Sunday, September 15, 2013

Straw Bale project. What is Permaculture?

Our latest project is underway, a Straw Bale Quail House.
Step one, mark out the base.
Ever since we sold our Straw Bale house on our last farm in Ireland I have missed it and have looked for an excuse to build this way again. I didn't know what, I just knew I wanted another Straw Bale building.
Since we started breeding Quail again, our fourth bedroom com workshop was the only place we had to house them, our three barns are filled with ?. OK one is filled with logs and turf, one was supposed to be the garage, but houses all manor of things, everything except the car, the third one is my better half's workshop, hopefully this will be used to create funky things for the garden, rustic seating, totem poles, etc.. So the Quail had no other place to go. Before suggesting it to Simon I had all my reasons ready, he was bound to find objections. How wrong  I was in that assumption. Before I knew it out came the sketch paper, rulers , and lists of what we already had and what additional supplies we would need . We had decided the ideal place would be in what we call the keyhole garden, so named as we have a keyhole garden there, but in fact it will become the secret garden.
Step two, build up the sides and fill base with old rubble.
It is a area that previous owners had used as a dumping patch, and lots of rubble from walls that had been pulled down, ideal to use as a base and not too far to move it. So work has started. It will be hexagonal, as was our old house, and will have a living roof, again the same as our old house, it is going to have a solid floor, finished in quarry slate, we have a big pile of it, left by the previous owners who had used it for the kitchen and hall floors, each wall will be eight food long, this was governed by the scaffold boards that we had acquired. The roof, when the compost settles will be planted with either wild flowers or clover, we have plenty of seeds of both, clover might be favourite as it forms a good matting of roots and doesn't seem to mind lack of water, should we ever have another summer like this last one. The big question is will it be used for the Quail, or will we find another more urgent use for it. Time will tell.
I often wonder what is meant by Permaculture, it seems to mean different things to different people. We have several friends who say they use Permaculture principles, one even teaches Permaculture design, yet their definitions are different. I have to wonder if it is just the newest 'IN' word.
 To me Permaculture was practiced in the Monasteries, where they grew their own food, selling or giving surplus to the local communities, they worked together for a common cause, their belief in 'God', every one depending on another, break the chain and the community becomes divided, maybe the Amish people are also Permaculturalists, they work together, as one, for the community's good.
We try to work with nature, we feed our soil, we expect it to feed us. We produce most of our own veg, fruit we are still working on, the meat we produce is strictly poultry only, any meat we buy is from the Farmers Market, all Organic and produced locally.
Soap Wort, a gift from a friend last year.
We seed save and seed share,
Some of this years rose cuttings, looking good.
ditto cuttings,
Last years cuttings, now two feet high, waiting for their permanent place.
we companion plant, nature knows best, we skill share and do quite a bit of bartering. We observe our land, we are working out where we need to plant shelter belts to provide micro climates, we  get a lot of winds here. This would be counted by some as 'Permaculture' but I don't think it is, I think you have to be part of an integrated community to be truly a Permaculture holding. Although we do everything Organically, we can not call anything that we produce 'Organic', that is a legal definition for which you have to undergo inspections, yet a surprising number of people will sell produce as Organic without certification. This is very unfair to registered producers, their licences cost a lot.
Several weeks ago we collected thirty bags of spent mushroom compost, no longer allowed under Organic regulations, (due to the risk of GMO contamination in the animal feed on which mushroom compost is based) it is however when composted a wonderful soil improver,
it also has the added benefit of producing lots of free mushrooms.
Yesterday I cut four pounds of these Chestnut mushrooms, I thinly sliced them
and dried them on trays in the range, the cottage smelt wonderful,
Good result.
 the result was just over three and a half oz of dried mushrooms which I will use in stews and soups, I am thinking that I might also have a go at making Mushroom ketchup, it is delicious with so many things, also on hot buttered toast.
Time will tell with this .
Also made is the Bread and Butter pickle, cucumber and onion with herbs and spices and bottled in Apple Cider Vinegar. This is something I have been making for years but this year there might be a problem, the first stage of making this is covering the veg with salt for three hours to draw out the moisture, it was at this stage that I realised I was short of what I call proper salt, i.e.. sea salt, with nothing added, we have been using quite  a lot of sea salt for the runner beans, what I did have was table salt, bought to control slugs, as you have to rinse the salt off the soaked veg I gave it no thought, what I have now found out is this type of salt penetrates, and although I  rinsed everything five times the salt persisted. It's not too bad, but it is salty to our taste, we will try a jar in a couple of weeks to see if it is OK, or if we need to do a rethink on it, it's not a pickle we would want to be without as it goes with anything cold, meats, cheese  and salads. Here's hoping it will be alright in the end.
Wine bubbling away, especially for Lauren.
The dried Elderflower wine is now bubbling away in it's demijohn, it smells lovely, so here's hoping it will be ready for Christmas. 


  1. I think you and Simon are Permaculturists in the true sense of the word. As you say it's a label some people use now to be trendy but the old Irish way would, to me, have been the true Permaculture way. Working together, sharing work and produce. It used to be called Meitheal.

  2. That is the way is was in the UK a long time ago, people in villages and hamlets worked together, shared work loads exchanged ideas and equipment, children 'belonged' to the whole community, it's the way it still works in parts of Spain. Maybe you have to part of the 'Peasant' class for it to truly work, rich in time and knowledge but cash poor.

  3. Loving the idea of your straw bale quail house. Will be watching for updates with interest!

  4. The above idea is lovely. I am alos planning to create my garden Permaculture garden.