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.

August 2017

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 vegetable garden, Pentiddy Woods
The vegetable garden, Pentiddy Woods

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.

Full pantry!
Full pantry!

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.

Tim's hair donation
Tim’s hair donation

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.

More soon….!

 

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…!

May 2017

Swimming pond

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…

Pigs

Kune Kune Piglets
Kune Kune Piglets

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.

Chestnut MountainTim and Chestnut Mountain

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.

Hay

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.

Rabbits

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

test colour picture
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.

Newsletter February 2017

Welcome to what will hopefully now become our monthly newsletter. Our aim here is to impart some useful information and share news and insights from all the sub-projects that make up Pentiddy.  We hope the content will be insightful and informative.

We have a huge amount of gratitude for being able to live here and steward this plot of land. Many who walk, attend events  and learn here also have a love of the place. This newsletter is a means of celebrating everyone’s connection to Pentiddy.

This is the time of year for all thoughts that have been brewing over the winter to awaken and start sprouting. Buds and ideas swell and bulbs and new ventures push up through the earth. It’s certainly had its effect on us!

We’ve been enjoying our visits from the buzzard who perches on the same gate post daily to look for breakfast. we’ve also been treated to numerous breath-taking sunrises and the first taste of fresh wild salads.

Natural Swimming Pond

pond liner in.
Pond liner in!
is this level.
Is this level?

Sitting on the veranda one sunny spring day last year, counting our many blessings, we rhetorically asked- “…how could this be any better?”. One of the children then piped up- “Well… it would be good if we could swim in the pond…”

So we’ve started the process of changing our small wildlife pond into a natural swimming pond which is no small task! It’s been interesting work to carry out in the middle of winter as it has involved lots of mud, and wading in the pond in January to build the sand bag wall (which was not Anthony’s favourite job!).

The principle of a natural swimming pond is simple enough- instead of chemicals to clean the water, oxygenating plants are used and nutrient levels kept as low as possible to inhibit algal growth. The planted zone has to be at least equal in area to the swimming zone, so we will still have a haven for wildlife. We’ll let you know how effective it is once it has been completed and the plants and biology have established properly.

We can’t wait to swim in it come the spring…

Pentiddy Natural Burials

Burial Extension

We have received planning permission to extend the burial site into the area to the south of the existing site where the previously planted Chestnuts have not thrived. This area was under our Woodland Creation Grant with the Forestry Commission who have agreed to us removing the trees and changing the use from forestry to burials. Because of the low fertility levels in this area we have decided it will work best as a wild flower meadow which also offers further choice for those being buried here and it increases the diversity of habitat.

Following a meeting with local grassland expert Kevin Austin (Skyegrove) we now have a clearer plan in place for using the sheep to manage the grass in the early Spring and Autumn and cutting for hay in the summer. We have also sown a couple of areas of yellow rattle, a wild flower that is parasitic on grass and will assist in the creation of some wild flower glades for wildlife.

Sustainable, Biodegradeable Coffins

With the Burial site, the coppice and the skills base, we figured we should at least look into producing a sustainable coppice-based coffin. We’ve encouraged our basket-making friend Jessie Carr who lives here in Pensilva to have a go at making a willow coffin for our next burial here. She agreed to include some willow grown at Pentiddy which we’re hoping to supply to her in increasing amounts. The coffin she has produced is stunning.

Back at Pentiddy’s workshop we’ve been busy thrashing out ideas for using Hazel for coffins for a quicker and therefore cheaper coffin and we’re also looking at developing shrouds with a hazel base. We’ll keep you posted on progress.

Coppice and Sales

Chestnut coppice in process

We have started the coppice cycle with a cut in the area of Sweet Chestnut above the house, and also a re-cut of the 3 year old Hazel. Although only a small area, the Hazel is of fantastic quality with pretty much all of the poles selling by word of mouth. It has gone for hedging stakes and binders, bale spikes for a straw bale build and of course bean poles. We have also supplied the Devon Rural Skills Trust with materials for their hurdle making course. As it is the first cut for the Chestnut there are not really any useful poles this time round but an awful lot of firewood! Tim is also experimenting with a kontiki kiln for making biochar with the brash tops.

