Here at Riverside everything is linked in some way, in order to benefit another thing. I work with nature as best I can.
Here are a few examples,
All kitchen/organic waste goes to the compost bins here..I compost tea bags, coffee grounds, paper, cardboard, veg/fruit peelings, weeds, animal bedding, manure, leaves, grass, feathers, dust, hair, wood ash, straw, hay,……to name just a few… which in turn turns into dark, crumbly, nutrient rich compost and feeds the soil here and enables my plants to grow strong and healthy. My rule: If it decomposes, it goes in the compost bins.
Washing is washed without soap powders ( I use wash balls) and it is dried outside on the line when the weather permits or inside by the woodstove when the weather is wet. This means no harsh detergents enter the water system from my cottage and I also have no need for a tumble drier, which saves a lot of energy. I allow the free wood I gather to do the job or better still the sunshine and wind does it..and oh how lovely and fresh, washing dried on the line smells!
Bee and other pollinator attracting flowers are grown from seed here at Riverside ( it is the cheapest option when you are on a very tight budget like me) and then when they are big enough they are planted all over the place here. Our native bees REALLY need all the help they can get at the moment as they are in steady decline due to habitat loss, the dastardly varroa mite and of course they have to cope with toxic pesticide use. Neonicotinoids are particularly toxic to them!
I especially like to plant out lots of borage ( a firm bee favourite) , and other blue flowers too, like phacelia and cornflowers , as bees are especially attracted to flowers on the blue/ purple /lilac end of the spectrum.
Rainwater is collected in waterbutts, which provides the greenhouse, veg beds and livestock with water. It is also used to top up the wildlife pond if the level drops in Summer. It makes it easy and convenient to provide fresh water for my livestock, as the water storage barrels are situated outside their housing and one is attached to the greenhouse.
Woody / fibrous prunings and trimmings are piled up, as habitat for wildlife, in tucked away corners, which in turn allow things like hedgehogs and toads to survive, hibernate and breed here and in turn they feed on any pest species like slugs and snails, which then allows my leafy greens to grow un-nibbled. I am very grateful for all the good they do.
Nest boxes are put up everywhere at Riverside, which helps encourage a diverse range of birds to stay here, which then breed and feed on any caterpillars and other creepy crawlies that may pose a potential problem to crops I grow. I also have bat boxes set up and the bats that live here feast on midges and mosquitoes, which is fantastic, as we live next to a river, where an abundance of midges/ mosquitoes and gnats tend to congregate. Although the wild rainbow trout and brown trout eat their fair share too, as do the swallows and house martins. I have bug and bee boxes here too. There is room for everyone .
I use wood to heat our home and our water in the cottage, which in turn makes use of waste, unwanted and foraged wood. It is cheap (mostly free), efficient, welcoming to come indoors to after a hard day outside in the cold, smells lovely, can be used to cook on and rise bread dough etc… and the wood pile is also home to beetles and other critters. There is nothing as warming as the glow of a real fire.
I leave areas of the garden ‘wild’ and sow wildflower seeds here and there wherever I can… and I allow nettles, meadowsweet and horseradish etc to grow wild. This encourages more biodiversity and encourages yet more wildlife to make their homes here and again this tends to sort out any pest problems that may occur in the veg garden. I also get free ‘wild food’ from many of the native plants that grow here.
I plant trees. Native varieties , any free saplings I find or that neighbours are discarding from their gardens…and some fruit/ nut bearing trees. As many as I can afford to buy or find for free. I accept that may not even be here to see many of them reach maturity, (this is a rented cottage) but I plant them nonetheless as I want to leave something positive behind me when I leave, for nature and for future generations to benefit from..and regardless, they pay me back in so many ways..either with fruit/ nuts/ berries, their beauty/aesthetics, welcome shade in Summer, their ecosystems/wildlife habitats, their deep-rooted connection to the earth and all that is truly important in my life. I LOVE trees.
I cut the ‘lawns’ here with a little push-mower..No big petrol mower. I gave mine away. The manual mower works fine, doesn’t take the grass too short, so leaves daisies, bugle, vetch and dandelion flowers in place for the bees to forage on… and is not much more work than a petrol mower and of course no oil based fuel is required!! So much quieter too!
I keep my grazing animals (goats, geese, ponies and hens etc ) on a small scale rotation system..with electric fenced mini paddocks, that are moved regularly when they have eaten down an area, and then the fences are re-erected on fresh ungrazed ground …with the geese following the goats, and the hens following after the geese .and so on…The ponies are strip grazed on some rented land in the next village and that enables me to control their calorie intake and prevent any flare ups of laminitis (a problem that many native breeds can so easily suffer from on rich pasture).
