Sunday, March 04, 2007

Part 2, The Sequel of our blog for short, cold and wet days when life seems to be less about going outside planting and digging and more about staying inside and reading all about it—last time our top ten books and this time some good blogs that might interest you. But first, a little about the 157 trees we’ve just bought (see photo). If you look back at my blog of February 21st, you’ll see that we now have a cunning plan for the woods but theory and practice can often be very different things. I sometimes (all too often!) think my enthusiasm (impetuosity) is an affliction and the prospect of 150-odd trees arriving soon while I was desperately trying to clearfell 1200 square metres (1/3 acre) of 15-year-old sycamores was yet another avoidable stress. On the other hand, that impetuosity (sorry, enthusiasm) can at least make things happen, otherwise I think one can often never get beyond the planning stage as there is always something else to consider before a decision is taken. As tiddly little saplings, they don’t represent a huge financial outlay, so any “mistake” wouldn’t be too much of an issue. And me ordering them has thrown into focus issues such as timing, a sort of learning one can only really assimilate by experience I suppose. And sometimes, having had experience of something, when one re-reads instructions, a deeper understanding is possible. For us, it’s illustrated that we need to start putting next winter’s cutting and planting into the diary, so as to not get caught out. Little bare-rooted saplings are best planted in November/December, to let their roots get established before the demands of spring. Cutting needs to be done in the middle of winter, when all the leaves have fallen and the energy of a deciduous tree is down in the roots. November was very mild, I’d barely finished my barn re-roofing and I’d planned to cut in January/February and then spring arrived early and primroses started to flower and sap started rising whilst still in February.

And so to our recommended blogs, in no particular order: First up, try Steve’s blog recounting life and permaculture at Chickenshack, a housing co-op based in North Wales. He is very knowledgeable, and has a lot of experience in permaculture, in fact they’re running a full Permaculture Design Course this year in May. He is also helping children build forest gardens in schools and if you look at the links on the right hand side of his blog and click on “RISC rooftop forest garden” (5th one down) you can read all about an incredible urban edible rooftop garden he helped to grow. For a different perspective from across the Atlantic, try Jenny’s Trailer Park Girl blog. She teaches permaculture at Texas’ Ecoversity and she’s also has a talent for finding interesting odd little websites tucked away on the Internet, for example, this site for some really small houses. Also in the US is Monica’s Small Meadow Farm blog with tales of running a small organic farm. Another smallholding, this time in Somerset, England: our friend Val’s blog. She has over 20 years experience of being a smallholder and currently has a flock of 50 sheep and an inventive wool business. A friend of Val’s also in Somerset with a different perspective on things is Neil’s blog, a Londoner who’s moved with his family to the countryside to set up a smallholding and the UK’s first organic halal business. And last but not least, a newcomer to blogging, Liz’s tales of running an allotment in Manchester, England.

All of these are well-written and full of interesting tales and information, plenty to keep you occupied if it's too cold and wet to go outside and inspire you to do something when the sun shines! Next blog will be a guest blog by Val, to give you an experienced smallholder’s view on permaculture.