For two nights running I awoke at 4am in fear of our lives! When you live in a yurt in a forest and there is a storm, you really know about it.
I could see the shadow of the overhanging ash trees through the roof window and they were swaying to a worrying degree every time there was a strong gust of wind. It was so noisy and I was super anxious. I went to get Saoirse from her bed. Faolan was already lying next to Jon, which seems to be his chosen spot from about midnight till 6am, when he wakes up in the pitch black, head butts us both whilst trying to kiss us and then crawls around the yurt throwing potatoes at the cats.
Everytime there was a gust I woke up and threw myself over Saoirse to shield her from the tree that I just ‘knew’ was about to fall on us. I was wishing we had heeded the story of the ‘three little pigs’. Everyone knows what happens when you build your house from sticks! Jon seemed less bothered and to tell the truth, we have lived in the yurt for the last three winters, through storms and hurricanes, always under trees but here we still are. No reason to get complacent though.
Signs of spring are upon us. The snowdrops in the woods are poking up the light green shoots. Also Feathers has started laying again. She was the hen I thought was done for but had just been hiding in the goats hay rack. She’s become quite uppity lately and wants a coop all to herself. Then one morning there appeared this bright greeny white egg which I know comes from here breed. She stopped laying in about October so it’s been a long wait. Its good to experience having hens through the season so you can be realistic about future egg output of a business flock. They moulted and stopped laying for at least two months. Blue only lays every other day but she continued all the way through winter. The solkie stopped laying her little eggs in August I think. The two Point of lay hens we had (20 week olds) laid every day. The red like clockwork at the same time, blue when she felt like it and in October she made herself a little nest in the roots of a tree and by the time I found it there was 9 eggs in there! She had gone broody, but in a teenage girl playing way, and was abandoning them at night to go back to bed in the coop.
So we have 4 hens and on average 1 and a half eggs a day. This does not make me a farmer, I think it makes me a bit of a mug at the moment. But we are learning. That’s my mantra. Everything is a learning experience.
Talking of which…Forest school! It wasn’t our plan to start a school on the land so soon but it seems like that its the people want. And what the people want, the people get! I’ve spoken to a lady who has a similar project in a walled garden in Stanstead Abbots and we have set up a meeting to discuss how me can work together. I’d love to set up a communication and marketing cooperative including all the people in the area who are trying to open up their nature spaces to the community. There are so many of us if you know where to look, but most people don’t and actually aren’t even familiar with the concept.
I’ve also launched the Harvest Share membership scheme. No takers yet I’ve only put it out to my mailing list of 50 family, friends and first timers who came to the open days last year, most of whom don’t live within 10 miles of us.
I’m getting nervous now and excited in equal measure. The growing season is nearly upon us. Jon thinks he might finish the shed this weekend with the help of volunteers and then I’ve got a place for the tools and equipment to be stored safely and a HQ to put a kettle and a desk in. I’ll feel so much better about inviting volunteers when there is the prospect of tea, a seat and some shelter between slave driving!
I’ve made a rough crop plan for the season and will be using an almanac to plant by the moon, a method used throughout history. I’ll be planning to grow 20 vegetables to feed 30 families from May till October.
First things first, I need to put in a temporary electric fence to stop deer and rabbit nibbling and a windbreak on the west side. Then I need to hire a rotavator and power harrow to prepare the bed that were mulched and fed last year during our open days.
I’m so blimmin’ excited about starting this. I know there’ll be ups and downs and don’t worry, you’ll know all about them if you carry on following this blog. Can you wait?