Spring Forward!

Fog - 8th May 2015

Admittedly, Spring hasn’t arrived with any great break in the weather so far, but that hasn’t stopped us moving forward with our plans!  The last frost was as late as the 30th April, and much of the weather up to this last fortnight or so has been fog, mizzle and/or rain.  Since the weather has brightened up it feels like the grasses and docs are growing at a rate of about 3 inches a day, and much of the land is now taken over by it!  So, where initially I couldn’t see the other side of the fields for the fog and mizzle, pretty soon I won’t be able to see the other side for the long grasses!!

As I mentioned, the weather hasn’t dampened our enthusiasm to get things moving along this year, and the bad weather days have given me the opportunity to sort out other, less weather dependent jobs.  I’ve had plenty of down time for sorting out the businesses accounts (well. at least getting all the receipts and invoices in date order!), getting more odd jobs done inside the caravan (there’s not much of the original ‘Holiday Home’ fittings left in it!), and building and installing our indoor compost ‘bucket’ loo.

Compost LooBuilding the compost ‘bucket’ loo has been a real moment for me!  Adrian did lots of research on indoor compost loo’s and was worried that, with all the things we are doing and have still to do, building it myself was a job too many.  My main issue, being a northerner, was the price of a shop bought solution, with the cheapest ones retailing at £200 plus.  That’s equivalent to 4 rolls of rabbit mesh/chicken wire (easily enough for our first chicken run!) and far too much money in my northern head for something to receive our poop!!  I had timber left from building hedgehog houses and hedgehog feeding stations (something I did in a previous life!), so all I needed was some 2″ x 2″ timber for the frame of the loo, a toilet seat and a bucket.  The total cost being just £30, not £200.  I managed to get the buckets, 5 of them, at the cost of just £1!  In fact, the toilet seat is the most expensive part of the whole loo at a cost of £13!!  Go Di!!

Using the compost loo for the first time was odd.  Not because there was no flush, you had to cover your own poop, or for fear of smell for me, but because I was so proud of my construction work, it seemed a shame to soil it!  Anyway, use it we did.  It’s been in service now for just short of a month.  It’s absolutely brilliant, even if I do say so myself.  It’s like witchcraft.  Other than the time of pooping smells, it just doesn’t smell!  We both expected that the bin would permeate the whole caravan with the smell of our toilet habits, but no, not a whiff of odour.  Amazing!!  By putting a layer of straw at the bottom of the bucket and covering your business with sawdust, the system works superbly well.

Bin StorePretty quickly we had 3 full buckets of toilet product and then I had the next problem to deal with, where to store the waste to allow it to break down in to usable compost in 12 months time??  After more research, we came up with a plan to have 6 x 240 litre wheelie bins in a bin store over where the rest of the compost will be made.  We are now officially putting our by-products to good use!!  It’s truly revolutionary and we are loving it, although emptying the buckets in to the wheelie bin is not on my list of favourite jobs on the farm, and I very much doubt that it ever will be, but needs must and so I do!

Two weeks ago we managed to treble the size of our apple orchard.  In June 2014 we planted our first 11 apple trees and had been so happy to see the first trees going in the ground.  Planting the next 22 was even better!  We played a game of filling in the gaps that we had left, increased the overall size of the orchard and Adrian came up with an unusual game of apple tree planting Connect 4!  Every time we planted a tree that completed a line or diagonal, he shouted out the total number of points scored!!  It broke up the monotony of what could have otherwise been a chore, but instead was just great fun!  We look forward to the day that we get to harvest some of our apples and start making produce with them.  Exciting times ahead!

Caravan Enclosure 2I’ve also managed to finish off enclosing the caravan completely to make a farm yard for safe storage.  I’m pretty proud of the double gates I’ve made!  It’s allowed us to move equipment and supplies into one place, rather than having them stored all around the farm.  Everything is starting to really come together for us.  And, every time I worry that I can’t step up to the challenge, I seem to surpass myself and prove myself capable of the job.  Very satisfying indeed!

The Lavender and Blueberries are settling in well and are in the process of being rescued from the advent of quick growing grasses.  They are all getting more compost, more bark chippings and a good dose of tender loving care.  I’m not going to add a photo of them until they are looking at their best and all of them have been sorted for the growing season!

PhoneOne exciting bit of news is that the farm now has a landline number!!  That said, our apologies go to our local readers for the disturbance to your phone lines over the May Bank Holiday weekend.  It seems that the BT engineers played a twisted game where they reconnected the lines, but to the wrong numbers.   I believe there was also a disturbance to broadband services.  It is all sorted now, but we appreciate it can’t have been much fun at the time.   Our landline number is available via our contacts page.  It will only be answered if we are in earshot of it, and we have no answering machine on the line at the present time, so most people will probably prefer to ring the mobiles still, but hey, we’ve got a landline number now!

