Amongst the things that came out of the Nature Culture Regeneration weekend we attended recently was the idea of verbalising an appreciation as a way of bringing our attention to something special we notice each day.
Today it was easy to find that appreciation- the blessed rain.
In the hottest driest part of the year, when all vegetables are in constant need of water and animals, including the humans on site, all need this precious resource, we can run very low. Very low!
The last few weeks have seen us having to be incredibly frugal- using the washing-up water to irrigate the plants in the garden and washing in the pond (though obviously without soap!)
Showers have been massively rationed, even though the solar thermal panels have given us plenty of scorching hot water in the cylinder.
As of 7am this morning (Sunday) all of our stores were basically out. Other than the pond, no water but for the small amount a minute or so of pumping from the borehole produced. Then… one drop… two… and then it came down properly and whilst its not quite the same as monsoon season in drier countries, the relief and joy, the smell of water on soil, the feel of it on our skin… well you get the picture!
All our downpipes have been used to fill every receptacle we could find- and when they were full we have set up a gutter run to take the rest into the pond (which has dropped by about 5”).
I would therefore like to voice my appreciation for this precious life giving rain.
Appreciation for rain – Ele
As the gardener at Pentiddy I am acutely aware of our water situation. We have ensured that we can collect whatever falls when it falls so our storage capacity is good but when it doesn’t fall for 3 months things get a little tricky. I have been amazed however at how much easier it’s been with the garden since moving over to a no-dig-system last year. The plants’ need for extra water has been noticeably less. I have only really watered in the polytunnel and on new seedlings. The garlic didn’t swell as I would have liked but everything else has been fine. As we completely ran out I made a point of mulching around the new pea transplants so the water they got when planted wasn’t lost to evaporation in the very hot polytunnel.
Knowing the pond was there as an emergency reservoir made a huge difference and what a luxury to be able to bathe in deep water during a ‘drought’. Without today’s rain I would have been filling watering cans from the pond for the polytunnel so we still actually had 50m3 (50,000litres) of water available to us but the wildlife in the pond (including the kids) might have had something to say about us draining that!!
Context: Without a mains connection we rely entirely on what we can gather here. Our ‘main’ supply which feeds the house comes from a store collected from the barn roof at the top of the site (currently 4500 litres but another 1500 litre tank being installed soon).
As well as this store we have a range of other tanks collecting rainwater and greywater from the other structures on site, notably the house (3 tanks from various downpipes/outlets totalling 3500 litres). A few other smaller water butts and excluding the pond and what small amount we can pump from the borehole that’s our total available water. About 9000 litres (with the new tank 10500 litres)
It’s been a very quiet couple of months here with our volunteers all off on various courses and adventures. Tim is presently helping our friend Jeremy with his cob building at Velwell and is then continuing on to look at a bit more of the outside world before deciding whether to return. The other 3 return tomorrow and we’re having a couple of concentrated weeks on charcoal making, firewood prep and liming the roundhouse. It’ll be great to have them all back again. It’s then Summer craziness until the new interns start in October. We’ll introduce them to you soon……..
So much to say but even more to do so we’ll leave it there for now.
From snow blizzards to heat-waves, we’ve had it all since our last posting. The energy is high and new ideas are rapidly unfurling at Pentiddy. We were anticipating sitting back and enjoying the feeling of having completed the coppicing for the year but the land here had other ideas….and plenty of them!
So, yes, the Hazel coupe is all cut. Considering it was a first cut we weren’t sure what we’d get out of it but we’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much we’ve managed to sell and use. A wide variety of products have been extracted including hedging stakes and binders, pea sticks, bean poles, bale spikes for 2 straw bale houses and weavers for fencing. The rest will go for firewood and charcoal and the tops are being converted to biochar in Tim’s Oregon kiln or being chipped for use on paths and on beds in the forest garden. Duchy of Cornwall Nurseries and Goldenbank Nursery have been very keen to buy our local products to sell in their shops but sales will depend on the mark-up they put on them. Today we were making up sample batches of liggers, gads and spars to take up to the Guild of Master Thatchers to see if we can persuade them to use UK grown material instead of cheaper Polish imports.
The remaining weavers that we didn’t manage to sell are going towards re-building the walls of the roundhouse to replace the planks which were only ever intended to be temporary but have been in place for 10 years! The new walls will be wattle and lime. We will be opening this up as a community project from the 7th to the 11th of May. 11am – 5pm (sorry for the short notice!) Materials are being paid for by donations we’ve collected from people who have used the roundhouse over the last few years. If you would like to get involved please let us know so we can arrange tools etc. Please bring lunch to share. We hope to have a BBQ on the Saturday evening.
We managed to fit in some lengths of hedge-laying before the season ended. We laid West-country style on top of the hedge banks and South of England style on the new hedge by the house. Hannan and Ele have worked up a £10,000 grant application for work on re-building, repairing and laying lengths of hedge all round Pentiddy. If successful there will be plenty of opportunities for anyone wanting to come along and learn the skills involved.
It’s been a really busy start to the year in the burial site with some beautiful ceremonies and, with a bit of encouragement, an increasing number of families willing to take on more themselves rather than handing everything over to funeral directors. The wild-flower burial area is finally fenced and the sheep have been busy grazing in there. We are now ready to start looking at the rest of the process. The top soil that was removed from the area years ago is needing to find a new home. If you are interested in a large quantity of top soil then please get in touch so we can discuss logistics.
The sheep have been sheared mostly by Tim this year following on from a blade shearing day we attended at Fernhill Farm near Bristol. There’s a lot to it and it will take quite a bit of practice to get it down to 3 minutes per sheep but Tim’s determined. I now have some more fleeces ready for shroud making. Our first lamb was born on Easter day but no more yet so we’re not sure what’s happening there.
