Tag Archives: Natural Living

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….!

 

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.