Tag Archives: Hay making

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

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….