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Going Organic! – Soil and the Organic Leadership System (I made that up)

Behaviourist and broadcaster, Jez Rose, blogs about the process of achieving Soil Association Organic Certification for his Cambridgeshire farm and home to The Good Life Project.

Every day something changes – the peas were not there yesterday but here they are today!

Our peas have broken through the soil, my garlic and shallots are sprouting strong and my potatoes (yes, the ones I planted upside down) are shooting! But something interesting happened while I was planting some more herbs up for our kitchen herb garden.

I’d been chatting with my good friend and fellow soil-lover, Blaire Palmer, about leadership. She’s looking to buy a farm to keep alpaca but don’t hold that against her; she’s actually really lovely. When Blaire left, I headed out to

Tales from the Farm – Before & After (so far!)

“TV’s favourite gardener”, Monty Don, inspires Jez Rose, a frustrated behaviourist and amateur gardener, to grow a new life, as detailed in Tales from the Farm. Monty Don’s book inspired Jez to buy a farm in the countryside, create his own garden and write about the joy, obsession and mud.

Since Mrs Jez and I moved from our suburban 3 bed semi to the farm back in November 2016, embarking on a journey to test my theories about how nature impacts human health, wellbeing and behaviour – and along the way going organic, so much has happened and changed: we moved into a plot of essentially just grass and concrete yard; a roof has fallen in; we had the worst bathroom fitters in the world ruin our bathroom; we found wood worm in the small barn; almost everything that could break, did break; the main electric cable supplying the farm was severed…

And it needs to be finished by

Tales from the Farm – Spring is here!

The first honey bee of the year spotted out (with his friend) on the blossom.

“TV’s favourite gardener”, Monty Don, inspires Jez Rose, a frustrated behaviourist and amateur gardener, to grow a new life, as detailed in Tales from the Farm. Monty Don’s book inspired Jez to buy a farm in the countryside, create his own garden and write about the joy, obsession and mud.

After a fair number of cloudy days, quite a bit of rain and some really strong winds, it looks like Spring is finally here. And that’s why I haven’t blogged from a few days because the weather at this time of the year really does dictate activity – juggling a busy writing and speaking schedule with the long lists of things to do here at the farm has always been tricky but with the new barn going up quickly, there’s even more to get done so e’re ready for our first training course in May!

I’ve managed to

Going Organic! An Inspector Called

Behaviourist and broadcaster, Jez Rose, blogs about the process of achieving Soil Association Organic Certification for his Cambridgeshire farm and home to The Good Life Project.

Irritable, soil-obsessed and socially awkward, the Soil Association inspector was not. Thankfully. I found myself getting a little bit stressed the morning of the inspection; double checking that there wasn’t any plastic that had been overlooked in the compost bin; going over the documents I’d been sent to complete to make sure I hadn’t made any mistakes and snapping at Mrs Jez for leaving a Kit Kat wrapper on the side – a non-organic chocolate bar! What would they think of us?!

As it happens, Mike was nothing short of lovely. In my last blog I said that our inspector was called Andrew – only a few days after writing that Andrew called me to introduce himself; he’s actually our “certification officer” (they all have quite militaristic titles, which make them sound much more intimidating than they are in real life). Andrew’s job is to help support and guide us through the process of becoming certified as organic by the Soil Association. Our inspector, who visits the farm and goes through our plans, paperwork, and site, is Mike. How can I describe Mike? Calming, professional, incredibly knowledgeable and experienced and with more than a little similarity to Michael Parkinson – and he loves

Tales from the Farm – A Little Bit of Cucumber

“TV’s favourite gardener”, Monty Don, inspires Jez Rose, a frustrated behaviourist and amateur gardener, to grow a new life, as detailed in Tales from the Farm. Monty Don’s book inspired Jez to buy a farm in the countryside, create his own garden and write about the joy, obsession and mud.

I cannot believe that having reached my thirties, I haven’t actually ever – as far as I can recall – grown anything from seed. How did that happen? Anyway, I rectified that this week and I’ve got something exciting to share with you, which could well cheer up your workplace, too.

Pots and seeds: the beginning of a miracle

Mrs Jez, Zeus and Marley (the dogs) and I all love cucumbers, so I decided to grow some in the vegetable garden. The seeds arrived this week and I found myself planting cucumber ‘crystal lemon’ seeds for the first time in my life into delightfully cute little pots in the greenhouse.

The packet I bought contained 40 seeds but I remember having a cucumber plant before and they are quite

Tales from the Farm – The Barn Before the Storm

“TV’s favourite gardener”, Monty Don, inspires Jez Rose, a frustrated behaviourist and amateur gardener, to grow a new life, as detailed in Tales from the Farm. Monty Don’s book inspired Jez to buy a farm in the countryside, create his own garden and write about the joy, obsession and mud.

