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!!!

Orchard

We’ve got a business plan. It is very ordered and budgetted for as you’d probably expect if you know us both. Definately one step at a time, everything in it’s place and planted so that our crops start cropping at the same time as we have equipment and space to process the results. Nothing shifts off the rigid timeline we have set, not even my tractor, which, if I must be frank, should be next

It doesn’t involve having an Orchard right now. Not least because the mains water isn’t connected.

Anyway, we have an orchard.

Orchard 1b

This week two events happened. One is still secret. the other is that my clutch disintegrated, so I couldn’t go to London as planned, it was sunny weather and we were excited.

Our business plan states we will plant very young trees so which can grow to fruit when we have space and equipment. It’s also way cheaper to buy young trees than 3 or 4 year old trees.

Anyway, we have 3 year old trees.

Officially 5 apple trees makes an orchard, so we’ve definately exceeded that with 12 trees, all on Cornish Rootstock and all Cornwall and Devon varieties and will give us a variety of eating, cooking and cider apples.

I have been reading about raising chickens and also permaculture. So, imagine a giant Venn Diagram. Our Orchard is partly in ‘The Orchard Zone’ and overlaps half the area the chickens will have for their 20m x 25m run. The trees will provide a little shelter from predatory birds which, while they may not take chickens, will scare them and stop them laying.

In the chicken run we have also built a berm (with Finn and Zak’s help) that will give the chooks  shelter from the wind. We are also planting a bamboo grove – chickens are descended from jungle fowl and instinctively they want to forage for insects. The old leaves and sticks that you find at the base of bamboo is great for harbouring the insects they like to feed on. There are a variety of other eqally beneficial plants that will go in the Chicken Zone.

Obviously with no other planting on the business plan, you’d think that was the end of it, right?

Lavender 1g

Well, Lavender doesn’t mind being planted out in the summer…so we have some Lavender plants… 52 of them. These will be good for bees, and the flowers are a crop for people that make lavender bags and other smelly things. We chose a Dwarf Blue which is a cross between Munstead and Hidcote, two of the most fragrant types.

And, for good measure we may have snuck in a dozen blueberry plants…

They weren’t stuff scheduled (mains water…mains water…mustn’t forget the mains water has to be next!!) and we didn’t get the tiny plants, but it feels really great to have made a bit of progress and the view from the farm gate as you drive in is much more rewarding.

It should only be a few days before the sunburn calms down a bit as well!

Rumour has it I may have kept some readers waiting, sorry and all that, but worth waiting for some pictures, I’m sure you’ll agree?