Homes for apples and worms – 02/03/12
After years of travelling the apple trees find a home, as the vision for the farm takes more little steps towards reality.
After two years of sitting in pots, being shunted from one temporary home to the next, our two apple trees finally find their permanent home.
Two years ago we grafted an “Ashmead’s Kernal” and a “Kids Orange Red” (both old Gloucestershire apple varieties) onto rootstocks at Days Cottage in Gloucestershire, where we had both worked the apple season on many occasion. Both trees have survived the ordeal well.
It was an incredible feeling to lay them in the earth for good, for a future that we have committed to and that they have waited so long for.
First we examined the front pasture. Many young trees have been planted along the roadside and slightly up the drive way. The natural curve that they make protects the pasture from the nearness of the road and shapes the farm entrance in a welcoming embrace.
Our first tree – with a vigorous rootstock for full growth – we place on the crest of the slope in the middle of the pasture with the view to add more trees in its vicinity. Sheep and chickens will take it in turns to graze and forage around the trees – the sheep keeping the grass low to enable the trees to breathe and the chickens controlling the bugs and pest population. They will be the first to welcome visitors to the farm.
Our second tree, whose rootstock is slightly more dwarfing, we place in the upper garden near a cluster of older fruits trees and close to where we plan to grow our vegetables. Here the land is flat, protected on three sides by trees, yet open enough to gain full light from the south.
Once the trees are snugly packed into the earth we place the clods (that we had removed to make the holes) face down onto the bare earth around the tree to stop the grass from taking root once again and to encourage it to rot back down into the earth feeding the tree. Then we mulch around both trees, covering all the bare earth with woodchips and grass cuttings. This will stop strong weeds from taking root and extracting nutrients from the earth that the young tree will need to thrive.
This is the first day of the planting season and it feels so good to begin with the trees.
The next urgent task is to develop a wormery. We need a location close to the house so that emptying the compost bin does not require a huge trek.
To the right of the north entrance is an old cesspit. It is about three metres long, spanning most of the length of wall next to the entrance. The surface area is the perfect size and location for a wormery and it is relatively easy to construct without blocking access to the pit.
We clear the concrete area, shift and lay rocks to form the front edge and find two old gates to provide barriers on both sides. We will begin by placing a layer of twigs and small branches on the concrete base (there are plenty lying in heaps from previous prunings) to create an aeration layer, followed by a layer of good fertile earth for the worms to make a home in. As compost begins to pile up, the worms will work upwards. It will be important to include more woodchips and twigs higher up to avoid it compacting.
The cesspit itself is also an urgent matter of concern. The internal retaining walls are beginning to crumble and the cover on one side (not covered by the wormery) is unstable. For now, we stabilise the supporting edge for the cover and make it safe. The question is how we will proceed with establishing the right system for our waste when we move in.
The initial connection to the main sewerage system has been installed, which would mean relatively little expense to complete the connection and enable the conventional flushing down of waste into a sewerage processing plant. Some plants have been developed to process waste without negatively impacting upon the environment. Yet we would like to find a system that can utilise our waste to positive effect. The classic alternative is a reed bed system where the reeds do most of the purifying work, and you are ultimately left with clean water. Could it be possible to convert an existing cesspit to directly feed into a reed bed system?
It has become clear to us that every step of designing our farm must enable multifunctionality, low energy input and the re-using of existing materials wherever possible.
This is a summary of our vision as its stands right now:
Our aim is to create a self-sufficient small-holding developed according to Permaculture principles of design, cultivated using organic and biodynamic methodology, and sustained by social education.
Our primary outputs will be:
Raw goods – organic vegetables and fruits
Processed goods – condiments, sauces, preserves etc
Hospitality – monthly seasonal food events, residential retreats
Skills exchange – workshops and seminars
Through our work we aim to foster a network of mutually beneficial exchange within the local and regional area, raising awareness about the importance of:
a Local Food Economy
Regional Food Identity
Land Based Skills
In our first year we will build our home and establish the cultivation of vegetables and fruit. We will set up work weeks throughout the summer, inviting volunteers to help renovate the house and establish the gardens, whilst learning and exchanging knowledge. We will also plan in a handful of seminars focusing on Permaculture Design, Medicinal and Culinary Herbs, Biodynamic Agriculture and Low Impact Development, and will instigate monthly food events to raise awareness about our work and invite support.
In our second year we will design and build a commercial standard kitchen for catering and processing food. We will also expand our stock of animals and develop accommodation for residential courses and holiday retreats. We will continue with monthly awareness-raising events and will establish a farm shop. In the summer months we will take products to selected markets for wider networking and publicity.
By spring of the third year we intend to be fully functioning as a centre for the exchange of skills and ideas, trading in goods derived from our land and sustained by regular workshops and events.