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The new polytunnel

At last the unbelievably huge tunnel is up and skinned.

It is as amazing and we were working against the clock all last week to get the frame up so it could be skinned. If it hadn’t been for our amazing Woofer, Hanne, who worked above and beyond, it might not have ever got finished in time.

She swung from the bars applying the hot spot tape right up to the last minute.

Then …. the amazing Nick and Caroline turned up at 08.00 to skin it all. It was amazing to see professionals at work.

Now…I’ve got somewhere to hang my washing when it’s raining…

Torn between growing trees in it or turning it into a banqueting hall. How about themed nights? Roman, Medevil, middle eastern?

Look out for a web page. Decided it is time.

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Biochar

We have just bagged up our first lot of biochar ready for Wivey Farmer’sMarket.

Biochar is high quality charcoal that has been finely ground.

We make it in our ring kilns, and it is produced in the same way as our barbecue charcoal, from wood produced as a result of sustainable woodland management.

It can be added to compost or any growing medium or dug into the soil at a depth of 30cm to improve the quality of the soil, therefore increasing crop yields.

Biochar traps carbon for thousands of years.
It has a molecular structure that retains moisture and nutrients, which are then slowly released into the soil.

It is completely organic, and made from renewable sources, providing a great replacement for peat based composts, and 100% organic.

We had a really successful burn, which was just as well as we had loads of orders to go out before the weekend.

Charcoal burning is a mixture of alchemy, pure science and dare I say luck. It is awaiting game. So much effort in processing the wood and loading the kiln. So much time and valuable timber invested, so many times checking the burn through the day and night,and you don’t truly know how successful it has all been until you open the kiln twenty four hours after shutting it down. Far more nerve racking than baking a cake!

The unloading of the kiln and bagging up is far less onerous now that we have hot water. It was really horrid, getting charcoal dust ingrained everywhere.It really can get everywhere and is so fine that is seems to penetrate whatever clothing you are wearing. Sluicing ourselves down with water from the kettle wasn’t really very satisfactory, but now we have a working shower it feels like blooming luxury.

These are the very last of the stumps being burnt, at last. It is only about three years since they were dug up. The huge pile did get smaller but they were always looming over us. They looked like the remnants of some huge, ancient pachyderms that may have thundered over the earth millions of years ago.

I am not sorry to see them gone and the conflagration lasted three days and was quite impressive, as the stumps where so dry after these amazing summer months we have been enjoying. Even up here at Heydon Hill Wood, over 1000 feet up, it has been too hot to work unless in the shade after midday. That is incredible for us, when usually we are at least three degrees cooler than down the hill. Often we have gone down the hill of a summer evening in sweaters,socks, and fleeces to find everyone else in t.shirts, shorts and summer frocks. Not this year though. Lovely… perfect for cooking and eating outside. Barbecue anyone?

Poly tunnel

At last we have started to erect our enourmous poly tunnel. Lessons of the day. Always read the instruction before you start.Always read the next step before you start the first. Still, looking good.

Burning Issues

Did you know that the UK is barbecue capital of Europe?Over 120 million barbecues every year!
We import around 90% of the 60,000 tons of charcoal we cook our food on.
Most of the imported charcoal comes from Namibia, where it is produced by workers in poor conditions, shipped over 5,000 miles across the Atlantic, taking 5 weeks to get to the UK.
Often it is soaked in precious water to stop it catching light in the ships hold, using more energy to re dry it before packaging it to sell in the UK, a country that is not short of wood fuel of it’s own.
A ton of British charcoal, wholesale,will cost around £1,400, compared to a ton from Namibia, which will cost about £90.
Hardly any of that money will go to the Namibian charcoal burners, most goes to the supermarket chain.
When you buy a bag of British Charcoal you are supporting low tech woodland managers, as the 5000 tons of charcoal produced in this country is a by product of good healthy management of woodlands.
Think not only of food miles but fuel miles.

With acknowledgement and thanks to Olly Craigan for his article in The Land, Issue 24

Homesteading

Homesteading

The homestead is growing, and so are the pigs.

Now in their 13th week and I am determined not to get attached to them, but after 3 weeks in the piggy heaven that has been made for them( in the prime spot in the wood), they are getting friendlier and friendlier.

I suffer no illusions. They know who provides piggy delights to eat twice a day.

Then came the kittens to provide even more hours of amusement and distraction

They are almost too cute to be bearable. We were hoping they would be outdoors, ratting and mousing, but hey…. How can anyone resist them on your lap, purring.?

Then came the chickens.Four rather beautiful ones too. Also given a prime spot in the wood.chicken heaven.