Sowing the seeds of summer

The winter gardener reviews the successes and failures of the previous seasons’ crops, tidies the polytunnel, gets excited about seed catalogues and draws up plans for the crop rotation for the new growing year. Growing plans below from left to right – the outside beds, the polytunnel bed, the long outside bed. The brassicas (blue) like to follow where the legumes (green) were last year to take up the nitrogen left in the soil and the roots (orange) fit in the areas left. There are some odd vegetables like artichokes and sweetcorn which don’t belong to a category and just get put wherever there’s space.

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I particularly enjoy choosing the seeds we’ll order with Sheila. When reading about the properties of different varieties you can believe the promises of ‘prize-winning quality, rust resistance, and sweet tasting roots’ and imagine a year of perfect vegetable success untroubled by aphids and slugs and powdery mildew. The planning phase feels so hopeful.

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Above is the beginnings of our tomato jungle (and some pak choi seedlings) that occupies half the polytunnel each year. This season a cherry variety called Red Pear will be our main crop, with smaller numbers of Harbinger, Black Opal and a yellow variety called Sungold. I brought in the seed modules to the Byre and I think the underfloor heating provided them with lovely conditions for germination, forget electric propagators!


The carrots, broad beans and peas which were sown in the autumn have been on hold over winter in the tunnel and are now starting to grow in earnest again. We’ve been eating Russian and curly kale, lettuce and red cabbage throughout winter and the minimal Brussel sprout crop managed to provide enough for  group dinner on Christmas day.


Above shows the outdoor beds in their winter covering, sparse vegetation and carpet to reduce the weeding come spring. The blackcurrants and redcurrants in the foreground have been pruned to a ‘goblet shape’ by removing low and centre branches to encourage fruit. This fruit border is full of alliums, daffodils, tulips and crocuses yet to flower and mark the start of spring . One of gardening aims is to grow more flowers this year, particularly varieties suitable for a semi-wild garden and cutting, as we all enjoy having flowers in our homes. There will be sweet peas, delphiniums, cosmos, larkspur, cornflowers, hollyhocks, sunflowers, foxgloves and poppies to name a few.

The orchard is growing happily, now with crocuses flowering around the base of the trees. Sheila has taken to regularly inspecting the buds just beginning to open on the fruit trees and has developed a theory about the fat buds being the fruit producing ones and the narrow buds producing only leaves – we’ll see if she’s right come summer!


I realise this is a vegetable heavy blog and many readers might not be into gardening. Whilst I did grow up in a family that grew their own veg I hadn’t done much myself before we bought the farm. I’ve discovered it’s not so complicated, you do what is says on the back of the packet and if it goes well you do the same the next year, if it doesn’t you try something different till you discover what works in your soil and the micro climate of your garden. So hopefully this will inspire  a few of you to get some seeds, a pot and a bit of compost and grow something edible at home.

Odds and ends

We have been working to complete phase 1 which includes the construction of unit unit 7- “The Byre”, the growing area, and the drilling of boreholes for water supply. Jobs range from fitting wardrobes to building concrete borehole chambers a wide range of activity inside and out. The landscaping has been the major challenge. The construction and planting of the orchard and the associated walling, paths, beds and steps which surround it. All of the stonework has used material retrieved from the site. The phase 1 area now looks very much like our architects original sketches. With the sliding doors opened wide the  Byre living room expands across the terrace into the orchard where the greensward is thickening nicely and all the fruit trees are growing well. The terrace provides the space for us all to sit together and eat.

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Guest blog from Hannah on the orchard ground works

We had a brilliantly productive day on the farm on Sunday making way for the orchard.

Adults and kids alike attacked “the mound” of earth in front of the Byre. Together, we got rid of weeds, rocks and rubble ready for Paul to come in with his bulldozer to flatten it all out. It’s the best exercise I’ve had for ages  and everyone had a real sense of achievement at the end of the day as we reviewed our progress. This is what it’s all about; community and the knowledge that we’re working towards something extraordinary.

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This really is a family project and the kids had an amazing day helping out and playing. Who needs a beach when you’ve a ton of mud to play in and make exciting discoveries? From big fat juicy worms, to millipedes, to exotic looking rocks, the kids had so much fun.

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I love the fact that nothing is wasted; the smaller stones found by the kids are going to be used for the car park and the larger stones have been set aside for other projects.


Now we can look forward to the ceremonial planting of the fruit trees!

Note from the editor – the fruit trees have arrived and will be planted this weekend.

Moving in to The Byre

The Byre is very nearly finished, just a few cupboard doors to go! We wanted to share with you some of the finished

The master bedroom has sliding doors to the outside  stone flagged terrace, an interior wall of larch cladding and an original high window that has a shutter on the outside.


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The living room also has a wall of larch cladding, part of the orginal beam structure and sliding doors which open the full width of the room to the terrace outside.



The kitchen has white cupboards with intergral handles, oak work surface and windows that face the field to the north and the growing area to the south.

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Photos of the study/second bedroom, bathroom and hall will follow when fully complete. What you can’t see in the pictures is the energy efficiency of the house which is due to the wool insulation in the walls, the underfloor heating system and the photovoltaic panels which transfer energy from the sun to heat the water for the house. We’re looking forward to life here!



Can we build it? Yes we can!

The story of building the byre in photos.


A place to store old farm machinary when we first took over the site

In deep snow last winter


The start of the car parking wall and the floor of the byre has been scraped out.


End wall demolished and front beam propped up on acros


Concrete slap poured in including the new extension


Roof removed, stone walls of the extension built and the car parking wall nearly finished.


Interior walls being built, the solar panels on and the gutters finished.


All exterior windors and doors fitted.

Work currently ongoing includes interior painting (so many edges to paint becasue of the internal beams), bathroom plastering and working out how to lay the floor stone.

Big Site Update

A lot has happened on the site in the last few weeks – too much to write so I’m going to show you in pictures.

Starting with the wall along the roadside being demolished to create the new parking area.





A trench for the retaining wall foundations was dug and the concrete poured in.


The area for the new fruit bed in front of the polytunnel had the turf scraped off and the foundation stones laid.


Wall building continued in sun, rain, and some sideways sleet over a period of weeks and was then filled with soil and manure by Emily and Greg in the digger with much shovelling and raking. It is now planted with blueberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and gooseberries.

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The retaining wall for the parking area has block wall beneath ground level and will have a stone wall built on the orchard side which continues above ground to waist height.

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Broken stone was delivered for the underneath layer of the parking and below the foundation in The Byre (unit 7). Acrow props are positioned to hold the weight of the roof  and the front pillars of The Byre have been taken out. A trench was dug the length of The Byre and under the end wall for the foundation the new wooden pillars will sit on. The original corner stone pillar was reinstated where the parking wall will meet the road.

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On the gardening front many seeds have been sown with particular attention to getting our tomatoes started earlier. The lemons are starting to turn yellow. The peas that have been growing over winter in the polytunnel are flowering. Two varieties of potato have been planted in the new raised bed. The brambles that produce such wonderful blackberries have been cut back hard. Some mushrooms have appeared,meaning the spores have moved around the polytunnel.

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I will endeavour to provide more frequent updates as this was well overdue looking at the dates of the working weekends included here.