Tag Archives: community

August on the roof

We decided to fix our kitchen roof this month. It was done about fifteen years ago with planks of waney edged board from our sawmill. We have started to experience rain on the breadboard so it was about time. Now the sawmill is happily churning out wood again we can continue the essential repairs.

First we took everything out of the kitchen. Which made it a challenge for those residents on domestic (day of cooking, cleaning, wood sawing duty). Some of us carried boards up the hill and baton. Some prised old board off the roof, and we took it in turns having the children. We put a layer of canvas down once all the old roof boards were off and swept all the cobwebs off he beams. Then we fixed the baton running down the beams to attach the new boards to. Getting the boards straight was not easy at the building is shall we say rustic and has slumped in places since it was built. Still sturdy though.

We also now benefit from a skylight above the rayburn in the kitchen which is truly life changing. When cooking you can now see what you are stirring. Good…or bad, depends i suppose.

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Raising the siege towers

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Rosie the cob mistress at work. She led volunteers in touching up the roundhouse walls (our communal living area) and re liming them. It looks very shiny, and just in time for the open day in September. She also took on the liming of the new guesthouse walls which are dazzling.

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Carnage in the roundhouse as walls are patched up and repaired.

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As promised a photograph of Ed and his Harris hawk Maya. He has been taking her out and training her and she is learning fast. She was unfortunately kept in a dark shed for many years without flying and so he is having to start from scratch really. Pardon the pun. First he flew her short distances on the rope, enticing her with meat, and then gradually longer and longer distances. Now she flies above while Ed walks down to the orchards to train her.

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Sometimes harrowing is. Harrowing, that is. But not this time. Charlie working hard with Sophia, Jake and Pedro.

We are clearing a bit of land that has been occasional pasture with a number of apple trees on it. It has been garden before and is right next to the poly tunnels so it makes sense to turn it in to garden again. We want to have enough space to grow oats and wheat. We are going to have to trim the russets a little though.

In the gardens… we have been busy sowing over wintering vegetables and salads. We are back to having to consume ten leeks a day. Green manures like crimson clover have been sown. The first succession of winter salads are getting there. Us gardeners have discussed ways of trying to thwart the hungry gap by over wintering things in the poly tunnels and sowing things very early. Will let you know how that plan works out in May and June next year!

My daughter has been snipping caterpillars in half, which is very useful but slightly disturbing that shes killing things already ( aged two and a half)! Those foul smelling cabbage whites. The children have been devouring wineberries, blackberries, plums and apples but also helping to make cakes and crumbles.

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Tinkers Bubble had a stall at the Ham Hill Woodland Fair last Saturday. Ham hill is the high hill we live on and is also a country park. It has a vivid history, having been quarried since the roman times, home to an iron age hill fort and medieval village.

We had a stall and did some horse logging and crosscut sawing demos. They also had chainsawing there, kids crafts, meat, sweets and some interesting wood carvers including traditional bow makers. We sold some juice, discovery apples, cake and vinegar.

Our Open Day is on the 19th of September. If you are local come along! I promise there will be cake.

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May it bee

Sorry, i couldnt help it.

So, bit of a slow news month really. At the beggining of may we were planting out lots of seedlings; squash, brocolli, cabbage. We have quite a few squash left over so we have been squeezing them in all over the place.

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My garden at the end of may

All the plants in my garden have shot up. From the left rhubarb, broad beans, onions, potatoes, carrots. There is a healthy row of comfrey which we use for a fertile mulch and make a stinking ‘tea’ to water plants with as it is high in nitrogen and gives plants a boost. The herb garden is looking amazing, flowering chives, rosemary and salad burnett and borage.

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Eds polytunnel, which is mostly tomatoes with basil, coriander, parsley, chilli peppers, aubergines and capsicums.

We ate our first few broad beans the other day from plants in the polytunnel, they were amazing to have them so fresh, i haven’t eaten them in years. They popped in your mouth like fresh peas. Ohhh yeah…

Rhubarb, our dexter cow, had her calf on the 11th of may. The calf is another hiefer and is strong in healthy. We haven’t named her yet, some suggest Snowy (she is black). Please comment if you have a better suggestion! Rhubarb is not the best mum but she is getting better, when the calf was born she was headbutting her when she was trying to feed but recently i have seen her giving her an affectionate lick. Lady is an excellent mum, she was very concerned about the new calf and checked up on her when she was lying under the apple trees. Rhubarb was off stuffing her face with grass postpartum understandably!

