Friday, 19 December 2014

Local Support

A while ago,  Neil went into Roses in Devizes to spec out a rotavator with a bit more va-voom than dear old Great Uncle Bulgaria.

The old garden as well as the newer plot earmarked for the CSA garden needed turning over. While I am a fan of no dig gardening in its place, and I certainly hope in time this will become its place, right now we need to turn the soil to open it up, let it breathe and hold up the potential erosion from running water which was what finished it off before.

He got talking to the hire department manager. Here is truth we have learned. Often, if you talk with honesty and belief about the things you dream of doing, unexpected blessings appear in your life. On this occasion, our fabulous local ironmonger, hardware store, tool hire place and so much more, calmly offered to try out a new bit of kit on our land, for free! A shiny new machine for just such a job had just been added to the repertoire, and on hearing about our aims to work in and with the community, we were offered the trial run.


With thanks to the wonderful Trevor who came over and gave us the induction programme.

It's a pretty day, is that, as you can see from the photos. However, it was bitter cold and it took a while but Neil manfully turned over both the old garden, and the new, and now it looks like this




and that, my friends, is intimidating.

I don't know if I am unusual but nothing excites me quite like dug earth, all fresh and promising and ready to be nursed, nurtured, planted and tended, to produce a crop.

This cultivating - together with a new swale/ditch dug a few days later - has held up the water over the plot, aerated it, and given the whole a chance to breathe and begin again.

But boy, it looks like a big plot.

We're once again registered as WWOOF hosts, and have already taken a couple of enquiries. Come spring, we'd love to see some local WWOOFers pitching in, and of course we especially want CSA members to come and help us keep on top of this wonderful space.

I am so thankful that after several years of struggle, we are back in business and raring to go. Although the rain is still coming down in sheets, and the springs are running, so far the garden looks OK. We do have standing water in some other areas, which we are going to have to incorporate into the design as seasonal wetlands. Thinking cap on.

Paradoxically perhaps,  as a Christian family, one of our big days of the year is Winter Solstice. This year it falls on Sunday - a bare two days away.  For us, having worked so long and hard on the land, having livestock to keep, and hearths to tend, the turn of the year is a very important day indeed.

This year it feels especially important. I don't feel so cast down by this winter, I am so excited to begin again.

Just take a look at that expanse of earth. You know I am going to need help, right? What's holding you back?!


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Small is Successful

Very nearly four years ago (can it be so very long, long ago?) when I did my PDC with the legend that is Patrick Whitefield we discussed the viability of small projects, holdings of limited size - by today's standards possibly even micro  holdings - run on sustainable principles.

The big question was - could it be made to pay?

Well, the answer was found in a document Patrick shared with us then and which has provided much inspiration since.

The Ecological Land Co-operative commissioned the report, but for unknown reasons, you can't download it there now. However I have found a download here.

I'm re reading it now, as we prepare - as soon as midwinter passes - to rebuild the market garden and welcome local people.  School students, as well as volunteers and CSA Members will be part of something small, successful and above all local.

You can see short videos of others survivors and thrivers on the land, at LivingInTheFuture.

If you're inspired by the ideas you find, contact us and consider joining the CSA, coming along to volunteer, and taking part in the transformation at Chestnuts.