Following the midwinter break, we’ve emerged from a brief hibernation to begin the process of preparing the ground for growing our veg, fruit, trees and flowers. Although the hens are helping enthusiastically by scratching over and fertilising various bits of grass, something a little more heavy duty is called for when it comes to turning bare grass into vegetable beds.
We’ve tried various approaches – stripping off the turf and digging the soil over (extremely hard work), digging a spade depth and turning the sod over to leave the grass at the bottom (very hard work but slightly easier, and basically ploughing with a spade), and lastly, mulching very heavily with straw, cardboard and manure. There is a huge amount of this to do, none of which I could accomplish alone, and so am lucky to have help in the form of Dougie, and Eugene on a regular basis.

Each of these beds is 30 x 4 foot, and there are 7 of them, so we’ll have a fair bit of growing space, and there will be the same again on the other side of the path. Once dug, we’ll put the paths in using the rest of the old house hardcore, and another 5 tonne of blinding.

As well as the digging and landscaping, the cold weather means the fires are lit constantly. Although we have our own woodland, the boggy ground makes extracting timber a slow and laborious process, taking up at least two days a week. We are lucky that there is a plentiful supply of fallen trees and standing deadwood, which in most cases means it is pretty well seasoned. We’ll be coppicing in earnest through February to prepare a supply for next year, and clearing some of the areas where brambles have taken over. The old ash tree above is in the middle of the woods, and is typical of those we have growing – they are all very twisty, unlike the birch; and this is the oldest.