From one sharp tool to another, the scything has begun! Kevin Austin of Skygrove hosted a peening day to help us all to get our blades hammered out and sharpened up ready for hay-making. We picked up plenty of tips from the expert. We will be working with him and others as a mowing team over the Summer so if you have fields that need mowing let us know! If you’re interested in getting involved at hay-making time then get in touch and we’ll keep you posted- or keep an eye on our events calendar.
The Community Woodland work days were staggeringly well attended this year. Many thanks to all of you who leant a hand and a good vibe to the days. There are large quantities of top quality firewood available and more to come over the next few years as Ash Die-back has well-and-truly hit. We have purchased a new trailer for the car so we can now deliver 1m³ loads for £120.
The last few weekends have seen us attending 3 really interesting meetings relating to getting more happening in Cornwall regarding sustainable land use and community building. The first was the Land Workers Alliance’s first South West regional meeting. This was a very well attended and inspiring weekend with some very good networking amongst other land workers and policy makers. It also included the opportunity to look around the various projects based on the Dartington Estate of which there are many from forest gardens to CSA schemes and field-scale permaculture designs. We have returned with renewed enthusiasm for my budding forest garden which is really starting to come together. We’re now thinking of setting up a Liskeard area land workers group – watch this space!
We also attended the Cornwall Coppice Group meeting at Devichoys Woods where Tom Kemp has been coppicing. He and Nick Jarvis have started a community supported firewood project which also encourages volunteers to get involved in sustainable woodland management. This was on the same weekend as the Cornwall ‘Village building’ Art of Mentoring event designed to connect together those wanting to look at ways to create more holistic communities throughout Cornwall and sharing ideas on how to achieve this. We’re following this up by going along to the Nature Culture Regeneration weekend in May on Dartmoor. We’ll report back…….
We are set for a great season with a solid team; Tim, Hannan, Esme with Tom as a new addition this week. We are also currently interviewing for the Internship for October and have some very promising candidates.
Tim is taking on increasing levels of responsibility and we’re trying to balance that by offering him the management of areas of coppice and mature woodland for him to try out some of his many masterplans. Since putting him through his chainsaw training last year, the weight of all the felling and processing of timber has been lifted from Anthony who is enjoying returning at last to crafting and teaching. The second Hazel chair course took place earlier this month and produced some great furniture. More courses will be offered in the Autumn to include post and rung stools and a full chair-making course.
We have the following products for sale- please contact us if you are interested in anything listed below;
Firewood– 1m³ – £120 – green ash, alder or mix- ringed/split – buy now and it will be ready for the winter… delivery free within a 10mile radius. Charcoal – sustainable top quality locally produced hardwood barbecue charcoal – 5kg bag – £7.50 Biochar – 40l bag £20 Top soil – call us do discuss…
Always seems to be just after Imbolc. This year the pond is ready for them and they’re thoroughly enjoying themselves! Can’t wait to get back in for a swim with them…
We seem to be having a bit of trouble with our volunteers in that we can’t get them to leave! It’s looking like Tim will be staying with us for the foreseeable future (hurrah!), Hannan, who came in January for 2 weeks has chosen to stay on as our intern until July (hurrah!) and Esme, who arrived a couple of weeks ago for 2 weeks has asked to stay until the end of May with the possibility of coming back as our 9-month intern later in the year. So great to have such a fabulous trio of caring, self-motivated and exceedingly useful volunteers and great to feel we’re able to offer them more through the internship. For more info see previous post.
Bent Hazel Chair making
Last month’s course had to be postponed but is now rescheduled for 10th and 11th March. As before, cost will depend on how many places are taken up. Please see the Calendar for more information.
Burial Site News
Those who walk over here will have noticed an area next to the burial site in which we are clearing the brambles and the trees which have not flourished (with permission from the Forestry Commission). This is to become a Wild Flower Meadow burial site to complement the neighbouring woodland burial site. Ruth Wilson of the Growing Project in Pensilva took the first spot and was buried there early in January as part of a beautifully appropriate community-led celebration of her life.
Jane Waters, Anthony’s Mum, was laid to rest next to Barry Waters last week in the woodland burial site snuggled in one of our Pentiddy wool shrouds. Jane was one of the founders of Pentiddy Woods and helped to secure the purchase of the land back in 2001. She has been a wonderful support through everything we’ve done here and was a much-loved woman. She will be missed by many.
The burial site continues to thrive and we are constantly grateful for the opportunity to help people to build a better relationship with death – the only certainty in life.
Community Woodland workday success
We had a very successful work day on the 14th January, with over 20 folk out to help us tidy the woodland, sned the trees that had been felled and bash the brambles back. A good time was had by all and we enjoyed soup and cake as well as good company.
If you missed it – DON’T PANIC! We have another work day booked in for 25th February and all are welcome to come and help support the woodland. Please contact us if you plan to come so we know how much cake to make!
This might at first glance seem like an odd thing to include in our newsletter, but some of you will be aware that both Anthony and Adeon have been studying Ki-Aikido for some time and it has become integrated into all areas of their lives and has implications for them in their well-being, their general attitudes and their efficiency of work amongst a host of other benefits.
Ki-Aikido has its origins in the Samurai warriors of Japan and is ostensibly a martial art, but it is also and foremost a fascinating study of the co-ordination of mind and body. It is dynamic, compelling and life-enhancing.
Having studied for around 12years, Anthony is now a 1st Dan Black belt and Adeon after about 5years of study has a yellow belt with 2 orange stripes (stripes are junior intermediate levels). The school of which they are both members is headed by Sensei Stuart Stripling who has been teaching for around 23 years, the last 13 or so in Liskeard. This year though he has made the decision to change the way the school works and he will teach only the higher grade students.
Anthony has been asked to step in and teach the Liskeard club from the 8th February. An exciting opportunity! The way the hierarchy works means he cannot teach the same grade or higher so he will only have four of the clubs’ original students. This means that beginners will be very much welcomed and encouraged to come and have a go and help support Sensei Anthony at his new dojo. Lessons will be in the hall at the Liskerret Centre every Thursday evening from 7.30-9.30pm. Please come along with loose fitting clothing and with short finger-nails and toe-nails. You will even get a lovely cup of tea half way through!
