Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

We have a tractor for our woods (Yeaaa)

We have found a nice little tractor for our wood, an ancient Leyland 154 dinky little thing but it seems to do the job (of towing tree trunks out of our wood)  Still work is suspended now while it is snowy.  We are appreciating our good supply of logs in this frosty weather.  We have decided to start selling bags of logs with a sign on our gate we wait with interest for our first customer.
Rosie is pictured trying out her tractor driving skills.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Good use for old doors!

Here is a picture of the small greenhouse just finished from 2 doubleglazed doors someon gave me.  Planted up with Feltham First peas and carrots.
A sunflower makes a useful tool rack!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Green woodworking Day

Sun, sun, sun all the way on our Green Woodworking day yesterday.  All 5 participants worked nonstop on the shavehorses and pole laiths to produce dibbers, stools, mallets, and shave horses etc.  See the pictures for the happy crew.  Many thanks to Robin and Vanessa for a great day!

Friday, October 22, 2010

First frost

This years first frost on Wednesday night - .5 degrees .  I had harvested the squashes and out door tomatoes (those that hadn't been blighted!) and fleeced the outdoor peppers and (partly) fleeced the runner beans.  The beans seem to have survived well, half the nasturtiums survived (i cant see why some caught the frost and some didn't!  ) I planted onions and garlic and prepared the soil for planting broad beans next week.  last year I planted the broad beans too early (early October) and many didn't survive the hard winter. I hope to have better results this year.  Working today in the woodland preparing for the Green Woodworking workshop on Sunday.  Starting to coppice 40 year old chestnuts which gives us a chance to harvest the nuts before the squirrels get them!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fun with fungas!

A  great couple of days fungus hunting; Two bags full on both days and consumed deliciously with the surplus put to dry in the solar dryer.  On the walk on Saturday we saw a pair of Marsh Harriers, a sparrowhawk, three hares, voles and a weasel.  We also picked a large bag of blackberries (late but still good!)

With Rebecca & Steffen our WOOFers

Friday, October 15, 2010

Processing chestnuts?

We have had a good harvest of nuts this year, almonds, walnuts and chestnuts.  Has anyone any good techniques for processing chestnuts - removing their inner skins etc?  The warmer weather in October has given us a boost in the vegetable garden with runner beans particularly having a new lease of life.  The bees to have been very active, working on ivy flowers for nectar and Hawkweed for pollen (I guess).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Autumn Sowing

I am well into my autumn sowing now.  Have sowed 8 different salads in the polytunnel, carrots and Feltham First pea, outside have sowed onion seed.  At the end of the month I will put in broad beans, onion and garlic sets.  I have just bought two great books, The Winter Harvest handbook by Eliot Coleman and Small Scale grain raising by Gene Logsdon both American books I am afraid but still full of good relevant information.  last night we went to a Food Day at old hall community, we traded some seeds for apples watched some interesting films from the transition group at Wivenhoe which were powered by two bicycles (I took my turn peddling!) and had a delicious meal provided by the community from the food grown on site.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Green Woodworking workshop in Essex 24th October

Last few places left on our workshop in our 8 acre wood in October, contact me for details see http://www.ecodiy.org/green%20woodworking.htm

Taking my life in my hands!

yes, I have lived through the night!  After going on a Fungal Foray last week (42 species found only one edible!) I have started eating the autumn fungus the total so far:  Field Parasols, ink-caps, horse mushrooms (by the side of the road!) All after a ridiculous amount of time looking at books and pictures on the Internet - perhaps not an economic success but very satisfying (and delicious) anyway.

Horse mushrooms

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Harvest time in full swing

We are busy harvesting and processing to have food to eat in the winter months.  This year there are amazing blackberries and we are cooking them with (traded) windfall apples to make jam and crumble fillings to freeze. yesterday we harvested the Almond and walnuts (yes we beat the squirrels this year!) see photo for harvesting with a rake tied to a long pole!  We gathered about one and a half three gallon buckets of walnuts (a good harvest) in their green overcoats.  Also busy processing seeds; Spinach and spinach beet, rocket, lettuce, melon, leek and onion,celeriac and celery, beetroot (red and white). Busy, busy,  busy!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Summer Roundup

