Category Archives: green building

Lime, Charcoal, Seaweed and Stools

After a busy few weeks and before Anthony disappears on his Aikido Summer Course we thought we’d post out a quick update on events here…

In this newsletter:

Stool making course
Lime Rendering opportunity
Seaweed harvest
Charcoal and firewood

Stool Making Course

Woven Bark Seat
Woven Bark Seat

Anthony is running a stool making course on 20th/21st October.
You will spend the first part of the weekend shaping ash and drilling mortices to make a ‘post and rung’ stool frame, then weave strips of Elm bark to make a beautiful, comfortable and durable seat. All tools and timber will be supplied.*

As before this is being offered at a variable rate depending on the number of participants- 6 places available. Weekend will cost £360, so if all six places taken each person pays £60.

*NOTE: The Elm bark seat is not included in the above cost- This product is one we have had to buy in and costs £2.25/metre, so a 350mm² stool will use approx. 16m of bark strip- so £36.

Lime Rendering Opportunity

Roundhouse Walls just waiting for render...
Roundhouse Walls just waiting for render…

The Roundhouse is in process of having it’s wattle walls rendered with lime. This is a fascinating process and, although lime has a lot of mystery surrounding its use it is fairly straightforward if one applies a few basic principles.
If you would like to come and have a go at applying some lime render we will supply all tools necessary and of course some guidance!
We are planning to do this process in two stages- the first will be to finish the first (scratch) coat on 23rd-25th July, then the second will be the second (float) coat on the 13th-15th August. This is a process which is weather and progress dependant- please keep an eye on this Calendar for regular updates on this and other events.

We will start each day at 10am and work until about 4pm

Please let us know if you are planning on coming out…

Seaweed Harvest

Seaweed harvest 2018
Seaweed harvest 2018

One of the annual food foraging highlights is a seaweed harvest.

We all took a much needed chilled day (though it was scorchingly hot!) and took off to the coast to gather some lovely sea vegetables…

We returned after the obligatory swim with a boot full of buckets each with a different seaweed. The different varieties we collected were;

Gutweed
Sweet Oarweed
Dulce
Bull Kelp
Laver
Sea Spaghetti
Sea Lettuce

After rinsing then drying them they are all now safely stored for use over the coming year. Yummy!

Charcoal and Firewood

After having various bits of our kiln replaced we have just completed our first charcoal burn for many years. You may remember in an earlier post a mountain of sweet chestnut which we cut in the winter of 2016-17? This is the timber we have used for this burn.
It took 6¾ hours from lighting to shut-down. For the first one in such a long time we are very happy with the results.

So… we have 2.25Kg bags of top quality local sustainable hardwood charcoal for sale at £6/bag. Purchasing this charcoal helps support local coppice woodlands and all of the wildlife they support. Please contact us if you would like some.

We also have loads of Ash or Alder or a mixed load of firewood for sale at £120/load. Place orders now to secure your load for the winter.

Spring 2018

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!

In this Newsletter…

Coppice products
Roundhouse
Hedgelaying
Burials
Sheep
Scything
Community Woodland
Networking
Volunteers
For sale

Coppice Products.

Finished biochar
Finished biochar
Biochar kiln burning
Biochar kiln burning

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.

Roundhouse.


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.

Hedgelaying.

Hedgelaying at Pentiddy
Hedgelaying at Pentiddy

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.

Burials.

Sheep grazing the new burial area
Sheep grazing the new burial area

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.

Sheep.

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.

Scything.

Freshly Peened blade
Freshly Peened blade

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.

Community Woodland.

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.

Networking.

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 Alliances 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!

Coppice cut at Devichoys Woods
Coppice cut at Devichoys Woods

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…….

Volunteers.

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.

For sale:

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…

Autumn 2017

Articles in this newsletter:

Our visit to Old Chapel Farm
Wind generator erected
Dandelion Coffee
Projects
Ash die back
Community Woodland work day
Pentiddy shroud

Frequency of newsletters

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

Old Chapel Farm
Old Chapel Farm, Wales

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.

Dandelion coffee

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!

Projects

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…

Garden shed
Garden shed at Pentiddy

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 Skeleton
Climbing Wall Skeleton

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.

Ash dieback

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.

Pentiddy shroud

Pentiddy Wool Shroud
Pentiddy Wool Shroud

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.

June/July 2017

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

Tyre wall at Pentiddy
Tyre wall at Pentiddy

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…

Scything champion!

Adeon and his Scythe
Adeon and his Scythe

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…

Clare, Sarah and Tim with Hay Stook
Clare, Sarah and Tim with Hay Stook

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

Menarche

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.

Course dates

Bent Hazel Chair
Bent Hazel Chair

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…

Woodlanders filming

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…!