Lessons are £5 (£3 under 16’s). Membership is £18/year payable on your second evening.
For more information (and a slightly more eloquent description) of Ki-Aikido and more about the school please visit setsudo-ki-aikido.org or contact Anthony- email@example.com or call him on 07765 103504, or simply turn up before 7.30pm on a Thursday.
We’ve been having difficulty getting rid of volunteers recently. They plan to come for a week or 2 and end up staying! We have had a wonderful trio supporting us through the last few weeks, Tim, Hannan and Esme who will all be staying for the Spring and beyond. Unfortunately we’re a little short on accommodation as a result so would be interested to hear if anyone knows of a cheap (or cheaper!) caravan available. Our hope is to eventually build something more permanent, but for the time being a caravan is the best option.
Please get in touch if you know of one up for grabs.
Since the new year Ele has been working with 2 close friends Sara and Jess to fulfil a big basket order for a hotel in Reading. The order was placed through Sara’s business naturesparks but having just had a baby she called on Jess and Ele to help carry it out. It’s been a brilliant experience to work together on it and lots has been learnt.
Nature Culture Regeneration (NCR)
Ele has been asked to help run this year’s Nature Culture Regeneration Course on Dartmoor. Anthony, Tim, Hannan and Esme will also participate. Check it out if you’re interested in learning how to connect more fully with ourselves, with our natural environment and with each other to create more whole and effective communities. Click here for details on Facebook or here for the flier.
December always seems to be a busy month but add in slaughtering and butchering 4 pigs and it becomes frantic!! Saying that, it all went incredibly well especially considering it was our first time. The results have been much enjoyed already and there’s plenty more to come!
We have hams drying, bacon curing, 4 types of sausages, brawn from heads and trotters, liver pate, fried brains on toast, copious jars of beautiful white lard, roasting joints, blood sausage, heart and kidney pie, pork scratchings……the list goes on. Tim took on the bulk of responsibility for organising everything which was a great relief for us and which is why it all went so well!
There is so much about the whole process that feels really positive. None of the pigs were aware of any impending doom. They were gratefully chewing on orange rind at the time. No faf, no transportation and the massive learning that comes from taking the life of an animal you’ve reared. Although the laws are constantly tightening on home kill, it is nice to know that what we did was totally legitimate. It’s very empowering to know that you can provide your own family with delicious protein and fats without any external inputs and no stress to the animal.
This seasons cutting has started well with a large area of hazel which has not been cut before being coppiced. We have been surprised at how much useful product has come out so far, with two orders for bale-spikes for straw bale building projects, beanpoles, pea-sticks and many good weavers for either hurdles or hedge-binders coming out too. Materials for the bent hazel chairs have also come from this area.
Other products we are investigating markets for are faggots (bundled up brash-wood) which are used primarily to stabilise river banks but are also used to fire cooking ovens, and thatching spars which are the hazel ‘staples’ used when re-thatching roofs. The remaining timber will go for firewood and charcoal which will be available for your Summer BBQs.
The other product we have started to cut is the willow- mainly the pollards of red willow in the community coppice area, but we will soon be cutting the bigger willow higher up in this area too. Most of the red willow Ele made into around 100 wreaths which Danny and Sheila Hobbs form next door decorated and sold. Basket making has started up again for Ele now she has more time due to Adeon being at school so there will be colourful Pentiddy baskets being made.
If you would like to order any Hazel produce then please get in touch.
Squirrel Skin Tanning
Adeon shot his first squirrel recently, and after eating the meat and offal he decided to do something with the skin. Firstly he put it ‘in salt’- pinning it out and rubbing salt with borax over the inside of the skin and then left it until it was dry. He then scraped it to remove the membrane and once this had been done rubbed 2 egg yolks into it and worked it whilst it dried to keep it supple, this took several hours and was very sticky to begin with then just a little icky after that!
The end result however is a very soft pliable skin but if left like this it would revert to ‘crispy’ if it were to get wet, so to preserve it it needed smoking.
We found some ‘punky’ wood (wood that is soft and crumbly- too far gone for firewood) which creates lots of smoke. Adeon erected a pyramid of four poles and wove a light ‘web’ high up with string, then placed the skin on the web, wrapped it all in a tarp and placed it over a smouldering, smoking fire. It’s turned out to be of amazing quality. The next stage will be to sew it into a pouch of some kind but until then it’s decorating his bedroom wall.
We have finally got around to writing an outline of the internship we are proposing to start from October 2018. This is a really exciting opportunity for the right person so spread the word!
The internship is an opportunity to join our family for 9 months living off-grid on an established experimental woodland smallholding.
From October each year through to the following July we are offering a full, rounded experience in sustainable living. You will be trained in numerous essential skills for setting up your own project. There will be a small training budget for off-site courses, free weekends (except during hay-making time!), 1 day each week for more flexible study or skills learning. 4 days a week helping on a variety of interesting tasks around the land.
Each season there will also be trips to the Green Scythe Fair and the National Coppice Federation AGM. There are plenty of interesting places to visit fairly locally such as the Eden Project, Landmatters Community, Agroforestry Research Trust, Keveral Farm Community…
We can only offer 2 places each year, and we would obviously prefer you to visit beforehand if possible. Please in the first instance apply in writing or by e-mail.
Please make a note of the dates for the volunteer days for helping in the Community Woodland.
14th January, 25th February, 25th March all from 10am to 4pm. More details available in the Calendar. Come and join us and we’ll feed you and share out the resulting firewood.
Bent Hazel Chair Course
The course in November was a great success. All participants had a fun time and went home with beautiful chairs. The next course is 27th-28th January. Before Christmas it was fully booked but due to very difficult family health issues one couple have had to pull out so there are still a few spaces left. More information here.
Ele just wanted to share a photo of one of our December salads. Such a lift to eat bright colours at such a dark time of year!