Here at last is a (rather guilty) post.  Somehow the summer has gone by in a flash without my making the time to catch up, sorry.
This has been a good productive year in the garden and with the bees.  Three months of drought in the main part of the summer led to my spending an hour a day watering the vegetable plot from the reed bed and well (managed to avoid the use of mains water)  The forestry commission came through with their permission to carry on coppicing the wood and plant more trees to fill the gaps (all winter work)  I gave/sold 9 lots of bees to beginner beekeepers and go into the winter with 13colonies (I will have to sell some of them in the spring).   We had over 60 peaches on our 3 year old tree in spite of having peach leaf curl in the spring.
The chickens have reared 17 chicks at least 9 of them cockerels (a few not big enough to tell yet!).  One high point was our open weekend last weekend with 152 visitors.  This followed a major interview with BBC Essex radio (now on our website) which brought a lot of people in.  The harvesting and processing goes on apace.  bottling fruit, freezing beans and tomatoes etc.  A good treatment for powdery mildew from the Internet was spraying the leaves with (dilute) baking soda mixture.
Anyhow I will try and make time to post now as the days grow longer
happy equinox (nearly!)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dry and cold but still food to eat.

yes its been a difficult spring this year for the garden and the bees!  Very little rain in the last 2 months making it difficult in the garden with the late frosts and cold have kept us on our toes protecting potatoes and runner/french beans.  I found cut down plastic milk bottles much better than fleece as crop protection. I spite of the cold we have had plenty of salad, early peas, strawberries and beetroot in the poly tunnel and lots of purple sprouting.  The purple sprouting is an interesting case as it was stripped to a skeleton last year by cabbage white caterpillars and yet recovered to give us a great crop!  The tomato plants in the green house now have small fruit and over wintered broad beans will soon be pick-able.  On the negative side the overwintered carrots (under polythene) which we would be eating now have nearly all gone to seed - maybe I sowed them too early in the autumn?  On the bees; I had the same (new) problem as last year with two of the hives with queens that weren't laying?  I am re-queening them with queens from an early swarming hive.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ok, so I didnt quite get elected!!

I got 1.2% in the election but I am not downhearted (in spite of loosing my deposit).  It was a positive experience for me with lots of positive feedback and good networking/ connections.  Now its back to local campaigning - the Essex shoreline management plan is up for consultation - sounds innocuous enough doesn't it?  It proposes abandoning Jaywick and Seawick to the sea (anytime) in the next 30 years. I suggested to the environment agency representative that they might make an effort to talk to the people at threat about it. Their answer was that they had consulted with the 'stakeholders'!! Not good enough!!, lots of work to do here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The first Swarm of the season

The first Swarm of the season today - not great weather with a cold north east wind making it cold when the clouds covered the sun.  The went for a raspberry bush which meant they ended up on the ground but were persuaded to clime into my bee basket when it was placed over the pool of bees.  I hived them from a sloping board at about 5.00 and they went in  OK but with a large lump hanging on the front of the hive.  Hope they will have taken up residence properly by morning.  I am up late for the count tonight, three o'clock they say which is very late for me the I will see if I have lost my deposit (I am expecting to!)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A lesson in survival of the fittest

I had a lesson reinforced yesterday as our next hen hatched her chicks.  There was one late chick having trouble getting our of the egg.  Against my better judgement I helped it out.  It stayed next to our stove under a hot water bottle for the day and went back under the chicken for the night.  The next day I was optimistic as it was weak but mobile. But as time went on it was clear it couldn't look after its self - not brooding under its mum often when it needed to and getting stepped on!   So it came as no surprise to find it dead in the evening.
Nature is hard but efficient in ensuring that the strongest survive, we can interfere but it is rarely successful.  The human race should remember that nature will deal with us in the same way if we destroy the systems that support us!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Our first chicks for 2010

Our little black bantam has 5 chicks today including one that is a pretty jet black.  Pictures later.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Open Afternoon in Glebe Wood

We are having an open afternoon in Glebe Wood in Tendring Essex on Sunday 2nd May.  We will offer tea and scones and conversation about such topics as CSA schemes (link) for selling logs from our wood.  If you are interested in coming on Sunday email me on chris@ecodiy.org

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Beautiful Survivor!

