March 2011

Weaners in Weed

Having planted many trees a lot of time has been spent consolidating that work with support stakes, rabbit guards and labels.

As spring comes along the trees are beginning to bud and it is all very exciting. Keeping the mulch layer down is quite a repetitive task and I can see that soon we will also need to cut the surrounding grass.
The poo piles are fenced off and ready for planting. We have fenced of a paddock for pigs and the remaining area is being mulched with a mixture of straw, cardboard, cotton sheets and bark.It takes a lot of material but is beginning to take shape and feel a little woodland
Monthly workdays at Bangor Forest garden help keep us in touch with what the land will look like in years to come.

We decided to get pigs. It will be a few years before we are feeding ourselves entirely so this seems good use of the land in the meantime. Also they will grub out the grass and fertilise the soil.
Defa issued us with a holding number. Next we researched what breed of pig we wanted and Saddlebacks seem to combine good taste, hardy outdoor breed that are good on pasture. So far so good next to trace the pigs this is when it all started to go wrong I could not find any pigs anywhere. Feeling a little sulky I was planting new potatoes when a car pulled up and a lovely lady stopped to say hello and introduce herself and she had the contact of a saddleback breeder on the island so all was happy again and the weaners arrive soon.

PhempWe built an unconventional pigpen as a way of practicing the building techniques we want to use on the house. A stud frame in timber was shuttered to tamp in a hemp and lime mix, this has been lime rendered and we are awaiting results, we are going to put timber cladding round the outside to protect it from the worst of the elements and have a peek at it as time passes to see how it gets on
The oats arrived and needed to get into the ground in mid march. The straw had reduced the grass considerably but not fully so we used the 1930’s Planet Junior seed drill to plant the seeds, this was really hard graft but now they are in it should be a fairly maintenance free field until harvest in August. Some of the field is unplanted so we will put peas in there soon
The tractor shed is gradually turning into a workshop with pantry and poor weather sees Ted in here pottering.

Observing the land whilst living here has been very useful It would be ideal to live here a year without planting anything in close observation but unfortunately we are not in a position to do this. The speed and varying direction of the wind has caused us to increase the strength of the windbreak around the edge of the land and we have also planted more lines of willow to break up the wind further.
We decided to put in a polytunnel mainly to have a spot where plants could grow protected from the wind. It took a while to find the right spot for the tunnel and the best decision came when we decided to get a smaller tunnel than we originally intended, we went for a 14ft wide tunnel rather than 18ft this brought down the height and wind age, we went for closer hoop spacing and extra thick metal work all in all it should withstand the gales. It took a week to erect as the metal work had to be positioned with precision and the tunnel was cut into a slope.
Once the metal work was up the plastic was relatively easy to put on although it is rather taught; I have some broad beans in already and it is beginning to take shape
PwaterbuttsThe greenhouse is bursting with life March seedlings are all coming through and we have salad to eat now. In the poo piles are broad beans, rhubarb, potatoes, asparagus, parsnips and radish. The seedlings in the greenhouse will need to move out to the polytunnel, poo piles or forest floor to make way for the next sweep of seeding. CDs hanging are being used as scarecrows but it is difficult to find a way of keeping them swinging so that is another work in progress
Pond life flourishes a huge mass of frogspawn appeared but it did not look very healthy after frosts however there are a few tadpoles swimming around. Quite a healthy looking amount of plants are establishing naturally and some dragonfly maggots appear to be round the edges
Llewellen the Cockerel one evening called out an alarm and gathered the girls around him; they all lined up and looked across the ditch making worried noises; this alerted Ted to the opposite bank where there was a hedgehog setting out in a spring evening to find some slugs and what a welcome inclusion to our homestead he is.

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