Wednesday, 10 February 2010

New Challenge

So, we went to confirm final boundaries with the owner of the land yesterday and discovered that all is not what we thought. Due to a possible bit of miscommunication, we understood the boundaries to be a little different. Turns out we are being offered the W & SW corner of the land. The new base map is as follows:So, the sharp eyed will notice that this is the bit we hadn't planned anything for on our previous plans because it's a lot of slope and a lot of boggy-ness and marsh grasses. These are our new challenges and something we're researching now. Terraces maybe? Raised beds? New plans to follow and help greatly appreciated.
On the plus side, it's a smaller plot so we'll have a bit more time to find and maybe work on other land. We'll be talking to local councils shortly and have a few other ideas including guerilla gardening :) Also, we have acquired a shed which is off the map at the moment. We've got confirmed permission to use the sides of the avenue for herbs and wild salads etc. and there's a possibility that we'll be able to usethe land the other side of the W corner fence to site a pond. Our landowner is talking to the owner of the next field on our behalf. Watch this space.

All in all, i was a bit disappointed to begin with but it's a great lesson in going with the flow and also reminds me that, because we don't want to engage in ownership, we have to be able to let go and be open hearted if people change their minds. It's all about building confidence in our ability to start again anywhere, be productive fast and be innovative. This project is now a bit more challenging and that can only be a good thing for our learning curve as well. Onwards! :)

Monday, 8 February 2010

Wish List

Here's the current wish list for anyone who wants to forage, root around in their or anyone elses shed etc... :) We are trying to do this whole thing with minimum/ no spend in the spirit of freeganism and so that we can show that anyone can do it if we all pull together, pool our resources and pre/recycle our waste.

Always Needed
-Garden Tools

Top Priority
-Wood/ hay bales for the sides of the cold frame (we have the windows thanks to a lovely fella named Ken)
-Materials to construct a compost box or a compost box
-Lots of newspaper and cardboard- let us know when you're about to recycle and I'll swing by and grab it
-large bit of plastic suitable for covering a poly tunnel

Other stuff
-Tyres- 4 or 5 maybe
-Long poles, broom handles or similar
-Bamboo canes
-long bit of thin, bendy piping
-Shredder or the use of one
-Wood- much wood... as in planks

This is gonna change all the time so check back :) Thank you everyone for your input, energy and enthusiasm. Love it.

Permaculture Videos

Big thanks to Clayton for his massive collection of permaculture media.
Just finished watching 'Establishing a Food Forest the Permaculture Way' and am buzzing with excitement. I really feel like it can be done and it really is the answer to everything... Geoff Lawton never stops smiling does he?

Top that with the guy who heats his showers and produces methane for his burner from compost and all you can do is stand in awe of the beautiful patterns that exist around us. And we can play with it all :) Bliss


We've got a base map for the land!
The three you can see here are- 1. The Blank Base Map, 2. Marcus Doodles on Base Map, 3. Vick Doodles on Base Map. We drew and then compared and there are good elements to both doodle maps so I'll just take you through the basic layout and then the good bits of both and offer up any contentious bits for debate :)

Basic Map
Hopefully, it's self explanatory but just to say that the contour lines are not completely accurate representations of what's there. the land is flat-ish towards the eastern corner and along most of the top and the begins to slope downward towards the west about a third of the way across. The boggy bit covers most of this corner and we think it might be cause by the blocking off of the natural path of the ditch to make the gateway but it could equally be something to do with the clay in the soil or compaction... just not sure yet and it's a little way down the priority list to find out at the moment.

Marcus Doodle
This is the best map for positioning of stuff. We have storage, compost, cold frames etc. along the NE fence because this helps to block the land from the horses in the other half of the field without affecting the light at all. In the N corner, the round thing is a bender poly-dome which is an awesome idea. The beds in this map follow the contours which is key but they will be positioned a little closer to where they are on the Vick map to take advantage of the light, the flat ground and to allow us to develop that central bit of the land in a different way.
Marcus would like to generate some sort of protection from the agriculture in the next field along the SE fence but I'm not sure how this would affect our light. We need some good ideas for this. I'm going to ask the landowner about what that field is used for when I next see her.

Vick Doodle
The most interesting thing about this map is that it begins to introduce some specifics in the way of veg types and systems. In the beds we have some companion planting, a conventional-ish bed and a nine plant polyculture which we'll be taking lots of photos and blogging hard about :) By the fence we have another stacking system. In this rough drawing alone we have 22 different vegetables or fruits and that is before we count different varieties and doesn't include the herbs and wild salads.
Some key additions on this map are- pond to make use of the wet bit and to keep frogs for pest control, sunflowers to generate some yummy seeds, strawberry towers and paying some attention to the fruit bushes by the gate to give us some fruit as well as veggie production.

We're actually blending ideas together pretty well. Feedback is most welcome on all of this. The basics are her but we haven't even really thought about the long term specifics yet- edible perennials, trees etc.

Our main fun debate at the moment is the positioning of the yurt which in Marcus's picture is in the E corner for warmth and flat ground and in mine is in the S on a platform to leave out light and space for growing up top and to utilise otherwise quite boggy ground. This is funny because we have no permission to site the yurt anywhere on the land at the moment except when we mentioned it tentatively as a potting shed. Good to dream though :) Yurt with a compost heated shower... ah....

The Soil

So we went up to take a soil sample the other day and had a look at the soil profile. The results you can see in the photos.
The soil is quite sandy and also has some rather large bits of clay in along with some red lumps we think might be brick. Considering it was used by horses previously it doesn't seem that compacted nor does it seem that well manured... curious... However, it does seem to be reasonably well structured IMHO just lacking in organic matter and, more importantly, worms! I am investigating the addition of worms at the moment and dreaming in a surreal fashion about some sort of Great Worm Hunt.

In the meantime, we come to our first hot debate... I think that it's a good idea at this stage- bearing in mind the speedy vegetable garden part of our plan- to dig some compost into around three beds to help the soil out and get planting. The rest of the land can be laid to mulch or developed further as we go. this allows us time to be thoughtful and wise about the overall permaculture plan. I know that there are arguments for no dig and, if you look at the synergistic gardening model, no compost but I think both of these are plans for when you have already established a plot and got the soil in good heart.
I think Marcus would prefer to be purist about it and have a no dig system right from the start but I am concerned about getting good productivity straight away. Also, I have elected to get in some municipal compost which is not guaranteed organic but it makes sense to me because it is cheap and reusing the waste product of our local area and we currently don't have a steady supply of compost. i am looking into the Community Composting Network and we are, of course, wanting to set up a compost bit on the land but these things take time. i don't want to sacrifice our principles for expediency but I do want to be balanced... What do you think?
Further soil analysis to follow :)

Introducing the Land

We acquired the use of this bit of land back in December through the Landshare scheme. It's just up the road from our normal stomping ground and we intend to go for a bit of a two pronged scheme.

Our dream is to turn it into a top flight, awesomely productive, educational, innovative permaculture project. We want to learn from it and hope that others will as well. We also want to eat from it as much as possible. This will involve a lot of perennials and perhaps some fruit trees. If Marcus has his way... there will be a swale :)

The sub plan at the moment is to quickly sort out a veggie garden so that we can start producing this year. This will involve mostly annuals but will also incorporate some of the principals such as stacking, nitrogen fixing legumes to get the soil going, polycultures, multi use gadgetry and as many other things as we can think of.

The function of this blog is to share our progress, ideas and images and hopefully get feedback, help and input from everyone.