A Romanesque cauliflower with a beautiful fractal design has somehow survived the cold frosty weather (it is usually a summer plant) to produce a head and give us a surprise meal.  (tasty too!)
My posts are sparse at the moment due to the pressure of election work but soon it will all be over and life can get back to its usual kind of business.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ben Laws magic wood!

Last weekend I was lucky enough to do a one day workshop with Ben law (of the Grand Designs woodland house fame) It was a great day. Along with 10 others who had woodlands or hoped to own woods in the future we walked around Prickly Nut wood with Ben and saw what coppicing should look like. We deluged him with questions on all topics from; planning problems for living in your working wood, dealing with pests like rabbits and squirrels (tasty apparently!) how large an area to coppice at once and lots more. We sat in his open fronted shelter (where he lived before building his house and drank tea. The shelter was magical enough being made from a living tree with a round brick hearth and clay walls. A wonderful day and I returned bursting with plans and ideas. The forestry commission officer has now sent us forms for our felling licence and I am exploring the grants available to help us re-vitalise Glebe wood.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tories block Childrens rights

By blocking the Educational Reform Act the Tories put the desires of parents before the rights of children to a complete unbiased education - shame!  This makes for a more divided society and damages the potential for children to develop into balanced intelligent adults.  There will be more unwanted pregnancies, more sexual disease and more religion intolerance as a result.  It makes me angry!!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Estra

 Picture is Druids Well, thanks to Megalithix
EASTER is a time when we used to remember  the goddess Estra, The Anglo Saxon Goddess of Spring and rebirth (fertility). ‘Christianized’ in the eight century.
The symbol of the egg, which was already being used in Easter festivities at this time, had been a pagan symbol representing fertility and re-birth in pagan times.  This was always a time (and still is for some like me) when we can move our thoughts from the harshness of winter to the soft abundance of spring (just a little late arriving this year!)
Enjoy the spring flowers (my bees are!)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Green woodworking

I spent Thursday learning how to use a pole lathe and to cleave logs using a froe!  I thought it might be slow and frustrating after having been used to a power lathe but it was satisfying and even relaxing!!  My leg did all the work and I imagined having muscles twice the size on my left leg after a few months of work!  I produced a dibber (for planting bulbs) not bad for a days work (as long as I didn't look at the price of dibbers in the gardening catalogues.  Next to build a lathe and shave horse in our wood ready to the green woodworking workshop that is happening in our wood in April - happy days!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sunny sunny Sunday

Great day yesterday with a load of friends in the wood - warm and sunny (at least most of the day)  Pictures later.
Good climate change piece with some humour, check it out: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/the-lara-bingle-of-climate-change-20100319-qlzz.html

Saturday, March 20, 2010

spring is sprunging!

Yes, at last, the first real evidence of spring -- Our first frog spawn!  our first daffodils!!  and seed sowing begins in earnest.  Yea!!!

Friday, March 19, 2010

On Trees and Bureaucracy

I am learning more about the  bureaucracy of woods.  Our wood was listed by the county council.  This made ma a little nervous as I am planning to manage the wood (coppicing etc) and didn't want to have to wait and fill lots of forms every time I picked up the saw!  However, a little research shows that the County Council are giving up their tree preservation orders this year so our wood will be delisted.  Good for us but i am not sure about the effects on other trees threatened by developers!!   So I am also meeting someone from the Forestry Commission next month to discus felling licences and management plans,(so I am not quite out of the wood yet - so to speak!!).  I hope this is going to go smoothly and we can get on with our plans to coppice some hazel and over-stood (old coppice) sweet chestnut.  Some of the trees are quite old now and need rejuvenating (don't we all!)  I will keep you posted.   On another note we are waiting with baited breath for the daffodils to bloom, they are so close now.  Maybe this weekend?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sun Sun Sun here we come

At last some decent weather! I am getting to grips with the bureaucracy of owning a wood,  Public liability insurance - 'ching' paying for a felling licence 'ching' .  Not the mention the problem of the time it takes to deal with the Forestry Commission and get their permission to work in the wood.   In the mean time planting acid loving plants like raspberries, blueberries and experimental potatoes (any other suggestions?).  Building a loo for visitors and copiceing some hazels (yes we are allowed to do that)..Working outside without freezing to death is just wonderful.