..and just as a final thing, our friend Klaudia visited yesterday and is running the several ‘meeting and making fire’ workshops which some of you may be interested in- please follow this link:
Happy Solstice to you all!
As always it’s really nice to get your feedback on the newsletter- please feel free to e-mail us.
Well, as things here at Pentiddy tend to do, time-scales have drifted and the newsletter is now looking more like a seasonal one rather than monthly which actually was the plan originally. Perhaps we should have heeded the inner voice?! This however does gives us the opportunity to be more selective with the items we share and will mean hopefully each newsletter published will be of a better quality with more interesting articles. As you may have noticed I’ve included a contents list above with click-links- I hope you will find this easier to navigate to the parts of the newsletter you are interested in.
Please encourage anyone you know who might find these newsletters interesting to view them and to subscribe and share the content.
Our visit to Old Chapel Farm
23 years ago Anthony and I, on completion of our Permaculture Design Course, decided to travel around the UK as WWOOF volunteers (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) to see how farms and smallholdings were using the design principles we’d learnt about. The highlight of our adventure was our visit to Waen Old Farm in Mid Wales. Fran, Kevin and their children gave us such a wonderful bundle of inspiration that we’ve been back numerous times since. They even built us a tiny straw bale house for the start of our honeymoon!
For various obvious reasons it’s been quite difficult to get away since buying Pentiddy and Mid-Wales isn’t a place we tend to drive through very often so it’s years since we’ve visited. However, we felt that Tim would really appreciate some learning there as they are doing so many interesting things including running a micro-dairy which is of particular interest to him at the moment. So, using that as an excuse, we took the whole family up there for a weekend, leaving Tim to find his own way back after a couple of weeks volunteering. What an amazing place!
Since we were last there they’d moved to Old Chapel Farm down the road and have expanded massively in beautiful directions. Yet again we had a hugely inspiring time there and marvelled at their ability to gainfully employ 12 volunteers at a time on a whole host of interesting projects including the building of a neolithic settlement. I won’t detail all their activities here as it’s all on their web site (which is well worth a look at if you can’t get to the farm itself!) Needless to say Tim had a great time and has come back fired-up about much more than just the dairy! Elowen and Adeon were also really taken with the place and designed a roundhouse for the woods here as soon as we got home!
One of the ideas we have brought away with us is to offer internships. This is something they offer at Old Chapel Farm and is working really well for them. From October 2018 we will be offering 2 places for a 9 month internship here. Participants will have a programme drawn up for their stay detailing their learning about all things sustainable. They will have opportunities to learn natural building techniques, basketry, make a chair, learn coppice craft, how to design and build off-grid systems, scything and hay making, no-dig gardening and forest gardening, sheep blade-shearing, and will also receive a small training budget to spend on an external course of their choosing during their stay.
If you know anyone who may be interested then please put them in touch. More details next issue.
Wind generator erected
After a long break of hanging up in the workshop and gathering a thick layer of dust- the old machine has been cleaned up, put back together and placed on top of the 12m tower. We finally erected it in August. The raise is always a little bit scary, but it went well with a few extra people around to hold guy-lines and support.
The Air 403 is an now an old 400W 12V machine but has had a new set of bearings, and a new set of blades which have been polished to reduce the turbulence and therefore the noise created by their spinning. The hope is this generator will help to top up the batteries in the shorter days of winter, and mean the need to run a petrol generator to charge them and subsequently protect them from damage will be less frequent.
With help from Sarah, one of our amazing volunteers from earlier this year, we have harvested a good quantity of dandelions from the coppice which have been washed, chopped, dried, roasted and ground. I’ve been doing this for years but it’s always been drunk as a special treat as there was never very much of it. It feels luxurious to be having it every morning and to know there are plenty more jars of it in the stores. It’s so tasty, completely free and has numerous health benefits too. A winner!
Many different projects are happening all at once as usual, but we thought we should perhaps give you a taste of things current and planned…
Glorified living roof, tyre wall garden shed – It finally made it’s way to the top of the ‘to do’ list after the Summer and is almost finished. It’s incredibly exciting to think that I may actually have somewhere to put all my garden tools and an under-cover potting bench with strawberries and thyme growing on the roof. It was a great project for using all sorts of materials we had left over from previous jobs: the liner on the roof came from the old pond, the under and over-liners from the swimming pond off-cuts, lath from Bex’s shed build, cladding from a friend’s old shed, and boards for the roof from the house build. Pensilva Tyres were more than happy for us to take as many tyres as we needed to save them from landfill. The only problem is that I no longer have any excuse not to be extremely well organised with my gardening!
The solar shower, which is part of the same tyre wall construction, is nearly finished but is on hold until the spring but will be ready to use for next summer.
Climbing Wall – A request from Adeon has been that we create a climbing wall in the barn where the straw workshop wall was being replaced. He has put money into the purchase of materials and is helping out with the construction when time allows. The designs has been drawn up by our friend Jessie Carr (who also makes the coffins for us) as she’s a very experienced climber. The design work and some help with the construction will be in exchange for her using it as a practice wall. It will provide many hours of fun and exercise for family and volunteers alike. Anthony is thoroughly enjoying the challenge of the multi-plane angles but is under a little bit of pressure to get it completed before the chair making course later this month…..
On that note, the course on the 25th-26th Nov is fully booked and more requests for places are coming in so we have decided to run another weekend on the 27th – 28th January. See here for more details.
Bread oven– Our plan to build a bread oven in the outdoor kitchen will finally become a reality in the spring.
Designs are being finalised and materials gathered. It will be a masonry stove rather than a cob one, and the hope is to to start a routine of cooking once a week… the construction will be documented and shared via this newsletter. Coppice cutting is starting this week and we have extra volunteers lined up until the end of the month to give us a kick-start. We are cutting the last area of Hazel that is not yet in rotation so it’s not the easiest to work but we already have lots of orders to cut to which feels really positive.