So, what’s ahead for us?  Well, our first poly tunnel is on it’s way to us, so we hope to have that erected as soon as we can, weather and wind permitting!  I intend to start the construction of our first chicken run in the next week, so that is an exciting time for us.  I’m really looking forward to really fresh eggs to eat!  We also plan to get the first of the pig enclosures up over the next month or so, and to rabbit proof another area for growing more produce to add value to and sell at the farm gate. We have more work to do on the farm track, and there’s plenty of piles of earth still to move, so I’m guessing I’m not going to get that many days off over the rest of this year, but to be fair, that’s what I signed up for… and, there’s plenty of time for R&R when I’m dead!!

Have I mentioned how much I love my job in recent updates??  Nothings changed… building your dreams out of empty fields truly is the best and most satisfying job in the world!!!

Phase One planting completed!!

WOW!  WOW!  And WOW again!!!

It feels like it’s taken an age, and the aches and pains have been considerable, but I am delighted to announce that Phase One planting is finally completed after 8 days of hard yacker in mostly sweltering Cornish loveliness.

Like everything that’s been done so far, we expected to have it finished in half the time it’s actually taken.  Adrian was available for a week to help, and between us we planted out 11 apple trees and 25 Lavender.  The hobbitsess were down for a weekend and helped tidy up around the apple trees and built a berm for the chickens in chicken run one, but that still left another 25 Lavender, 4 bamboo and 12 blueberries to plant out.  Adrian and the hobbitsess had helped by digging the next 25 holes for the Lavender thankfully.

I had to take a ‘rest day’ on Tuesday to do some washing, weed the garden, sort the recycling out, vacuum the house, dust and generally make the kitchen a habitable food preparation area again!  Add to all that an oversized, malting 9 month old Golden Retriever for a sidekick, and you’ll know that my kitchen had acquired a blonde carpet!

I anticipated an early start yesterday (Wednesday), but Bob had clearly eaten something that didn’t agree with him and overnight had redecorated the rug by the back door – poor lad.  Anyway, with the end of the planting in sight, I arrived at the farm around 9:15am, once I was happy that Bob was OK.  It’s been far too hot during this current phase of amazing sunny weather to have him up at the farm with me due to lack of shaded areas.  I plan to build him one, but this hot spell caught me out well and truly.

The bamboo was my first job of the morning, and it was picked as there were only four to plant out and I could start the day with a sense of achievement early on.  The bamboo is both a crop and a foraging zone and wind break for the chickens.  These four are a clumping variety that grown up to 10 foot tall.  The bases of the bamboos are a haven to insects that will keep the chickens happy and well fed.  Each chicken run also has 3 apple trees in it with chicken run one also having a completed berm for the chickens to shelter in.

One of my next jobs is to start building the chicken runs.  We have two of them so that we can rest one each year, making sure the chickens stay good and healthy and happy.

Lavender LinesThe Lavender had been finished on Monday and the four lines look fabulous, with the early flowers swishing gently on the warm breeze.  One thing that has been made obvious, however, is that these little guys need protecting from dogs!  So, I’m going to have to put a fence around the Lavender and Blueberries/fruit patch.

I’m looking forward to seeing the Lavender mature and its potential harvest boom over the next couple of years.  The chosen Lavender is a cross between ‘Munstead’ and ‘Hidcote’ (the two most fragrant types) so walking down the path between the four rows should be a total smell sensation.  I’m even excited by the potential by the end of this summer if they all settle in well now.  This rain that’s arrived today will help!

BlueberriesAfter the Bamboo was done yesterday, I set out the row of blueberries and set about digging the twelve holes for them.  It wasn’t until after I’d finished the 12 holes and went to get the blueberries that I realised we had 14 blueberries to plant out.   The blueberries are a mix that give fruit early, mid and late season ensuring we have a crop all summer long.  I aim to plant out at least another 10 blueberries to finish off the second line.  I may even add another couple of lines of different berries before netting them in.

I love blueberry muffins, so you can guess what I’ll doing with the odd handful to placate the appetite of the hungry smallholder.  That’s if I can get to any of them before the hobbitsess.  Those hobbitsess sure are quick at spotting ripe fruit!!

So that’s phase one complete.  Despite it taking far longer than expected, now that it is done it feels immensely satisfying.  I love looking at the Apple Trees, they are all three years old, knowing that in just 2 years they should be established trees providing crops for harvest and production.  It feels like the plan is coming together.  We are exceeding our initial ambitions and striving daily for a bigger dream to become a reality.

With low-level fencing, fruit net enclosures, chicken run enclosures and chicken housing to erect & build, I also need to build a shelter for Bob, and then start to focus my attention on the erecting of two poly tunnels and a barn, and stock fencing off an acre for the arrival of pigs…

Today is what I jokingly call a rest day.  It means that I concentrate on Admin type stuff, write a blog, update the website, tweak the business plan, and more generally, catch up with daily chores about the house.  It also means getting the costings and materials lined up for the next few above mentioned building projects.  Although, it’s fair to say, with a body that aches as much as mine does today, come lunchtime I may well take up residence on the sofa for the afternoon and indulge in a little Wimbledon!!!