Trying to use permaculture principles on my plot and in my home.

Here at Riverside everything is linked in some way, in order to benefit another thing. I work with nature as best I can.

Image

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.

Image

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!

Image

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.

Image

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 .

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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!

Image

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).

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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!

Image

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.

Blessings x

These hands…..

Plunged wrist deep in damp compost. Stirring in dry gritty sand. Turning and tipping, patting and mixing. My hands provide the medium for my seeds to grow in. The ingrained soil stains the tiny creases in my skin, like rivers marked on a map and it leaves them looking well-worn, like sun-bleached driftwood….the grain showing through. These hands have the patina that comes with age and heavy use outdoors. I like it.

Delicate lifting, seedling transplanting, caterpillar picking and ladybird gazing . Like fine tweezers, they serve me, but strength they provide me. Plunging fork or spade into soil. My hands, my most important tools. These hands, my gardening friends.

Gently compressing an udder. Rhythmic gentle pressure, from one pink freshly washed finger to another, as the thumb and base of forefinger act as valve. Gentle clamping and squeezing. Finger muscles working in unison. A wave-like motion. Smoothly and calmly, as frothing and creamy. These hands extract the milk.

Mixing and stirring, thumping and rolling. Knuckles are needed… for kneading the dough. These hands help produce our daily bread and a way to de-stress.

Lifting and carrying, chopping and sawing, stacking and fetching, lighting and poking. These hands prepare the firewood and tend the wood-stove, that warms my home, my water and my heart.

Tender forehead caressing, tight squeezy hugging, proud and jokey back patting, waving and clapping and secure hand holding. My hands show their love and appreciation to my children and loved ones. These hands never run out of love.

Delicate gathering, placing and carrying. Eggs from geese, hens and quail, are carried indoors to the kitchen. Doors are opened. Full baskets are lifted and into a frying pan, a porcelain shelled nut-brown egg is cracked….neatly in half….just right!  These hands provide the means to gather and cook our meals.

Sweeping and scrubbing, rub a dub dubbing, wiping and hosing with buckets of bubbles , mopping away, your dirt and your troubles. These hands clean the dirt that comes from a life spent outdoors.

Cleaning and washing, wringing and hanging, folding and ironing (although that I do rarely). Piling up, neat stacking, clean linen, fresh smelling. These hands, they allow me to be clothed in fresh fabric, keep my home tidy and bring sunshine inside.

Holding reins, as we trot along lanes, across fields, the wind on your face, carriage wheels turning, you feel every bump and steady the pace, no need to race.  Deep pressure on brush, as you groom away the dried sweat from a morning of traveller’s joy, with the sun on your backs, the smell of horse on your hands and in your head forever more. These hands care for the animals that take me places and make my heart sing.

Holding pen or pencil, crochet hook or knitting needle, typing letter or story, threading cotton through needle, mending and make doing! My hands they communicate and cooperate, confidently, they earn my keep and keep the wolf from the door ………as I attempt self-sufficiency. They try their best and that is all I ever ask of them. I can’t ask for more .

These hands…..

 Image

This was a video I made three or four years ago.

Working towards self sufficiency in my new cottage and garden, soon after I moved in. I started from scratch again as the garden was overgrown and full of building materials. Some ideas to inspire you.

The heart of a home. Love and a log fire.

Well my daughter and I are finally over the nasty virus that laid us up for almost a fortnight. Thank you for all the lovely get well wishes. I have caught up with all my jobs…..at last. Hurrah! Happy me.

Hannah is back on track and is starting a new entomology project, so please feel free to link to any useful resources that may be of use to an insect mad ten-year old 🙂

My heavily pregnant goat, Tansy, is now settled in her newly washed out and disinfected kidding pen. Her sister, Marigold, is settled in the pen next door, so they can still see each other. I have the kidding kit ready by the back door. It includes a bright torch, lamb reviver (they don’t seem to do one specifically for goat kids), emergency colostrum/ milk replacer, bottle, syringe and tube, lambing ropes, lubricant, iodine, towels etc……and a hip flask with a small drop of whisky in…….but that’s for me! 😉

Fingers crossed when the time comes it all goes smoothly. This is her first kidding . I am currently doing a late night check on her and her sister, who is not due to kid until June, every evening, before I go to bed. I remove Tansy’s water bucket overnight,  just in case she manages to drop a kid in it, even though it is raised in a bucket holder. Better safe than sorry. Then I check her again at 1:00 am, again at 4:30 am, then again first thing in the morning. I drag myself out of bed on hearing my alarm go off, put on a thick towelling robe over  the top of my jim-jams and push on my old faithful welly boots and  sleepily plod across the garden to the girl’s sheds, torch in hand, to quietly peek in and see if anything is happening.  Then I head straight back to bed (removing the wellies first!) and set the alarm for 3 hrs time. I must say that I love my sleep and getting up in the middle of the night is not my idea of fun…….but somehow when you have animals due to give birth it doesn’t bother you at all.