Some of you who walk here regularly may have noticed the young ash trees in the community coppice not looking too well. Unfortunately the Forestry Commission have confirmed that now we have Ash dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) here at Pentiddy. We have yet to make final decisions about how to deal with this as there are so many differing points of view to consider but we will be carrying on thinning out Ash in favour of Oak in the Community Woodland, and assessing the situation as the trees in the coppice come into leaf again (hopefully) in the spring.
Community Woodland work days
Following our AGM last week, these are now booked for the 14th Jan, 25th Feb and 25th March. Everyone welcome to help clear paths, sned branches, carry lumber and prune. Please phone if you’re interested in coming. Scrummy soupy cakey lunches provided. Please check out the Calendar tab for more details.
The first Pentiddy Wool Shroud has been purchased and buried here. The product design and development for something seemingly so simple has been astounding but it has proved worth the time and was much admired by funeral directors and attendees alike. Details are on the website here.
A bit of a contrast to the weather in early July. We have been working around incredible rain storms for the past month or so which has made it tricky to get stuck into any one thing. Also various members of the team have been away during the Summer – Anthony running a workshop for Wildwise on their Family Camp, Ele’s parents’ Golden wedding celebrations, the children on circus and scout camps, music residentials and holidays and Tim has been away WWOOFing in Dorset learning about running a micro-dairy. Many of the original house-build team have been back for their annual visit and we’ve had a steady influx of other volunteers. Not a settled month of weather or personnel and definitely not dull!
The garden has had it’s best season ever with every inch under successful cultivation and very healthy crops. We put it down to the inspirational teachings of Ele’s latest Guru – Charles Dowding and his No-Dig Gardening. Ele was lucky enough to hear a talk from Charles at the Scythe Fair this year and has since bought one of his books. Hoeing is now a much more regular thing so there is far less slug habitat and there are mountains of compost being made around the site ready for a thick layer on each bed this Autumn. Successional cropping has also been better planned to make use of space and time gaps. The other aid to the garden has been the ducklings who have been brought up to forage for slugs and are learning to come to a whistle when we find slugs hiding.
The abundance of crops has meant that lots needs preserving and we are trying to learn to do this without using a freezer. The shelves in the kitchen (now officially more than full!) are stacked with jams, compotes, chutneys, cordials, wines, pickles, dried mushrooms and herbs. Our increased interest in aiming for a diet closer to that of our ancient ancestors has led us to experiment with various forms of fermenting so we also have saurkrauts, kombucha, ginger beer and sourdough bubbling away. Ele’s been clearing out the garden seed box and is sprouting all the excess home-saved kale and mustard seeds for sprouted greens which is a really tasty way to end the planting season.There is nothing more satisfying than a full larder and we’re learning so many interesting things in the process.
The solar shower/compost bay/tool store/potting shed structure is moving along slowly. Tim’s dedication to the project was proved when, within 5 minutes of running out of fibre for the lime mix, he had shaved his head and added his hair to the mix! It’s looking like it will all be fully functioning in time for next growing season. Can’t wait!
There is a mountain of firewood for sale either Ash from the Community Woodland or Chestnut from the coppice. Long lengths £80/load, ringed and split £120/load delivered. We also have nets of kindling £3.50 each and small hand-made bales of organic hay £3 each. We’re taking orders now….. and as always we are happy to discuss exchanges other than monetary!
There are still a couple of places available on the bent hazel chair course in November please see the Calendar tab or click here for more details.
We have been busy over the past month or two- so we thought we’d combine two months of newsletter since we missed our self imposed publish date for June- so sorry for this ‘bumper’ edition! The weather at times has been just amazing, and during the hottest times we changed our daily routine to start work at 6am, work a couple of hours before breakfast then another hour or two before breaking in the middle of the day. A long doze or wander in the woods and then a couple of hours more work in the cooler evening. The swimming pond had a lot of use as you can imagine- just the weather it was installed for! Though not yet full the pH is now thankfully stable at around 8.5 and the plants are in and not dissolving, though we now have an algal bloom…
Tyre wall / garden structure
We’ve finally managed to get back to do more on our rammed earth tyre wall which will be the back of a structure housing a stand-alone solar shower, three compost bays, a tool store, feed store and potting shed. The structure will have a turf roof using the old pond liner as a membrane to keep the water out. Making a wall in this way is very time consuming, but uses nothing but a waste product and subsoil. We lay the tyres brick pattern and screw them to each other then place a square of carpet in the bottom of each tyre before pounding in as much subsoil as we can fit. It is now finished and looking great, and construction has begun on the shower system…
Adeon surpassed himself (and many of the adults!) in this year’s Westcountry Scything Championships at Muchelney, Somerset. Again the only junior, he was entered into the finals with the adults due to his performance in the heats. Up against 25 adults cutting a 5m x 5m plot he faired very well (given a slightly more than half plot) and though his time was not quick he actually came joint first for the quality of his cut! The winner- a giant named George cut his plot in a record time of 40 seconds! It was a great event yet again and he, Anthony and Tim are keen to compete again next year after having gained more experience having cut the hay in the burial site a few weeks ago. Tim has also just returned from the Eastern Counties Scythe Festival at Wimpole- a scything event and competition in Cambridgeshire- he scythed a quarter acre and a 10x10m plot and gained lots of new knowledge and hints and tips from the country’s finest scythers.
Wwoofers and Help-x’ers…
At Pentiddy our work is very much helped by a raft of volunteers. We introduced Tim to you last time, and we have also had Sarah and Clare with us for the past 3 or 4 weeks- they have both written a little bit about their experiences here…
“What struck me about Pentiddy from the very beginning was the variety of all the things going on here. Staying with people with a wealth of knowledge in such a wide range of areas, all necessary to live a self-sufficient life on the land has enabled me to learn a lot in different areas that interest me. Most importantly, Ele and Anthony are both very generous in sharing their knowledge, experiences, and wisdom.
