camping trip sign up here!:


22nd/23rd July and feel free to bring a friend!

Would be fab to know numbers, and an newsletter will be out next week!

Weston love

Abi Aspen


Grahame Hunter Sun 2 Jul 2017 12:41PM

Tony Allen has written..

_Post Groundswell - Lannock Manor Farm - 29 June 2017
The No Till day on Thursday was much more than memorable. There was so many good presentations and panels and so many exceptional professionals to meet. There was no time even to grab a coffee. _

_ Amir Kassam's introductory presentation was inimitable in its scope and relevance. It was also very good to hear the very good event sponsor's introduction from Affinity (Anglian) Water. I am very sorry indeed that I missed Jacki Stroud's very important presentation on soil health and worms. Tony Reynolds lent his passion to the occasion. _

_ In a number of conversations we talked of the OurField Project. Two important ones were: _

_ Funding - OurField _
_ Many tasks have inevitably come to light as a consequence of the success of the second year of the OurField activity. I suggested that we could ask the OurField 'members' to consider donating a sum that would reduce the volunteer element of the inputs and cover some costs. Some 'members' will I am sure be able and willing. _

_ Tony Colman with more experience of entrepreneurship and fund raising suggested that we needed a business plan. _

_ Performance indicators and accounting
If we are to share the success and findings of the OurField project we need to identify the indicators and metrics that will be authoritative, significant and affordable. And have impact. It would be very good if we could give thought to this element of the Ourfield activity. _


Grahame Hunter Sun 2 Jul 2017 12:59PM

Facilitator's comment on funding etc

_this specifically refers to Tony Allens comment above _

I do not believe that additional funding is required to pay for the inputs to be tracked - but I do think what is required is agreement by memers that a portion of the funds raised should be so allocated.
To provide an idea of amount, if I were doing this work (which I am not especially eager to), and there are many others who could jump in and do it - I would think it would be about £250 of my time to set up a monitoring system, and about £50 of time each month to run it.

In addition, if any future farmer were to be interested in adopting an "Our Field" there should be an attempt to track and remunerate his time ;- in my initial budget (on which your £200 contributions were assessed as viable) I anticipated a standing charge on the funds to be allocated to "farmers' time and overhead". This would contribute towards all sorts of invisible subsidies which OurField Wston is presently receiving - such as the agronomist looking at the crop, John and Richard discussing the crop and the outlook, determining reasonable options to how the crop is treated, and of course the farm general running costs which involves tax returns, running a payroll, making VAT returns etc.

Our Field members, in my opinion, should be contributing to these background costs, by deductions from the funds contributed. (There is plenty of fat in the funding to do this, as the direct input costs have been very low.)

Then there is a whole secondary series of metrics which could be considered - especially if the OurtField is just a once-off; such as tracking changes to the soil fertility and attempting to put a value on this: and the financial implications of a longer term strategy - for example if every third year the field is taken out of production or put to grazing, these have cost implications which might be positive or negative.

I do think the OurField community should be serious about these matters, otherwise it is just feel-good hobby farming..


2 July 2017


Grahame Hunter Sun 2 Jul 2017 1:13PM

Weston in the news, following Groundswell.
Times article


Tony Allan Mon 3 Jul 2017 7:10AM

Dear Grahame

Very many thanks for your response and suggestions. I strongly approve of the idea that the administrative and accounting inputs should be covered by the resources already contributed. The metrics will be very valuable and just as important as the yield figures.
I'd also be happy if there were to be additional funds for advocacy and networking and a website.
I am very happy with the idea that you and the five coordinators make the decisions on what to spend. It would be helpful if there could be minutes of meetings and skype sessions when decisions will be made. There would be much useful advice available on the farm.
Thank you again for taking time to respond.

The piece in the Times was very good. Thanks for spotting it.
Tony Allan


Abi-Aspen Thu 6 Jul 2017 8:08PM

Hi everyone!

Root camp are looking for a week volunteer/2 volunteers from 17th - 22nd July for an amazing all expenses paid week in the countryside!


If anyone knows anyone who would like to volunteer, please just drop me a line on [email protected]


Abi Aspen


Abi-Aspen Mon 17 Jul 2017 3:51AM

Hi team!

A reminder if anyone wants to sign up to the #Ourfield camping trip this coming weekend the Eventbrite signup is below!

We look forward to a spot of storytelling and weeding :)