Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Muck and Magic.

Two years ago we moved to our new home, the land consisted of two acres  one acre either side of our driveway. One field we had planned to turn into a small forest but this changed when we got the donkeys, the other field was split into three parts one for trees for future coppicing or pollarding, the mid section for veg and the largest amount for poultry. The area that we have cultivated is small, about one tenth of an acre, from this we eat daily with plenty to spare, in reality we could feed another two people with comfort.
May 2011, all we had was a field, friends came to help us get started again.
Our early potatoes have now been harvested, we have been digging them for the last month but now the weather is warm and humid, just right for blight to strike, apart from using a small amount of seaweed on the earlies they have had no helping hand to protect them, so they have now been dug. They yielded 120lb of perfect spuds, not bad from 5kg of seed.
Blight resistant Sarpo Mira, who needs GM's?
The main crop are blight resistant so they have been left in the ground for now, Simon however could not resist lifting one plant to see how well they have done,
this one plant has produced 3.5kg of tubers, we are now expecting to harvest about 700lb of main crop, not a bad return from 10kg of seed, a bit of work and plenty of manure to start with.
The Florence Fennel also gave a fantastic return, these have now either been eaten or frozen so the veg store is looking good, next to be harvested will be the beetroots, again they have done so well, as I don't like pickled beetroot we will try clamping them in straw.
Such a pretty colour.
We will take a couple more pickings from the Rhubarb and I have bottled six large jars of it, it looks so pretty when bottled, good enough to eat.
The first lot of garden peas have been picked and frozen, Sugar Snap, Sugar Flash, although this variety is meant to be eaten whole I podded them as we wanted to make pea pod wine, this is now merrily  bubbling away. There is still plenty of blossom on the peas so we should be eating them for a while yet. When we do come to the end of them we will cut the plants down the same as we do with broad beans and the runners and leave the roots in over winter, as they are legumes they will help to fix nitrogen in the soil, they will get removed when we need the bed next spring, the roots will also help to protect the soil during the winter rain. We try to keep all our soil covered during the winter and we are coming to that time of year when the soil will have next years compost and manure added on top. This will help keep the soil together, and maintain a little warmth as well. By next spring most of it will have been pulled down by the worms so just a light hoeing should be all that's needed. We are strong believers in the No Dig System. Dig once, Dig deep, keep adding manure,  let the worms do the rest.
Although we have four compost bins plus the donkeys, rabbits and poultry we never have enough compost for our needs so we do an annual collection to a mushroom farm that uses no chemicals, veg love this and so do most trees and soft fruits, the exception being Raspberries which hate it, as we found out this year.
The first of many we hope.

We have picked our first Runner Beans, just about my favourite veg, but we will do a rethink on where to plant them next year. We have a very exposed site and get frequent high winds so we need to find a more sheltered spot for them.
The one failure we have this year is the Brussel Sprouts, they were planted in a raised bed so the soil was quite light, Brussels need a heavy soil to produce well, last year they did well but that was in a new bed on the flat. All the other brassicas have done well and the kale is looking very good.
The carrots are sweet and succulent, so different from anything you can buy in a shop and the parsnips are looking good.
Before the paint job.
In between all this harvesting, freezing, bottling and wine making Simon has now painted the barn that we built last year. we had a barn here already but it was what I call a Dutch barn, here they call them hay barns with a rounded roof, it didn't look right for the cottage so a barn with an apex roof was built,
Four hours later.
it looks nice now it has had a coat of white weathershield on it and the facia boards painted red to match the cottage. Simon has also planted some hop plants one end of it, hopefully they will like it there and give a nice covering on the block work.


  1. Hi guys

    I stumbled upon your website today as we are trying to do something very similar to yourselves (3 acre Permaculture smallholding), and in particular trying to feed hens as much as possible from the land we live on (in Galway, about 1.5hrs from you guys).

    I was just wondering how you are getting on. I've just build a wormery, and will get round asap to sprouting grains, but not sure if that combination worked well for you, and if it did how much sprouted grain and worms a day per bird do you use?

    If you get a chance to answer it would be a huge help as there is a surprising lack of info on closing the loop in terms of poultry feed.

    My email is:

    Thanks again,

    Mark Boyle

    1. Hi Mark, thanks for your comment, I will be in touch in the next day or so.

  2. The barn looks great...what a transformation. Paint is such wonderful stuff. What a yield from the spuds and how delicious they are too. The rhubarb looks so pretty in those jars. Nice for the store cupboard. Worked out that I can comment if I use my Google account.

    1. Glad to see that you can comment again, so glad you enjoyed the potatoes, your salad leaves and courgettes were great.