Her ‘official’ due date is March 6th but they can kid a week either side of that date. Hence me being prepared 🙂

You can click on any photo on my blog to enlarge it.

182187_4393747160429_1870810326_n

The girls, Marigold and Tansy.

On a less bright note:

I have had a bit of upset with a ‘neighbour’ that lives in the next lane in the village.  She arrived at my door in a foul mood and promptly went about telling me in a very abrupt manner, how my geese were on HER land and she wasn’t putting up with them or their poop on her property.

I must add that my tiny property here is bordered by a river along one boundary and my three geese are indeed loose on this river all day as I cannot afford to fence the entire river off  and they had managed to get across to the other side of the river, climb up the steep riverbank and onto the farmland that this lady owns and had then travelled through her farmyard onto the lane where this lady lives.  She was VERY angry with me. I apologised profusely.
What she hadn’t waited to hear, before getting cross  with me, was that I had been out looking for them all day. Even though they live semi wild here on the river, I do in fact feed them every single day in my garden. I missed them  instantly that morning as they never arrived for their breakfast and after hours looking for them I had come to the conclusion that they had been either stolen or being caught by a fox.  I had no idea they had travelled so far!
I would never intentionally allow my geese on another person’s property. I felt awful. I do not cope at all well with confrontation and it really upset me.
This lady then insisted that they had to be put in her neighbours paddock with her geese as that was PROPERLY fenced in 😦   So it appeared that I had inadvertently lost my beloved geese.  I cried my eyes out when she left.

However my son then arrived to collect his dog Chester (I look after Chester a few days each week ) and my son insisted that we go find the geese and get them back and that he would help me construct an escape proof run for them to prevent further problems.  So off he went and back we  all came some time later carrying three full-grown Embden and Pilgrim geese in a huge crate!  They were VERY heavy!

My son is my hero!

But I am incredibly sad that this means they are no longer allowed to swim on the river. It seems such a shame. They loved it  so much. If they seem unhappy I will have to consider re-homing them 😦

The geese on the river..click to enlarge photos

geeeeese

geeeese2

The week has since got a bit better.

Our new rescue dog, Peaches, has finally mastered walking on the lead. She used to just collapse and lay on her back when we put a lead on her. She didn’t seem to have a clue what she was supposed to do. But she  has learnt very quickly! The other dogs helped loads and she eventually followed them and got to grips with the whole going for a walk thing.  She also had some fun ‘off lead’ time with the other dogs in a nearby field and she had great recall! I am thrilled with her progress. She is gaining more and more confidence each day. She fits in here perfectly.  She is so willing to learn and so well-behaved. We love her to bits already. The other dogs seem to love her too x

SAM_3409A pile of pooches

On another high note:

My chimney has FINALLY been rebuilt, after many difficulties fitting the chimney liner. My wood stove has been reconnected to the chimney, a new chimney stack has been built up on the roof and a new cowling fitted on the pot at the top. I have heat and hot water once again! It feels like home again. Hurrah! A real fire really is the heart of my home.

SAM_3483

It really has been a lovely week ( despite the earlier upset) My daughter received a surprise parcel in the post from a lovely friend of mine this week  and one of the items was a beautiful apron. I love it so much.  My daughter  plans to wear it when she bakes shortbread this week. I want one in my size 😉

SAM_3493
I am so grateful for all the wonderful things in my life and for the ability to ride the waves when things get tough (which they inevitably seem to do) and I am so thankful for all my amazing friends and my fabulous family, who love and support me  and accept my eccentricities 😉

Thank you all xxxx

SAM_3461Bumblebee says “Hello”

…..and right on cue to top the evening off with yet more loveliness the sky painted a beautiful picture for me tonight. I took a photo. Enjoy! xx

Red sky at night……..Goatkeeper’s delight 😉

redsky

Goodnight x