Workshop dry store

As part of our post-house process, the Heartwood Creations woodworking workshop is undergoing an overhaul with the anticipation of running a series of courses starting again this year. Materials salvaged from the demolition of the mobile home and left-over house build straw as insulation have created a dry store attached to the workshop so Anthony can have rust-free dry tools. Francis (who has the allotment here) has also donated her old kitchen cupboards for storage. He’s a very happy man! What’s even better is that he also has a whole list of things to make so he’ll be making very good use of the new space in the next few months.

Open Day – April 8th 2017

April the 8th will see us opening the site here to an event tied into the Small Woods Association national bean pole week. This is looking like it will be a fairly large event with a ‘local and sustainable’ theme – around 30 stalls showcasing businesses and individuals from the local area. there will also be talks, demonstrations and live entertainment. Put the date in your diaries. More information will be available in the next newsletter.

Courses and Events Calendar

The websites and content have had an overhaul and we now have a calendar of events which include courses run through Heartwood Creations, community work days for the Community Woodland and  anticipated dates for sheep grazing and hay making in the burial site. We’re breaking ourselves in gently with courses this year offering only a few but we hope to be at full speed in 2018. Ele’s pursuing a Food Hygiene course so that we can include a home-produced lunch down at the house for course participants.

Newsletter Subscriptions

Once again an apology for any spurious e-mails, and any odd things that have happened whilst things were tested, re-jigged and set-up. I am not a whizz with technology, just a little bit of a geek, and I hope that eventually my efforts will make the suite of Pentiddy websites an interesting, useful and informative resource….

Please pass on the link to our newsletter to anyone you think may be interested and encourage them to subscribe.  Unsubscribing is also easy and is honoured- we are not into e-mail spam!

As always we love to get feedback. Let us know your thoughts on the newsletter content, how we could improve it or the websites and their content. Any broken links or spelling mistakes…

Enjoy the Spring!

Hay with hand tools….

Making hay from the burial site with Scythes, rakes, forks and sweat!hay7

A whole host of things happened earlier in the season to conspire against us mowing the burial site in the way we have previously with the ride-on mower.

Our aim has always been to try and use more sustainable methods to manage the grass so this year we fenced the site and put our sheep in to graze for a week or so. Unfortunately the grass was already too long for them really, and they seem to like eating memorial flowers which is not overly popular as you might imagine.

Our next decision was to make hay.

Well, a few years back we bought some Austrian scythes, and have used them a lot- in fact my strimmer has not been used since purchasing the wonderful tool. So Tim (who is here with us for a year or so…) Adeon and myself launched ourselves at the grass with enthusiasm. Wow! hard work! The first bit of cutting was really wet, heavy and with the grass laying all over the place thanks to some bright spark putting sheep in to squash it down, was not a joyous process.

Things gradually got easier as the grass lost the water sitting on it, we peened our scythe blades and refined our mowing techniques. The weather got hotter, and hotter so we made a few dawn starts with the mowing (5am – too hot by 7am!)

hay3The Hay making was also something we got better at as time progressed. We also improved in the art of spreading the grass out which Ele, Elowen and Sesame (the little black lamb we’ve been looking after) all got involved with (apparently the machine they use is a tedder/fluffer, so could we say tedding?), windrowing, turning, and a process we called hoovering which involves either a rake or a pitch-fork placed at the top of a windrow, then racing down the row building up a pile of hay as you go, the movement a little like hoovering (apparently, whatever one of those is). Great fun!

hay6What does one do with nearly an acres worth volume of hay?

Well haystacks- or ‘ricks’ seemed worth a go so after a little research we mounded a load of hay up on a makeshift platform and send a small child or two up on top to bounce around and compact it.