This small scale rotation method enables the land to be used efficiently and it also enables me to rest areas for months at a time to break the worm cycle and prevent over grazing. The mixed species grazing also helps break any worm cycle that may be present. It therefore reduces the need for chemical wormers and enables the land to support a wider range of animals. It also uses up odd corners and uneven land , like the steeply sloped riverbank. The animals can also be used to clear areas of unmanaged / wild land and of course they fertilise it as they do so. Hens and ducks do a particularly good job of removing grubs like leatherjackets etc from uncultivated land in preparation for planting out vegetables.
The milk I get from my dairy goats provides us not only with pints of fresh creamy milk for tea/cooking etc but also with cheese. I make cottage, cream and hard cheeses and I also use kefir cheese a lot in my diet. One of my dogs is on a special diet and kefir cheese and cottage cheese are one of the ingredients he is allowed in his weekly ration. I’d love to make goat’s milk butter too but unfortunately I cannot afford a cream separator just yet, so I am being patient and enjoying making cheeses and yoghurts for now.
My poultry provide us with eggs..and lots of them!!!.. Goose, hen and quail eggs.. Ideal to barter with and they form a major part of our diet here at Riverside, as they are used in various recipes from frittatas and quiches to egg custards and ice creams.
I make LOTS of compost and use a no dig method in my veg garden..I simply add new organic matter/ compost/ leaf mould/ well-rotted manure etc to every veg bed each year..usually in Autumn as each bed is harvested and emptied…. and I simply plant into that in Spring.
I use fresh rotting manure to form a ‘hot bed’ in my tiny greenhouse which enables me to germinate seeds that require some base heat. I do not own a heated propagator..It is another thing on my wish list. The hot bed seems to work ok for now and I am sure I can improve on the basic setup I have atm. It has helped but is not quite as efficient as I had hoped, so I need to look at ways to improve on it. Deeper beds of hot fresh manure encased more securely with solid walls and maybe with a glass lid to keep the heat in better. We shall, see what I can rustle up with junk I find this year. I look forward to experimenting.
I accept that some losses will be had on the growing front and that some fruit and veg will be eaten or attacked by pests even here with all the permaculture friendly wildlife working hard to eat the ‘nasties’…..I plant extra plants out to accommodate for this and try to keep everything in perspective and not get too hung up about losing a few plants here and there. After all I do not live here alone, I share this place with LOTS of other species. ……and that is how it should be.
I refuse to use any chemicals, pesticides, fungicides, insecticides…no slug pellets will EVER be used here no matter how many plants I lose. I love my hedgehogs and birds and toads etc too much to risk poisoning them.
I don’t own a car. I share lifts /car share when necessary but I walk a lot and use a bike ( actually an electric/manual pedal tricycle with two big baskets.. The rear basket is big enough for my daughter to ride in! ) and occasionally my ponies and trap get used to get us about.
This of course means I do have to plan far more to get about beyond my village, but it also prevents spur of the moment unnecessary trips to the shops etc and therefore saves money as I am not apt to make impulse purchases. I tend to be more organised because of it!
I know I still have plenty of room for improvement. I buy my electricity from Good Energy , which is a 100% renewable energy provider but it is my dream to be off grid eventually and use solar and wind power to provide all my energy needs…and there are lots of other ways I could improve on my setup here…I am working on it!
I live without live TV ( no SKY tv, no regular channels, nothing, only a basic dvd and video player to play our ageing and mostly documentary collection ), no dishwasher, or microwave, or car, or holidays abroad, hardly any new clothes (except for new undies), I buy clothes from eBay or charity shops, I cut my own hair, I have stopped dyeing it, I rear my own replacement livestock, I barter for lots of wonderful things that I cannot produce myself, I have taught myself to knit , sew, crochet albeit on a basic level and am working on learning how to weave. I home educate my wonderful daughter. I bake my own bread, make kefir water, kefir cheese, kefir milk kombucha tea, wines and other boozy goodies, other cheeses, yoghurt, cakes and cookies. I have a hive and although I sadly lost my bee colony last Winter, I live in hope of catching another swarm ..
I am always happy to hear from my readers as to how I can improve on my micro holding system, so please don’t be shy. Suggestions, ideas and inspiration are truly welcomed
Thank you for reading.