Monday, March 15, 2010

More servants for the wealthy!

Announced today - tories plan more training for the service industries including a service industry acadamy!! What we need is more training in real skills for real jobs such as building low carbon housing and transforming the housing stock we have.  We were told at the Ecobuild lectures by heads of the building industry that the skilled workfoce is not yet there to meet government's targets for energy efficient housting and renewables!

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I went to Ecobuild at Earls Court on Wednesday.  I was impressed with the size of it!  It is cleas that many large companies are seeing the potential for making money in energy saving and renewable energy products.
I was pleased to see a CAT stall and a demonstration of straw bale building (with a large croud around it)  I went to a couple of pannels and the consus seemed to be that the best way of selling Green products was to focus on the improved quality of life and money saving potential rather than the climate change and peak oil issues.   I heard some speakers from Germany, south Africa, canada, USA and of course UK speaking about thesystems in their countries for assessing a homes energy efficiency and wether there should be a unified world wide system (the concesus seemed to be not to).  I came back with lots of information on things like heat pumps, insulation from tyres and paper, and the Bath university project on embedded cacbo footprints  Lots of scope for more learning I am afraid - if only there was 48 hours in a day!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Green Party Conference

Just back from conference.  A buisiness like conference this year with everyone's mind on the election.  The highlight for me was the panel chaired by Caroline Lucas about Equalities with Kate Pickett - author of 'The Spirite Level' (check it out) and the amazing Johann Hari who writes in the Independant - had me in tears and in tears of laughter as well; read him at http://www.johannhari.com/  he is so on the nail with what he says!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Green Wood Working Course

Green Wood Working Course

We are planning a course to take place in our 8 acre ancient woodland here in Tendring (Essex) working with green wood with pole lathe, cleaving, bodging etc.  The tutor would be an experienced wood Wright & course leader with assistants and the course would be limited to 5 trainees.  Cost would be about £85 including lunch and drinks.  Let me know if you are interested (probably later in April). 
We have installed a gate now at the wood.  The gate is a weathered old gate which we were lucky enough to be offered to fix and use (so it doesnt look out of place!) We will trade honey and egs for it.
I'm off to the Green Party Conference tomorow for 4 days look out on the news for reports (we hope)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

On 'Any Questions' (well almost!!)

On Thursday I went to Harwich Sixth Form College to be an their 'Any Questions' panel with the sitting MP (Douglas Carswell) and hopefuls from the other main parties.  I must tell you I was very nervous but prepared with large flash cards and swotting.   It actually went off really well (at least I think so!) The questions were very sensible -
Why cant I get a job at 16 when they say they would employ me at 18?
Why must I pay adult fare on public transport when I am not allowed to vote etc till 18?
& etc
Gave me a chance to sound off about - fund public transport not more roads, proportional representation and more training and apprenticeships to meet the skills  needed to 'green' the economy.  I often cross swards with Douglas Carswell over hid denial of climate change but the subject didn't come up this time so mostly peace and light with a surprising level of agreement amongst the candidates over the kinds of questions that were asked.
I also went to the Anglia Uni recently to talk about EcoDIY and the roots of self reliance.  Not a big audience there but interesting never the less.  Still what came out of that was a desire to write about the roots (in the 60s and 70s ) of the self sufficiency movement and how it links to the Arts and crafts movement and The craft ethic of people like Bernard Leach and Hamada.  Unfortunately writing seems to get pushed to the bottom of the pile of the 'to do' lists!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Glebe Wood

We are starting to enjoy the wood we have just acquired. One of its strikeing features is a massive oak blasted recently by lightning! Its branches have been thrown twenty to thirty meters by the blast. Must have sounded like a bomb going off - very dangerous to be near when it happened (I wont be sheltering under any trees in the future I can tell you) Also some pics of the garden under the snow for contrast with the summer pictures

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Loads of Money! (govenment renewable energy payments)

Yes the government has announced the details of the domestic and business payments they are giving for the installation and running of things like solar panels, wind turbines biomass stoves and lots more,
Details here

More analysis and comment later when I have time but on the face of it you will make more money by installing these technologies than you will earn by having your savings in the bank.