One very valuable experience for me was to go through the hay making process using only people-power, from start to finish. I learned how to scythe, we cut and turned and lofted the hay, we built A-frames, and constructed a bailing-box. Learning from the errors of the first A-frame once it was put to use, we observed and understood and implemented that knowledge right away and built new A-frames – I think next year, we might have the perfect design figured out. A part of what has made the time here what it is are the great people wwoofing here with me. Our little wwoofing-trio makes a good team, but most importantly having people to have enriching discussions with and to share my enthusiasm about discovering and learning is absolutely invaluable.
From shearing sheep with hand-shears, to building, gardening, woodworking, brewing and wine-making, seaweed harvesting, mushroom growing, singing, foraging, and learning more about herbs and their uses, staying here really gives you an insight into the whole picture. I have also noticed that I’m learning how to use tools and my own body more efficiently and consciously. I have been here for a good month now and it seems it will be difficult to leave as there will always be more exciting things going on tomorrow. And, there’s this beautiful swimming pond…” Sarah Dost
“Experiencing Pentiddy as a woofer has been an amazing opportunity. Anthony and Ele provide a welcoming and relaxed environment, but we still seem to have achieved a huge amount in the time I’ve been here. Haymaking was a whole new experience, from learning to scythe to making hay ricks and bailing the end result by hand. We’ve finished the tyre wall that will provide space for a shower and tool store, despite the mini-heatwave – early starts and siestas were essential! I’ve learnt masses from Anthony and Ele about smallholding, self-build, livestock, and woodland, and they have also been really generous in giving me the opportunity to learn other skills that aren’t part of the daily routine. It’s lovely to be included as part of the extended family, sharing meals and keeping up with everyone’s daily happenings. The surroundings are beautiful with views to Dartmoor and the sea (on a good day), and whatever work is in hand there is there is still always time to just enjoy the view. A magical place!” Clare Keen
Earlier this month we celebrated the beginning of Elowen’s journey into womanhood with a beautiful ceremony held in the roundhouse. A wonderful group of women and girls co-created a very special evening of ceremony, story sharing, songs and meditation to help Elowen move into the next phase of her life’s very exciting adventure! We believe very strongly that rights of passage should be honoured and celebrated to help to keep us connected to who we are at different stages in our lives. We have always enjoyed the challenge of creating ceremony that gives everyone involved the opportunity to connect with life in a meaningful way.
Green Building opportunities
There are two projects Anthony has been involved with recently which are exciting builds and really need extra hands to move things along.
Jeremy and Kate are constructing a cob building near Dartington and can accommodate people if they are willing to ‘muck in’ and help. Their project at Velwell is incredibly inspiring and the ethos of the way it runs is pretty unique. They will make you very welcome and feed you fantastic organic food.
Jackson and Sandra are in the early stages of their straw bale round-wood cruck framed house similar to ours (Anthony did the design drawings!). They would be interested in anyone willing to help and learn from the process. The location is on Bodmin moor near St Neot, and should prove to be a build project worth experiencing.
If either of these appeal to you, or if you know of anyone who might be interested please contact us and we can put you in touch.
Anthony (Heartwood Creations) will be running a bent-hazel chair making course on the 25th and 26th of November. You will learn how to construct these beautiful sculptural pieces of furniture and will go home with your own chair. My fee for the weekend will be £360 and I can take between 3 and 6 students. With six people the individual cost would be £60 for the weekend, with three the individual cost would be £120. (materials and a cream tea are included in this price, please bring your own lunch.)
Firewood and Hay for Sale
Reminder that we have lots of Sweet chestnut for firewood available, and also have spare hay from this years cut. Top quality handmade pesticide free hay. Please contact us if you are interested in either of these…
One of the other little oddities that came our way in the last couple of months was the opportunity to get involved with an on-line series called Woodlanders. Costa came and filmed us over a few days and the results can be viewed here. There is some lovely aerial footage filmed from a drone- quite strange to see Pentiddy from the air…!
Well, how wrong can one harmless statement be? Did I say in the last newsletter that the pond was finished? Did I also say that I’d solved the leak? Er, both those innocent statements have come back and bitten me on the bum!
The Pond got quite murky after the open day, and even though I managed to find a way to run the filter, the plants were going white and dyeing, so after yet more research we decided to do a pH test on the water. We were rather shocked to find the pH at 11- highly alkaline we assume due to the small amount of cement we use in the sand bags.
After yet more research and a gulp we decided our only realistic course of action was to pump out the water in the pond and then scrub down the liner, rinse the gravel, and wait for rain to fill it up again… which will take some considerable time as we calculate it holds about 50,000-60,000 litres of water.
It looks rather sad now- just a plastic lined hole with a puddle in the bottom and a couple of bags of pine needles floating around in an attempt to gradually lower the pH rather than the promising pond it was on the open day. We feel confident that it will all come good in the end, but we are going to have to be patient, and our luxurious summer swims may not happen until 2018…
Four little piglets arrived last week, Kune Kune weaners from a breeder in Wadebridge. They have a nice warm house with straw bale walls, lots of hay for bedding and an aluminium roof to keep the rain and wind out. Kune Kunes are a small slow-growing breed that thrives on grazing so they are being rotated around with cleft chestnut hurdles. Because of their size and very short snouts they are also less liable to tear up pasture, particularly being moved around so often. When the alder windbreak had its crown raised to let more light into the recently cut coppice the pigs were very enthusiastic about the alder leaves. Subsequent small amounts of lime, dog wood, willow, birch and young bramble leaves have been similarly well received. The plan is to slaughter in around December and make sausages, chorizo, ham, bacon, pate, lard for pastry and whatever else we get time to try.
and …successful lambing this year with 4 new lambs to add to the flock. We were feeling tempted by electric shearing this year due to our increase in numbers as blade shearing takes us such a long time (a couple of hours per sheep). We have, however, just found a chap in Tavistock who is going to teach us how to do them in less than 5 mins each!! We need all the fleeces we can get for weaving the Pentiddy shroud which is progressing well.
