Category Archives: Nature

April 2017

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…

Open Day

open day fun.
Open day fun – picture credit: Hannah Crabb

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!

Coppice

Hazel Coppice stool sprouting.
Hazel Coppice stool sprouting

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.

Shiitake Mushrooms

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.

For more information or to donate visit https://treebytree.org

Pentiddy Shroud – In development

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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!

March 2017

Natural Swimming Pond

swimming pond picture
The Natural Swimming pond almost complete

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….

Natural Dyeing

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Dye test colours

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!

Profile- Tim

tim picture
Tim splitting down chesnut for hurdles

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.

Birch Tapping

Birch sap picture
Birch Sap Tapping

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….

Newsletter Hackers

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.

Gatherings, botany, sap, salads and spoons

Here we are in all our post-build glory! The last of the scaffolding has just come down so in my book that means we’ve finished the house! Time to start a new phase with a new blog. The house build blog will remain accessible via the web site as it may be of use/interest to other would-be straw house builders. This new blog will be a general one to include anything of interest going on here including information about the Community Woodland.

The sun is making a very welcome appearance, the leaves are just breaking on the trees, the birds are singing, the lambs a-gamboling- surely this signifies the coming of spring! Hurrah! (just be careful mind- them there frosts do catch e out!)

So, what has been going on or is going to be going on that may be of interest to you? We have a few gatherings that we’ve been asked to host:

Jane, our part-time WWOOFer, is running Everyday Botany through the WEA as a weekend course in the roundhouse with optional camping on May 7th and 8th. This is then to be followed with Community Ecology and Prove it in June and July. For more information on all of these visit www.wea.org.uk or phone 01872 320036.

The Cornwall Coppice Group is visiting later this month and we’re hosting the Summer gathering for the SW Art of Mentoring group following on from my attendance at an introductory course in the Autumn. If you agree with me that the way to repair our environment, our communities and ourselves is to re-connect with nature, each other and self then have a look at the website. Such an inspiring movement to be a part of.

Although Anthony’s workshop space is up-side-down following the build, we are planning to get it back to a functioning state ready for a bent hazel chair course and traditional hay rake course both due to happen over the summer but dates yet to be confirmed. Both these will be run using our first cut of Hazel coppice. We have only cut a very small area but we have sold pretty much all that came out of it for fencing and bean poles which feels very positive. We are taking orders for poles for next year for Hazel and Chestnut so let us know if you’re interested.

Food produce wise, we are only aiming to produce enough food for ourselves and volunteers but have recently begun to sell surplus salads to The Growing Project which runs an organic veg box scheme in Pensilva. Ruth is very happy to buy surplus produce from any local organic garden on a week-by-week basis which suits us perfectly. We are also buying a weekly box to see us through the hungry gap and can highly recommend it!

Our present volunteer, Tim, gained experience with his previous hosts in making syrup from Silver Birch sap. We were a little late in the season with our tapping but have succeeded in making a small quantity and will be better prepared for next year. It tastes amazing! We’re also enjoying getting back to brewing with gorse, bramble tip, oak leaf and mint wines on the go and fire cider sitting in a dark cupboard.

Pentiddy Natural Burials continues to trickle in the funds to keep the project progressing. We are currently looking at extending the site to enable it to continue for many-a-year to come. The area to the south of the existing site which was planted with Chestnut as part of our intended coppice has not flourished due to a variety of factors. We are looking at removing the trees and fencing this area to provide more plots available for burial.

On a less positive note however, the wooden ‘Pentiddy Community Woodland’ sign at the entrance to the site was vandalised last week and has had to be removed. I won’t rant and say all the things you’re probably thinking, we’ll just carry on doing what we’ve always done and hope that some of the positive community intentions eventually rub off. To help the charity to raise the funds to replace the sign you can of course make a donation or you can order a load of prime ash firewood for next winter. Get in quick! Contact us or call us if this is of interest to you.

Spoon whittling,

We have a thought of running an open (and no cost) whittling evening sometime in the summer- an opportunity for anyone interested to come and sit around a camp-fire with a cup of tea and a knife and create something of use- a spoon, a hanging hook, a pointy stick…..Please contact us if you would be interested.

Sorry, but we were going to have some nice pictures to brighten up the post- but we have a few issues with the uploading process….. maybe the next one I will have ironed out the creases!

Regards to  all…….