We have at the last minute decided to take this weather window as an opportunity to cut some, if not all of the burial site.
Many of the flowers have finished now, and one of the advantages of mowing by hand means we can be selective, so any that are still looking nice we will leave.
The grass we cut will all be made into hay for our sheep to eat next winter.
Please contact us if you have any questions, or indeed if you would like to come out and join us in the next few days and try your hand at scything. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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From snow blizzards to heat-waves, we’ve had it all since our last posting. The energy is high and new ideas are rapidly unfurling at Pentiddy. We were anticipating sitting back and enjoying the feeling of having completed the coppicing for the year but the land here had other ideas….and plenty of them!
So, yes, the Hazel coupe is all cut. Considering it was a first cut we weren’t sure what we’d get out of it but we’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much we’ve managed to sell and use. A wide variety of products have been extracted including hedging stakes and binders, pea sticks, bean poles, bale spikes for 2 straw bale houses and weavers for fencing. The rest will go for firewood and charcoal and the tops are being converted to biochar in Tim’s Oregon kiln or being chipped for use on paths and on beds in the forest garden. Duchy of Cornwall Nurseries and Goldenbank Nursery have been very keen to buy our local products to sell in their shops but sales will depend on the mark-up they put on them. Today we were making up sample batches of liggers, gads and spars to take up to the Guild of Master Thatchers to see if we can persuade them to use UK grown material instead of cheaper Polish imports.
The remaining weavers that we didn’t manage to sell are going towards re-building the walls of the roundhouse to replace the planks which were only ever intended to be temporary but have been in place for 10 years! The new walls will be wattle and lime. We will be opening this up as a community project from the 7th to the 11th of May. 11am – 5pm (sorry for the short notice!) Materials are being paid for by donations we’ve collected from people who have used the roundhouse over the last few years. If you would like to get involved please let us know so we can arrange tools etc. Please bring lunch to share. We hope to have a BBQ on the Saturday evening.
We managed to fit in some lengths of hedge-laying before the season ended. We laid West-country style on top of the hedge banks and South of England style on the new hedge by the house. Hannan and Ele have worked up a £10,000 grant application for work on re-building, repairing and laying lengths of hedge all round Pentiddy. If successful there will be plenty of opportunities for anyone wanting to come along and learn the skills involved.
It’s been a really busy start to the year in the burial site with some beautiful ceremonies and, with a bit of encouragement, an increasing number of families willing to take on more themselves rather than handing everything over to funeral directors. The wild-flower burial area is finally fenced and the sheep have been busy grazing in there. We are now ready to start looking at the rest of the process. The top soil that was removed from the area years ago is needing to find a new home. If you are interested in a large quantity of top soil then please get in touch so we can discuss logistics.
The sheep have been sheared mostly by Tim this year following on from a blade shearing day we attended at Fernhill Farm near Bristol. There’s a lot to it and it will take quite a bit of practice to get it down to 3 minutes per sheep but Tim’s determined. I now have some more fleeces ready for shroud making. Our first lamb was born on Easter day but no more yet so we’re not sure what’s happening there.
From one sharp tool to another, the scything has begun! Kevin Austin of Skygrove hosted a peening day to help us all to get our blades hammered out and sharpened up ready for hay-making. We picked up plenty of tips from the expert. We will be working with him and others as a mowing team over the Summer so if you have fields that need mowing let us know! If you’re interested in getting involved at hay-making time then get in touch and we’ll keep you posted- or keep an eye on our events calendar.
The Community Woodland work days were staggeringly well attended this year. Many thanks to all of you who leant a hand and a good vibe to the days. There are large quantities of top quality firewood available and more to come over the next few years as Ash Die-back has well-and-truly hit. We have purchased a new trailer for the car so we can now deliver 1m³ loads for £120.
The last few weekends have seen us attending 3 really interesting meetings relating to getting more happening in Cornwall regarding sustainable land use and community building. The first was the Land Workers Alliance’s first South West regional meeting. This was a very well attended and inspiring weekend with some very good networking amongst other land workers and policy makers. It also included the opportunity to look around the various projects based on the Dartington Estate of which there are many from forest gardens to CSA schemes and field-scale permaculture designs. We have returned with renewed enthusiasm for my budding forest garden which is really starting to come together. We’re now thinking of setting up a Liskeard area land workers group – watch this space!
We also attended the Cornwall Coppice Group meeting at Devichoys Woods where Tom Kemp has been coppicing. He and Nick Jarvis have started a community supported firewood project which also encourages volunteers to get involved in sustainable woodland management. This was on the same weekend as the Cornwall ‘Village building’ Art of Mentoring event designed to connect together those wanting to look at ways to create more holistic communities throughout Cornwall and sharing ideas on how to achieve this. We’re following this up by going along to the Nature Culture Regeneration weekend in May on Dartmoor. We’ll report back…….
We are set for a great season with a solid team; Tim, Hannan, Esme with Tom as a new addition this week. We are also currently interviewing for the Internship for October and have some very promising candidates.
Tim is taking on increasing levels of responsibility and we’re trying to balance that by offering him the management of areas of coppice and mature woodland for him to try out some of his many masterplans. Since putting him through his chainsaw training last year, the weight of all the felling and processing of timber has been lifted from Anthony who is enjoying returning at last to crafting and teaching. The second Hazel chair course took place earlier this month and produced some great furniture. More courses will be offered in the Autumn to include post and rung stools and a full chair-making course.
We have the following products for sale- please contact us if you are interested in anything listed below;
Firewood– 1m³ – £120 – green ash, alder or mix- ringed/split – buy now and it will be ready for the winter… delivery free within a 10mile radius. Charcoal – sustainable top quality locally produced hardwood barbecue charcoal – 5kg bag – £7.50 Biochar – 40l bag £20 Top soil – call us do discuss…
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
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…
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…
“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
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.
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…
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…!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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
Making hay from the burial site with Scythes, rakes, forks and sweat!
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!)
The 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!
What 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…..
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….
A diverse Permaculture project in South East Cornwall, UK