|The basic shape of the pond|
I figured out a while ago that if I was going to be growing produce in our field then I would need a source of irrigation water. I looked into the cost of getting a bore hole drilled, and although it would be in the region of a couple of thousand pounds (just for the hole, without any pumping equipment) I figured it was a necessary expense.
It would have to be quite big. And going by the permaculture principle of trying to find at least three uses for everything, I realised that installing a pond would provide the following:
- Irrigation water for the fruit trees, poly tunnel and flowers
- A source of drinking water for local wildlife
- A place for ducks to live (on a little island) which will eat the slugs
- An added feature to increase the biodiversity and somewhere that threatened newts can call home
- A source of drinking water for humans (although it would need purifying first)
Six uses was good enough for me to justify hiring some earth moving plant … but the recent rains had made the access track muddy and I had no idea how to get it up there … and so I started digging by hand. Freelance work is taking a bit of a holiday at the moment, so I had a week and a spade and a mattock - what more did I need?
I had also planned to build the retaining wall out of local stone. Again, I would need to spend money on buying rocks, getting a cement mixer and a generator and some bags of cement. But as I started digging it made sense to pile up the sod into a retaining bank. I'm making it good and thick, and will plant things in it so the roots hold it together (once the vegetation has rotted and the whole thing has settled down and compacted). This pond keeps getting cheaper and cheaper!
Alas, I can't see any way round buying a decent pond liner, but so be it. The plan is to construct a wood store with a sloping roof right above the pond area (you don't need planning permission for a building with no walls - see picture below for what I'm planning), which will catch the water and replenish the pond. It rains pretty much all year round here, so I don't anticipate there being any problems. Given that the land is all sloping, the poly tunnel and fruit trees are down the hill a bit - and a cast iron Victorian hand-cranked pump I bought on eBay will get the water flowing when needed.
|I'm hoping to build something like this one, which is at the Eden Project|
Aside from digging the pond I have been clearing brambles with a sickle, and mulching around the trees.
Under the one above is a slimy mush of coffee grounds, fish heads, mouldy rice pudding, vegetable peelings, tea bags and curry. I have temporarily given up on my wormery because of the swarm of fruit flies it is producing (which fly into neighbour's windows). So this is the new method of 'disposing of' organic waste.
The vegetable patch
- Regular peas
- Chick peas
- Purple sprouting broccoli
- Chilli peppers
- Red sweet peppers
- Another kind of berry whose name I can't remember (said to be a 'super berry'!)
- Guji berries
There was also a melon plant, but slugs ate it.
|An embryonic peach|
Down in the forest …
|The chestnut trees are planted in rows to make harvesting easier|
I have had some very welcome news! I invited Greg from Future Tracks to come and visit for a morning and assess what I had. Greg is a proper woodlander, a skilled coppice and greenwood worker who also runs survival courses and is a green building builder (more on that later).
- I have a perfectly planted and spaced wood that is 90% chestnut, and 10% oak and hazel, with a few ash trees
- The chestnut wood is highly prized locally for things such as fence posts and building. It is a hardwood that contains tannins, stopping it from rotting when placed in the ground, and vastly superior to the cheap imported wood (often from China and the tropics) which has flooded the UK in recent decades and is now falling to bits having proved to be a false economy.
- The trees are perfectly placed for easy cutting and extraction. When one is cut down, four new ones will replace it within a decade.
- There is a long row of huge poplars which will need to be taken out a couple at a time to permit the chestnut to be felled. This will need to be done by a tree surgeon, but the size of the trees mean they will be worth a good sum.
He outlined a plan for coppicing and will help me during my first season of work (next winter). The wood will be divided up into 12 zones of a half acre each, starting at the eastern end and working west. Each year one zone will be worked and the felled trees dragged out by local shire horses and stored in the woodshed for curing. The cut zone will then be fenced off from deer while the new shoots form, and we can expect to see a profusion of wildlife take over as long dormant seeds on the forest floor germinate, attracting many rare butterflies and birds. I will then return to this zone in 12 years, when the carefully managed shoots will have grown into 20 foot high trees, and the whole things starts again.
Greg also had some other money-making ideas for me. He suggested being an oak tree farmer! Well, this certainly appeals to my Druid soul, the idea of collecting and germinating hundreds of acorns each year and then selling them on after two or three years. The same could be done with the chestnuts - that is the ones that I don't sell to the local shops during harvest time in the autumn.
|The forest floor is currently covered in this … not sure what it is|
|Elderflowers, growing in one of the darkest recesses of the woodland which I plan to turn into ...|
|Wine! This is my first attempt at making my own wine. Here is my rhubarb wine, and also a strawberry one, which is fermenting merrily|
|The row of poplars, probably planted originally to protect the young forest from stiff southwesterly winds|
|A passage of oaks which I rescued from encroaching brambles. The oaks, I now realise, lead one down into the forest, beckoning to the curious|
|This was our Christmas tree that was in our flat in Denmark for three years. It seemed to die when planted out, but magically came back to life recently.|
That's all from Fox Wood for now - happy Solstice everyone!
|A stone circle not too far from Fox Wood|