After the coppice cut of the Sweet Chestnut above the house here we have a huge mountain of wood. This is available as firewood so please contact us if you are interested in a load. Otherwise this will be converted to charcoal, so likewise please contact us if you would like some local, sustainably produced barbecue charcoal…Also plenty of Ash from the Community Woodland. Happy to take orders now to secure your firewood for the winter. £120/load split and delivered.
Tim has done two very short trials of turning the brash into bio-char in the Oregon Kiln. What has been produced has gone under the new “he-pee” straw bales to soak up any urine that filters through. Having enough water to quench a full kiln hasn’t been possible yet. The second trial burn involved attempting to quench with soaked canvas. In the end however, the canvas burned through and the char had to be fully submerged. A steel lid could be made and would likely work well but is an expensive option and in retrospect a pit kiln may have been a better and cheaper way to go. Experimentation will continue.
The remainder of last year’s hay cut in the burial site has now gone off to Tregillis Biodynamic farm to feed their cows. Our sheep thoroughly enjoyed it during the winter. Adeon, Anthony and Tim are itching to get back to scything so we’re definitely up to doing more! If you would like to come and have a go at traditional hay making and learn how to use a scythe then please contact us and we’ll let you know when we’re cutting – it is obviously weather dependant so we can’t give much warning. It will hopefully be some time in June.
Also, if you’re potentially interested in buying some of this year’s hay then let us know and we’ll put some aside for you.
Just about to post this when Adeon (just turned 13) came striding home with his rifle and his first ever rabbit! He’s previously helped reduce the numbers of pigeons in the barn and provided us with delicious meals from the breast meat but a rabbit is a good step up from that. He is now skinning and gutting it for tomorrow’s dinner after having thanked it for its life. He is rightly very proud. He’s fully aware of how important it is at Pentiddy that we try to reduce rabbit numbers for the sake of the coppice and that we like to have a direct connection with our food, especially meat. Oh! Torak, Adeon’s cat, has just turned up with one too! Feasting tomorrow
A slightly later one this month- we thought we’d leave it until after the open day madness and make it a small one just to update a few things…
So it’s happened, and all the stress, superhuman levels of activity and busy lead up to the day is but a memory.
We had a fantastic day, both in terms of weather and atmosphere, buzz and number of people who attended, all of whom, it seemed to me, had smiles and positive comments. Conversation was inspiring and the networking invaluable.
Over 300 people turned out to have a self-guided tour around. There were also 25 stall-holders around the site demonstrating sustainable crafts such as green woodworking, charcoal burning, scything, basketmaking and spinning and selling everything from handmade soaps and perennial plants to organic vegetables and local apple juice. There were talks on biodynamic farming, a wild cookery demonstration and the showing of a film of the straw bale house build on the site. An amazing lunch was provided by the Real Junk Food Project who take food that supermarkets would otherwise throw away and turn it into delicious meals to feed the local community.
Having allowed ourselves a pause and a breather we’ve had time to settle and reflect on the day and speak with various people and all in all it seems as though it was a big success.
Natural Swimming pond
The pond is finished! Unfortunately it is still 3-4 inches below “full” so the filter system is not able to effectively work yet, though initial tests are encouraging so it’s all ready to go once we have had a little more rain. Partly this is due to a leak I discovered in the exit drain pipe, where water was seeping in at a join. After a brainwave I solved this by rolling a section of inner-tube over the pipe to the join, and cable tied either side of it. So far so good I think- but again will know more when next it rains. Adeon was the first to go in the pond albeit VERY briefly, but today Adeon, Elowen and Anthony have all been in for a proper dip- brrrrr!
The chestnut and hazel coppice areas we have cut this year are just starting to shoot, so it’s going to be time for us to shoot too… rabbits that is! They are the biggest threat to these young tender stems. We all enjoy rabbit (some call it underground chicken) and it’s a good sustainable source of protein and makes sense in terms of management of the coppice. Rabbit fencing is just economically non-viable in the long term and is far from a sustainable solution. We have a couple of lovely curry recipes we use which I will post as a separate item sometime very soon. The cats are also helping us with the rabbit population, and their way of eating them certainly takes less preparation! Keep an eye out soon for our Bunny Bhuna and Rabbit Rogan Josh recipes.
We have had our first flush of mushrooms from our logs for this year… the next ones are in the bath being ‘shocked’ so we should get another flush in a couple of weeks. They are such a tasty and healthy addition to our diet- we love them. Our logs are beech and were inoculated three years ago. The mycelium takes a year or so to run through the log at which point shocking can begin to make them fruit. This is their second fruiting year, and each log can give two or three flushes per year.
Tree by Tree
Coinciding with our open day was the first event of a new project headed by a dear friend of ours Tino Rawnsley.
The project is called Tree by Tree and is “a social movement to plant trees, create woodlands and celebrate!”
After things finished here on our Open Day at 4pm we hastily packed away the Yurt (kindly lent to us by Kath and Piers) and drove to North Devon to join the tree by tree crew for their special treefest event. Unfortunately we’d missed all the tree planting but we danced the evening away to some fantastic bands and caught up with lots of lovely people. A nice way to round off our busy day.
They are now on the look out for the next area of land to purchase to create another Community Woodland. If you know of any possibilities please let us know.
With all the resources available to us here, we would like to provide the ultimate green burial shroud. To this end we have tried out various ideas and have chosen to develop this one.
The Pentiddy shroud will be made from 100% Pentiddy materials so there is no mileage on the product at all!
A hurdle – either Hazel or Willow, will support a woven shroud made from the wool from our sheep that graze the burial site. The fleeces would be washed on site and then carded by hand on a drum carder.