Serious construction work begins to build the new barn.

Regular readers will know that to date, we have had our fair share of challenges with renovating the farm.

We recently discovered that our water is not from a bore hole as previously told but from an artesian well – and has such a high iron content that it’s ruining sanitary ware and staining anything white that we wash! Subsequently we’ve had to send a sample of water off for full chemical analysis, which will result in having to install a water treatment plant.

However, work began last week on the new barn in the yard – it’s going to be a large, open timber structure with vaulted ceiling and will provide a warm training space for The Good Life Project and somewhere for us to press apples and extract honey. Warm and cosy, it’ll face onto an open courtyard and the vegetable garden.

We’ve been planning it for some time, as you can imagine. Which way

Tales from the Farm – Of Significant Scientific Interest

Nature at its best – the glistening colour spectrum of fresh water muscle shells.

“TV’s favourite gardener”, Monty Don, inspires Jez Rose, a frustrated behaviourist and amateur gardener, to grow a new life, as detailed in Tales from the Farm. Monty Don’s book inspired Jez to buy a farm in the countryside, create his own garden and write about the joy, obsession and mud.

Our nearest largest town, Peterborough, is attempting to become “the UK’s environmental capital”. I’m still not quite sure what that means because we don’t have a food recycling bin collected (which is fine by me as I’ve become obsessed – and a little protective – with making our own compost) and they don’t have a tram or electric buses, that I’ve seen.

However, it’s as bold a statement as it is intriguing, so I’ll keep you all informed! We do have a lot of wind turbines but they’d be silly not to, given that a lot of this area of the country is flat. I’ve just realised that I’m sub-40 and carrying on like a retired librarian: is there something about mid-30s that propels you into composting and building log stores? I’ll ask my therapists.

Anyway, I need to explain the picture of the shells.

There’s a dyke, which runs along the side of the road leading to our house, all along the boundary to the farm and continues

Tales from the Farm – Spud-We-Like

“TV’s favourite gardener”, Monty Don, inspires Jez Rose, a frustrated behaviourist and amateur gardener, to grow a new life, as detailed in Tales from the Farm. Monty Don’s book inspired Jez to buy a farm in the countryside, create his own garden and write about the joy, obsession and mud.

Lavender plants waiting patiently in the greenhouse before all 78 of them line the driveway.

Having already filled two of the raised vegetable beds with lush, organic compost and loamy soil from the garden, today I planted the very first vegetables in them.

I opted for King Edward potatoes, which I filled one of the beds with (one of the few vegetables that wasn’t organically sourced) and Longor shallots and organic garlic for the other bed. I would have taken a

Going Organic! An Inspector Calls…

Behaviourist and broadcaster, Jez Rose, blogs about the process of achieving Soil Association Organic Certification for his Cambridgeshire farm and home to The Good Life Project.

This blog marks the first of many where I’ll be charting our journey to (hopefully) organic status as certified by the Soil Association. Although it’s connected, it is separate to my ramblings about the farm and I’ll continue to write Tales from the FarmI’ll just keep everything about our Soil Association journey separate but link the two where appropriate so you can choose what you want to read about.

Why?

I grew up right next to a farm and spent most of my younger years in and around the countryside – I loved it and still do. Every single day the landscape looks different; no two sunsets are the same and you’ll always see a flower, or insect that you didn’t see before and of course, just like humans, as trees and plants mature, they change.

Despite this lifelong interest and passion for nature, I never thought I’d become quite so obsessed with soil! I wrote about it recently here in my blog series Tales from the Farm, where I’m writing about Mrs Jez and I moving to a rural farmhouse, renovating it and making it home to my research initiative, The Good Life Project.

It’s probably because of The Good Life Project and witnessing the remarkable impact nature is having on

Tales from the Farm – not all sunshine and lollipops

“TV’s favourite gardener”, Monty Don, inspires Jez Rose, a frustrated behaviourist and amateur gardener, to grow a new life, as detailed in Tales from the Farm. Monty Don’s book inspired Jez to buy a farm in the countryside, create his own garden and write about the joy, obsession and mud.

You might be forgiven for thinking that it’s all sunshine and lollipops here on the farm – buying a farm, moving to the countryside and setting up a research project does sound pretty idyllic and it often appears on people’s lists of things they dream of doing in life: giving up on the rat race and moving to the countryside.

I’ve tried to make these blogs honest and a true reflection of some of the challenges we’ve faced since moving in. Deciding to follow Monty Don’s book The Complete Gardener to transform the farm turned out to be a very good idea and has on more than one occasion helped to put everything into perspective and keep us focused and on track. The reality is that I’ve been angry at the previous owners – extremely angry at times – for not

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