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Second Weekend in the Patch

I swear someone has sped the Earth up – each year passes faster and faster! Last weekend we had our first day in the patch, tidying up odds and sods, ready for the year ahead. It’s always a good feeling, starting over again, with thoughts of how things will be done differently from previous years, or the same if they proved a good idea. The geese were extradited from the hay quarter, to let the grass grow! They seemed happy to be back in the big orchard, their summer home, but their attitudes are definitely taking a turn for the worst, with breeding season upon us. The orchard pruning was also completed, with large cuts covered in Arbrex, smaller cuts left to heal on their own. Mole hills are popping up as they get ready for the new year, and their hill earth we squirrelled away to top up the raised bed, as it’s great stuff! Compost bins were emptied, and seeds bought for the year ahead.

Today, I spent the morning on a late hedge cut, after first checking for any new nests. Suz and Smiler cleared away hedge cuttings from a hedge next door at the farm, which has been laid and looks amazing. Jay took on the mantle of chief seed sower, and popped the following into propagators for indoor germination.

  • Lyon (Prizetaker) leek
  • Monarch celeriac
  • Green Magic F1 hybrid broccoli
  • Golden Acre (Primo III) round summer/autumn cabbage
  • All the Year Round cauliflower
  • January King 3 (savoy) winter cabbage
  • Evesham Special brussels sprout

After a lunch which saw us prise open Smiler’s first ever jar of home-made pickled onions (they were fantastic, he made them from growing to pickling), Suz and Jay took it on themselves to clear some of the rubbish on the lane where we live, Smiler scattered chicken manure fertiliser around the various trees and bushes, whilst I rotovated the onion patch, ready for planting out the sets tomorrow. I also got carried away with de-twitching the couch grass that had worked its way into the onion patch, have I mentioned how much I loathe that stuff? We’ve a plastic field trough set aside for weeds this year, which we’ll fill with water and drop any weeds into. Over the year they’ll rot down into great fertiliser liquid and we don’t waste any of the nutrients tucked away in them.

 

Map of Acre Field

Acre FieldWe have finally been given an outline of the acre field, which we can access through a narrow 10ft corridor from the back of the house. We’re still waiting for the solicitors to finalise things, but the farmer we’re buying from has been kind enough to allow us to mark it out as best we can and sow grass seed before the winter chills come in.

Our initial thoughts are to divide it into equal quarters – the North East corner will have around 30 half-standard orchard trees, a quite traditional orchard set up in the East Midlands or so I’m led to believe. Under this we can graze chickens or geese, nothing too boisterous that will knock over the more delicate trees and eat the low hanging fruit!

The South East corner will contain around 20 standard orchard trees, forming a traditional orchard. Under this we can graze pretty much anything apart from bullock elephants, the trees will live much longer – outliving us I’m sure – but will be harder to harvest. Because of their longevity they will be fantastic for wildlife – bats, lesser spotted woodpeckers, the various insects that will make their homes, and also provide cover for the smaller mammals the local little owl couple like to eat.

The South West corner will be left to ley. This, along with the standard orchard quarter, will provide enough grass for a couple of dairy sheep in the future. We’ll grow the ley for one harvest of hay before opening it for grazing. This way we’ll have some of our own winter food for the sheep. I’m hoping to get around 20 small bales (2′ x 2′ x 4′) from this, but we’ll see when it happens!

The North West corner will be our food garden as it’s nearest the house. In this we will put aside at least one third for our own vegetables and soft fruit. The rest will be left for possible future use for more fodder crops. We’re talking of possibly sinking a borehole for water, jointly with our neighbour, as being in the Trent Wash you need only dig 2-3ft down to reach surface water! We’re surrounded by working and old disused wells, so figure we’ll have no problem gaining our own off-grid water supply for the odd ocassion we’ll need to irrigate the crops. In reality, we’ve only needed to water our small patch outside the house in September’s dry spell – the rest of the year has been fine.