A bit of a contrast to the weather in early July. We have been working around incredible rain storms for the past month or so which has made it tricky to get stuck into any one thing. Also various members of the team have been away during the Summer – Anthony running a workshop for Wildwise on their Family Camp, Ele’s parents’ Golden wedding celebrations, the children on circus and scout camps, music residentials and holidays and Tim has been away WWOOFing in Dorset learning about running a micro-dairy. Many of the original house-build team have been back for their annual visit and we’ve had a steady influx of other volunteers. Not a settled month of weather or personnel and definitely not dull!
The garden has had it’s best season ever with every inch under successful cultivation and very healthy crops. We put it down to the inspirational teachings of Ele’s latest Guru – Charles Dowding and his No-Dig Gardening. Ele was lucky enough to hear a talk from Charles at the Scythe Fair this year and has since bought one of his books. Hoeing is now a much more regular thing so there is far less slug habitat and there are mountains of compost being made around the site ready for a thick layer on each bed this Autumn. Successional cropping has also been better planned to make use of space and time gaps. The other aid to the garden has been the ducklings who have been brought up to forage for slugs and are learning to come to a whistle when we find slugs hiding.
The abundance of crops has meant that lots needs preserving and we are trying to learn to do this without using a freezer. The shelves in the kitchen (now officially more than full!) are stacked with jams, compotes, chutneys, cordials, wines, pickles, dried mushrooms and herbs. Our increased interest in aiming for a diet closer to that of our ancient ancestors has led us to experiment with various forms of fermenting so we also have saurkrauts, kombucha, ginger beer and sourdough bubbling away. Ele’s been clearing out the garden seed box and is sprouting all the excess home-saved kale and mustard seeds for sprouted greens which is a really tasty way to end the planting season.There is nothing more satisfying than a full larder and we’re learning so many interesting things in the process.
The solar shower/compost bay/tool store/potting shed structure is moving along slowly. Tim’s dedication to the project was proved when, within 5 minutes of running out of fibre for the lime mix, he had shaved his head and added his hair to the mix! It’s looking like it will all be fully functioning in time for next growing season. Can’t wait!
There is a mountain of firewood for sale either Ash from the Community Woodland or Chestnut from the coppice. Long lengths £80/load, ringed and split £120/load delivered. We also have nets of kindling £3.50 each and small hand-made bales of organic hay £3 each. We’re taking orders now….. and as always we are happy to discuss exchanges other than monetary!
There are still a couple of places available on the bent hazel chair course in November please see the Calendar tab or click here for more details.
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
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
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
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.
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!
A diverse Permaculture project in South East Cornwall, UK