The weaving would take place here and I’d really love to include any family or friends of the deceased to join in the weaving. For a long time now it has felt very important to me that people can get involved in the making of the coffin or shroud, weaving in their fondest memories along with biodegradable object such as shells, leaves from the garden, letters and even strips of favourite clothing. I believe that to have a part in the creation of a beautiful final resting place for a loved one assists in a healthy grieving process.
As this idea is only in the developmental phase we’d be very grateful for any feedback.
Stop Press!… First Lambs born this morning!
Yes, our first Lambs were born this morning- a successful double from our one remaining Hebridean ewe- we think they are one ram lamb and one ewe, but have not ventured too close as of yet. Mum looks to be doing all the right things which is always a relief.
We have two Black Welsh Mountain ewes who look very heavy and ready to lamb soon too, so keeping a close eye on them at the moment. Spring lambs- aahh!
The pond has moved along well- but was slowed for a while due to an unforeseen issue- finding the right type of gravel for the planting/filtration areas.
On reading much on the subject it seems that the size of gravel is fairly specific, and also it needs to be clean- we found that most granite chippings available locally are not washed and therefore contain a variety of particle sizes including fine sand- which is great for surfacing a drive, but not good for filtration, in fact it would quickly clog up the system completely.
We eventually managed to find what we needed, and find it locally. Little John’s pit in St Austell came up trumps with 20 tonnes of a 14mm washed gravel, and they delivered it to site at a very reasonable price- thank you to all we spoke to! Unfortunately though, they could not get their lorries down our track to the pond so the mountain of gravel was delivered outside the barn, so Tim and Anthony have been wheelbarrowing it to the pond… slow, laborious and very muddy work! Nearly there though and looking really good.
The water level in the pond is gradually rising, and all the filtration and aeration system is in place, along with one underwater light because Anthony likes lights! The pontoon which will allow us to dive into the pond is also under construction. We just need it to fill to it’s intended final level so we can complete the planting and test these systems.
We have introduced some oxygenating plants too, and hope the frogs will like the gradually clearing result!
Ahhhh, can’t wait- SPLOOSH!
Open Day – April 8th 2017
On April the 8th we will be opening the site here to an event tied into the Small woods Association national bean pole week… This is already looking like it will be a fairly large event with a ‘local and sustainable’ theme- and over 30 stalls showcasing businesses and individuals from the local area. It has been an interesting process drawing all the necessary bits together, and our main hope now is that the weather is kind to us on the day!
If you are interested in finding out more about this day and the stalls and talks happening, please visit the Open Day event page. If you would like to support the event in a more practical way, we are looking for volunteer stewards to help with the parking on the day just for an hour each….
No not a mis-spelling! Ele has been doing some chemistry with onion skins, rust and metal salts to dye some curtains intended to hang across the lounge beam. Various colours have been achieved by using different mordants at different stages in the process, from oranges and yellows to greens. The orange colour Ele chose has taken very well, and the cloth is drying now ready to be hung soon. Thanks to the members of Canoryon Lowen (the choir Ele is in) for collecting 500g of onion skins over Christmas and to Sarah Cole for her moral support!
We thought we might do a profile here. We realised that you may have heard mention of Tim, but we have not introduced him so… Tim came here for a month last March, and despite all we have thrown at him he has not yet left!
He was born in Australia (too hot), grew up in Dubai (way too hot) and has been WWOOFing in Ireland, Wales and England for two years now (just right).
Last year he was key to the massive hay-making project and bramble bashing efforts as well as the 1,000,001 other jobs he’s taken on here. Lately he’s been busy helping barrow gravel down to the pond and, when it’s really wet, making rakes in preparation for the next hay cut (for which he’s lusting after a 110cm Rasierschnitt on a Danish-style snath). He’s getting kune-kune pigs in about six weeks and has started making cleft chestnut gate hurdles, which he hopes (possibly in vain) to use to rotate the pigs around Becky’s field with. He’s been milling rye grains recently and has got a vigorous sourdough living in the airing cupboard but can’t seem to get the hang of a rye sourdough that isn’t gummy…yet.
He has recently received a promotion from ‘WWOOFer’ to ‘apprentice and adopted family member’. He really does keep the whole place on track and keeps energy and enthusiasm going when we’re flagging. He’s with us for at least another year so you’ll be hearing lots more about him.
When Tim arrirved last year he brought with him a bottle of birch syrup which was absolutely delicious. However it was at that point too late in the year for us to tap our trees, but Adeon and Tim have tried a little this year, and made small amounts of syrup. We think maybe we are still a little late, but have had some small success, and enjoyed having the results on our weekend pancakes. Birch sap reduction is much higher than with the sap of other trees such as the Sugar Maple or Red Maple, so you get much less syrup for the volume of sap collected. We planted a Red Maple tree several years ago because apparently it is the best sap tree for the uk climate as well as being a very attractive tree, but we have never tapped it and it seems that it should have been tapped even earlier than the birch, so we’ve missed our opportunity for this year.
Pentiddy Community Woodland work days
We had a lovely day in the Community woodland on February 19th and cleared most of the Ash which had been thinned through the area near the main gate. The weather, though not sunny was dry and pleasant. There was lots of interesting conversation and a lovely lunch.
We have another day planned on March 12th and if anyone can make it out to lend a hand for an hour or two (or all day!) we will welcome you, and we’ll also feed you! This day will include some general tidying, and some planting of a few oak trees in sparse areas….
Apologies (once again)- having set up the subscription process and happy that it all worked, some of you will have been sent multiple notifications, and some of you will have clicked to find someone had hacked the post on my website and left a nice picture ‘just for fun’.(grrrr!)
I ‘suspended’ notifications, subscriptions and unsubscriptions whilst I checked things and double checked them. Another sharp learning curve later, and with the installation of extra security on the website and a few other tweaks It is now fully working again. Thankfully it apperars due to the nature of the hack that this did not put any of you at risk, your computers and e-mail details remain intact. Phew! Could you please let me know if you get more than one notification this time so I can work out why. Thanks all for your patience.
A diverse Permaculture project in South East Cornwall, UK