We also decided to try making bales and pressed our worm bin into service as a former. Running strings down into the bin, we shoved as much hay as we could into the bin and stood on it. Tied up the strings and voila! a homemade hay bale. Tim streamlined his technique and was making one every 6 minutes…..hay2

We have mountains of hay now- and only 7 sheep (8 including Sesame) so though we’re not 100% sure on the logic we’ve decided on getting another 4 ewes to eat it all!!

In conclusion the process was labour intensive, but a lot of fun. Next year we hope to offer others to come and get involved- and intend to run a mini scything course. Please get in touch if you would be interested. Also please subscribe to this newsletter if you have not done so already….

 

Solar update

So, after a few teething problems (an airlocked panel- slight modification to include air bleed valve, and a pin-leak in one joint) The panels are heating our water!

YES!

Thought I would share the cost of the system too so people can decide if it’s worth it or not….

Excluding the roof itself (i.e the structure and polycarbonate roof sheets), the aluminium (reclaimed from our old mobile home), the other bits and bobs like gas/solder/flux… the plumbing bits cost a total of £170.

Quite a lot of time has gone into the fabrication and installation, and we already had the twin coil cylinder installed so this perhaps is not a true reflection of a retrofit system, but my feeling is that it will VERY QUICKLY repay the investment.

There is a point also I should make about this type of installation- it will not pass muster with building regs and SAP reports as it does not have HETAS approval or efficiency ratings, and is not installed by a qualified engineer- so clearly it’s not worth doing….? A rant for another day methinks!

Anyhow, hope you have found this interesting.

Till next random post….

Anthony

Solar heating- re-using our mobile home!

Hello and welcome to the newsletter once again.

As always things have been ticking along and lots of things happening here- not least because of our current (and long term….) volunteer Tim, who is young fit and enthusiastic, and has helped move us swiftly through a long list of tasks to the point where we actually feel like we might be ‘on top’ of things for a while.

Amongst these projects has been the Solar Water Heating panels.

Initially my thoughts were to purchase aluminium clip on solar fins from the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT)- these I have used before in the several systems I have built. On looking however I found they were no longer for sale. We eventually settled on a plan- since we had recovered the aluminium sheeting from the outer of our mobile home we would manufacture our own clip fins…..

After a few trial goes, we settled on a jig that worked, and wearing ear defenders proceeded to hammer out the slots in the cut rectangles of aluminium sheeting. We used a 15mm steel bar (from a well known on line auction site….) and the jig from scraps of wood and angle steel.

We used a Header/Footer and riser layout for the pipework- 22mm for the main Head/Foot and from panels to the cylinder, 15mm for the risers which the fins clip to….

After soldering each of the four panels up, we installed the fins using silicone to fill the small gap between fin and pipe (silicone conducts heat better than air…). A slap on of matt black paint, and we moved to the installation.

As those who have read earlier posts on the house blog site may recall, the outdoor kitchen roof pitch was set to get the best average summer sun, and our intention was to mount the panels into the rafters of the roof. This inevitably meant removing the polycarbonate roofing sheets, and drilling holes in perfectly good rafters…. a window of good weather was needed and we were lucky it happened just as we were ready to install.

tim installing the backing to a panel.
Tim installing the backing to a panel.

More soldering, lots of awkward ladder positions and messing about balancing on narrow bits of wood, and we had the panels in place. We backed them with more aluminium sheeting and insulated with the remains of our old futon mattress… hoarding things that ‘might be useful one day’ sometimes pays off!

The pipework to the cylinder was the next challenge- hindsight is a wonderful thing and it showed me that I should have left myself better access to the hot water cylinder- I had to cut a hole in the wall between Elowens’ room and the airing cupboard- messy and awkward, and has left me another thing to tidy up. Ah well!

Drilling through straw walls is interesting!

Without further minutae of detail suffice to say I managed to plumb the system in and solve the few small leaks in solder joints. The indications thus far are that all will work fine- but we have not had a good hot day to properly show this to be the case….. I will keep you updated.

As with any of these posts if you would like further information or to chat about stuff we have done get in touch.

Please pass the newsletter details on to anyone you think might be interested,

Click on the subscribe button in the menu above.