Saturday 30 July 2011

First work on our land

We've booked tickets to go to Poland in mid September, and although we're thinking about the house and what needs to be done to it, my main thinking is about what we're going to do with the land. We need to build a home that can keep us warm and comfortable in the winter, and hopefully cool and comfortable in the summer, but it is the surrounding land that will play a big part in sustaining us - and take a lot of our time.

Of course we do want to find efficient ways of working the land with minimal effort, and we'll be planning with permaculture principles in mind. The question is now, with three weeks to do some initial work before the winter, what are the priorities? I've made this little plan to help explain our current thinking:

I hope you can see! The house is red, with the brown barns in a square; the existing meadow (blue) and birch plantation (green) and orchard (yellow); I've marked our planned areas for Holzer raised beds in orange, and hedge planting in pink.

We think at the moment that the main priorities are:
  1. Improving the soil by planting green manures, especially around the orchards and the areas we're likely to begin to cultivate first.
  2. Beginning to establish a hedge/barrier particularly on the NW boundary (pink) made with native trees and shrubs, with an emphasis on thick and thorny and fruiting to begin to discourage the numerous deer and other wild animals from the nearby forest while also offering some forage for them and the local birdlife. The prevailing wind is also from the W (60%) so the hedge will calm that.
  3. One of the priorities if we're going to be working on the land for extended periods will be a toilet. No mains sewage, and nobody to complain about the idea of a composting toilet, but which design? I like the one recently built at the Sustainability Centre and described in Living Woods Magazine and Permaculture Magazine. It is raised above a bed of straw bales and surrounded by willow, so no need to separate the urine, you get good willow for weaving, and relatively easy to process compost (if I remember rightly). More on this later I expect...
  4. Finally, I need to do some more surveying. In particular I want to take a better look at the soil in different areas on site, try to record more information about the trees and flowers and herbs on site, and find out more about what's growing locally.
As we continue to think about all this, there are questions about whether to continue to mow the meadow regularly, what to do with the birch plantation (needs thinning out, but when) and what to do with the rest of the land on the bottom of this plan - maybe a mixture of forest garden and pig paddocks, with plenty of fruit trees planted in between the existing generally young conifers...

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