Friday, January 29, 2010

'We sow the seed, nature grows the seed' (apologies to 'The Young Ones'!)

Sowed the first seed of 2010 yesterday.. Now spring really is just around the corner.  I sowed seeds of the plants i intend to grow in the green house and poly tunnel.  Tomatoes - Gardeners delight and Moneymaker, four different kings of sweet pepper and (mild!) chili pepper and  aubergine all in the propagator. Alpine strawberries and greyhound cabbage in the green house (not in the propagator).  I will sow leeks and calabrese in the green house soon and some more salads.  I have lettuce in the poly tunnel ready to plant out under cover.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Whehaay!!! (if that is how you spell it?)

Yesterday we completed our purchase of 8 acres of ancient woodland!!!   We have been looking hard for over a year for some woodland close to Clacton to buy and believe me woodland in Essex is as rare as hens teeth!
Then by chance (on colchester station when our train to the climate change march was cancelled!) we were chatting to someone who knew someone else who had left the country and had some woodland to sell.  6 nerve wracking weeks later we are the proud owners of a piece of old woodland consisting of ancient oak trees (with preservation orders on them) some overgrown sweet chestnut coppice, hazel, hornbeam and other species. This will be our fuel supply in the years to come, a place for great parties, and a retreat for quiet and regeneration.   Roll on Spring.  We do feel very lucky and a little greedy but we will share- honest.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sun and fun

what a relief it is to have a sunny day!!  Couldnt get enough of it - pruning apples, chipping sticks to put down in the muddy chicken run, walking in the woods, wow! - hope your day was as good as mine!  Yesterday we went to a transition town event at Manningtree, it was an 'unwanted  present and toy swap'.  A great idea to get rid of all your unwanted connsumer items! only problem is you have to take something home in exchange - damn, just when I thought I was reducing our mounds of stuff!!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Not starving in the snow!

Just to reassure anyone who thinks self reliance means starving in the winter cold here is a list of the produce we have available to eat in January (we do buy stuff as well of course)
10th January 2010 vegetables to eat;

Spinach – outdoors and in the polytunnel
Carrot - outdoors and in the polytunnel
Beetroot (red and white) outdoors and in the polytunnel good tops to eat on indoor plants
Round seeded peas outdoors and in the polytunnel
Purple sprouting broccoli
Pak choi – polytunnel
Pot chrysanthemums
Tomatoes – greenhouse
Basil – greenhouse
Pumpkin seeds
Dry beans (for emergencies!)

In the freezer:
Tomatoes roasted – lots
Green beans


We still have good stocks of honey and we are getting at least 6 eggs a day and the (very) occasional cockerel to eat.

Potatoes and onions walnuts and almonds were finished by Christmas and we have just picked our last pepper from the greenhouse.
Next year we plan - more sweetcorn (for freezing) more onions and leeks, and potatoes - Iam sure we will think of other new crops as well in the long dark evenings poring over the seed catalogues!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Green Party Canditate for the coming election

The local Green Party voted last night to have me as the general election candidate for Clacton.  This is something I wanted as I am committed to airing issues which effect all of us such as
  • energy policy; creating jobs by boosting energy saving and micro generation in homes and businesses;
  • coastal defense (we are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise here in Tendring) 
  • Improving public transport -  which will boost the tourist industry here.
  • Taking Climate change and future fossil fuel shortages seriously
  • Improving infrastructure in deprived communities in Tendring
  • Expanding waste recycling to cover commercial waste (most waste is commercial waste!)
All that remains now is to start fund raising for my deposit!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy and Secure new year

A frosty start to 2010 focuses my mind as always on the small holding and how the plants are surviving the freeze - no badly as it happens the greenhouse has hit a plus 7degree minimum but the tomato plants are hanging on in there and the poly tunnel has stayed above freezing (just) and the tender plants (salads etc) are still ok.  The weather also makes me think about our energy supplies; our wood store is holding up well tho we are using a lot more just now with the central heating wood stove and the wood fired cooker being on all the time.  On the world energy front have a look at www.theoildrum.com for interesting analysis and particularly at http://tinyurl.com/ylfomqd for a good page using  'The Matrix' (great film) as a prop.
Keep warm and have fun in 2010