Many of us were away during may setting up and organising a small gathering called Green Earth Awakening in the blackdown hills in Devon. A buddhafield camp with strong skills and land based workshops as well as beautiful shared live music, childrens activities, drop in crafts, shared meals, meditation. See the article on http://www.foodforafuture.wordpress.com (which i haven’t written yet on 1 june but will in the next few days)

Regarding the sawmill, we have a new bandsaw but it needs some work to install. For a start it needs to be perpendicular to the steam engine. Annoying, to put it mildly as we have spent the last five years building the new barn to house the sawmill in. We are going to build a new extension on the barn to house the engine now, but a roundwood frame for obvious reasons. There is some serious tinkering to do. But when it is all ready it should all run more smoothly than before.

To excuse the title pun, we have some bumble bee squatters. I noticed a week ago a hole where badgers had gone after the bees nest in the ground and now they have moved in with Ed and Sophia.

April, warm, dry and leeky

The strong smell of the lovely  laurel flowers drifts through the forest in early April. A big group of us started to cob the outside of the new badger house so dubbed because it now has the old badger house door.

The cob was made with a mixture of sandy soil and lime. Six buckets of sandy sub soil to one of lime. We mix it all up with wellie power in a big tarp. Then it is smoothed out over the walls. We did two layers during April. The lime is added to make it easier to apply the mix and help to weatherproof it.

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cobbing the walls with a lime and cob mix

Some parts of the wall needed a bit of chickenwire to give it integrity, there can be cracks between the bales or gaps under the eaves. These get stuffed with straw, the chicken wire goes over the top, held in with long staples made of metal fencing wire. The cob is smoothed over and you would never know.

The walls cracked quite a lot in april as we had virtually no rain. They have been hosed down a few times which stops them drying out to quickly and cracking.

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Saving the piano from the wreckage

In other news, we took down the old badger house, which was a big old ‘slug’ bender hybrid. It was about 15 years old or so I think. It had cob walls in some places, pallets with bottles and cob, big recycled windows and a bender roof of bend hazel and hornbeam branches. We spent a day dismanteling it together. The bottles were all taken down the hill to be recycled. The wood will be burnt in the steam engine and rayburn, some of the straw is good enough to use for mulch. Windows were taken down to be used in the barn and any new structures. And the piano… is in the new badger house. The site now is just a flat piece of land with a tidy stack of straw bales. All the materials were organic (or recyclable). A beautiful demolition.

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Finley in the kale forest

Food wise, april was a month of leeks, kale and yes! purple sprouting brocolli which is such a treat when it is first ready but then we ate it every day for a month. We are still eating bought in potatoes at the moment to supplement our brassica based diet. We unearthed some stray carrots too, tiny ones that are a pain to wash. That was a treat.We did have a couple of cauliflowers and a few calabrese. We have got lots of milk and some hard cheese so lots of leek and potato bakes and leeks with mashed potato and roast potato with cheesy leek bake, leek and potato soup with kale… Supplemented with nettles and the first salads, sorrel, chives and tons of wild garlic.

I planted out quite a few things in my new beds, asters, dahlias, poppies and a little wildflower patch of seeds that i have saved from hedgerows whilst walking and hitchhiking around in Devon. I miss the meadowsweet and blue alkanet which grew everywhere where i lived before. I also did a resowing of my carrots in places where they were looking thin. The wonderful thing about having a dry spring is that there have been virtually no slugs or weeds. But we have had to water our seedlings as there was almost no rain at all.

So many beautiful wild flowers coming out, red campion, white dead nettle, ground ivy, winter purslane, herb robert, cow parsley, wild comfrey, lungwort, phacelia, borage, blueberry, currants, gooseberries, rocket, kale, chives,unfurling ferns, buttercups, daisies. And of course, the apple blossom. Here is hoping for an abundant apple harvest this year.