Tag Archives: sustainable

Hay making in the hungry gap

We made our first hay in mid June just before we all went off to the Green Scythe Fair. More about that later.

Hay making involves an early start (5am) to beat the heat and to make it easier to cut the grass as it is still damp in the early morning. It is beautiful to be in the meadow at this time in the morning as the sun climbs higher in the sky while you work. We cut all our hay by hand with scythes. As you cut a swathe through the grass you leave a row of cut grass on your left. The hay is left to dry until afternoon, then turned. In the evening we come down and pile it into long rows to stop it from getting too damp in the night and the next morning we are down to spread it out to dry, turning it when needed until it is dry enough to store.

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Our horse Charlie carting hay with Ed and John

This meadow alone is not enough to feed our animals through the winter and we will have to cut more hay. We have more mouths to feed now with the two calves, and Jerseys are a bit more high maintenance than the hardy Dexters. Our hay meadow was looking in a lot better shape this year compared to last year though which I was really pleased about. Most of the field isn’t grazed because the animals would damage the young apple trees. This means it has the potential to get very weedy, with a lot of nettles, docks and a few brambles creeping in. With regular scything of the weeds at the right time we have managed to control them a lot better this year.

Tinkers Bubble again had a stall at the Scythe Fair, a one day festival near Langport, Somerset. Both horses were used to take things to the site, as some of us are involved in setting up the festival. Jim took Pedro the 10 miles pulling a cart full of tools, electric fence, tent and bicycle. Once there he was able to help cart things about, much more sensible than a landrover for going back and forth across a field.

We sold our apple juice, cakes, plants, baskets and hand carved bowls, spoons and jewellery. We also have info boards with photos of our land and talk to people about why we live on the land and what we are doing. It is great to have feedback from local people about our place in the community.

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The communual garden is full of a variety of things, some brand new crops are being trialled this year like quinoa, oats and wheat. There is a beautiful strip of phacelia with lots of other self seeded flowers like borage, violets and poppies. The bees love it.  We have tried to do more of everything that we usually grow. We have a block of 120 sweetcorn plants. Last year they were all stolen by the badgers, just as they were about to be harvested. Better keep an eye on them this year!

We are finally eating our own potatoes again and the first courgettes and cucumbers. The strawberries have come and gone. The first gooseberries are ripe, just as we have eaten all the jams and conserves from last year. Oats on their own for breakfast for a short while only! There are lots of herbs and the garlic has been harvested and tied into plaits to hang in the kitchen. We have lots of butter at the moment as we are weaning the calf, Moon from her mothers milk. She is old enough to eat only grass now so we are getting all of Lady’s milk. All the better to make cheeses with.

Work continues on the sawmill and it will be ready for a sawing again very soon. It is vital to have it up and running as we are always in need of timber for building, fencing and repairing and of course much of our livelihood comes from selling sawn timber.

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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.