Saturday 13 September 2014

Update, September 2014

So many things to update about... I'll try to keep this reasonably brief and readable.

1. I went to visit our land for three days back in May. I hadn't managed to get there since August 2012 - not for lack of desire. I really felt I needed to do some surveying, largely because of the need for establishing some waterworks on the land, partly because of some missing measurements around the house, but also because of the permaculture principle of observe and interact.

Our tree bog, March 2012 and May 2014
It was really an eye-opener. I really did need to get back on the land. I realised that although I'd walked round and round it several times, all the research and thinking I'd done had really changed the way I could see. The first thing I saw was the need for animals - firstly because it's such a big space and there's so much growth we need animals to help us manage it, otherwise we'll be forever scything - and secondly because the soil seems so poor and sandy we'll really need the animal manure to help rebuild it's fertility.

2. I've finished my Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) Course with Geoff Lawton and the Permaculture Research Institute in Australia. This was an amazing experience. I'd already done a PDC in Leeds in 2009, with loads of interactive sessions, creative groupwork, local visits, etc. I was initially a bit sceptical that an online course mainly presented in front of a whiteboard and based on the 25 year old Permaculture: A Designer's Manual could be really so good. Happily my worries proved unfounded, and by the end of the course I felt really well prepared and qualified for starting my more practical permaculture future (and hopefully career).

I'm open to sharing my design project, which is an initial permaculture design for OrchardyHaven, so get in touch if you want to see more, but the key image is this:

It starts with a swale on the longest highest contour, which is then followed by a new access track. There are swales on contour throughout the land, slowing and managing water. There are planned ponds (see my previous post), including one on the bottom right of the image near the high point of the land, fed from a new well with hopefully a wind or solar pump. This will give a water source with 9m of head pressure by the time it reaches our house and kitchen garden. There are loads of young dwarf mountain pine which don't seem very useful on our land except as filling for hugel beds where we'll be doing a lot of growing, especially vegetables and soft fruit but also a lot more hopefully. And it carries on this way down the hill... (I'm sure I'll post more on the other details later.)

3. With this kind of out of the way we've been planning in more detail what we'll be doing when we get there permanently. We won't be able to live on site straight away, but we'll be close. We can quite quickly get water supply sorted out. We have a pump and a well and a power source. We'll install a temporary tank on the wall above the well and plumb in an outdoor sink. We'll build a rocket stove for water heating and we've got loads of good dry fuel for it. Then we'll get to work on the Goat Shed: digging out, insulating and redoing the floor, insulating the roof and walls probably with straw, bringing in water and electricity supplies and building a rocket mass heater. There's enough space there to make it like a small home, and certainly a comfortable base for us and any volunteers to work on site.

By September 2015 we aim to have cleaned out the well properly, probably dug it deeper, capped it properly, and have an underground pipe running from it to the Goat Shed to avoid freezing in winter.

There's lots of work to be done building an outdoor shower and an outdoor kitchen for the hot summer months, getting the workshop into shape, etc. We'll probably aim to get underway on the main house building in the spring of 2016. Can we finish it in a year? It would be nice to think so but I guess it's more realistic to expect two years as we can't afford to pay builders to come in and do the work for us.

Ok, that'll do for now. Hopefully more soon.