Clicking on any of the pictures will open them at full size in the browser window, which means you will have to use the 'back' button to return to the main pages, whereas clicking to the left or right of any picture will open them in a new window, if you fancy a closer look at any of the piccies we've posted! We've included a Google Earth satelite picture of our plots and this years planting plan at the bottom of the page, next to each other. If you choose the Earth view on the satelite image you can rotate the image until it is lined up with the planting plan, then use the arrows in the plan to scroll from Plot 2 to Plot 1.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Harvests are a coming in!

Ok, no updates for a while again I'm sorry! Although the swine flu has now gone, my bad back is still not right, tho the accupuncture is helping greatly!

We've been harvesting quite a bit recently, lots more of most of the crops are now harvestable, and lots more still to come yet, although we've also had blight hit the spuds and tomatoes (tho currently the toms seem to be doing ok, even if they arent going to be as good as last year) and have lost a lot of cabbages to slug damage (that'll teach Lee not to plant them in batches of 12 of 3 varieties each at a time! Lol), but the broadies and most of the other crops have done really well, hence the harvesting figures are shooting up rapidly!

In addition to eating lots of ultra fresh organic fruit and veg we've also now begun preserving some of the crops, lots of dried peppers, the first batches of tomato n courgette pasta sauce are in the freezers, there's lots of broadies, runners, mange tout and fruit also in the freezers, lots of jars of jam, the first few jars of pickled onions and chutney's are maturing in the cupboards, and lots of onions and garlic are drying in the garage! Hopefully there will be more processed in the next few weeks, as the harvesting reaches a peak and I've got a week off from work to process it all in early September!

Anyhows, onto the balance sheet!

Total Costs 2009
Rent + subs for 2 plots £85
Debris Netting £70
Seed Spuds £20
Compost £20
Seed Compost £5
Seeds £20
Plant feeder / feed £12
Growbags (4 for £5) £15
2 Apple trees £30
Herbs and Flowers (for underplanting 3 beds of fruit trees) £40
Total costs so far £317

Harvests 2009
Rhubarb (£1 a stalk in Sainsburys) £50
Spring Onions (£0.99 a bunch for organic) £14
Lettuces £15
Peas £20
Broad Beans £90
French Beans £55
Runner Beans £40
Cabbages £20
Cucumber £15
Courgettes £90
Marrows £10
Broccolli £30
Caulieflower £15
Turnip £10
Strawberries £50
Raspberries £85
Blueberries £10
Potatoes £145
Tomatoes £60
Peppers £20
Chillies £10
Garlic £50
Onions £40
Apples £30
Plums £15
Mange Tout £10
Sweetcorn £8
Squashes £8
Total Harvests 2009 £1028

Thats a profit of £711 for the year so far!

Hope your harvests are bumper ones this year!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I have always had a Dream..........

As a child of the seventies (and thus being exposed to brilliant drama such as the original series of 'Survivors', 'The Day of the Triffids' and of course the classic 'The Good Life') and as a member of a family where it was seen as the norm to build or rennovate your home to a large extent (grandparents self built over a 10 year period a 5 bedroom farmhouse after buying a 2 up 2 down farm in the moors with no water or electric (living in a small touring caravan whilst they did it), my parents bought and completely rennovated a 1920's bungalow, doubling its size, and my aunty rebuilt a 17th century cottage from a derelict condition), I have always dreamt about living a self sufficient lifestyle, not just growing our own food (which we are currently doing to a large degree), but keeping our own livestock, providing our own low impact home and the means to heat and power it.

The more that I find our modern society with its consumer based lifestyle leaving me cold, the more I yearn for my dreams of living in a sustainable low impact way with the land (rather than off it) to become a reality!

Life in the modern world has now become totally detached from the world around us, greed and the pursuit of more 'things' has become the driving force for most, yet without the next 'fix' of what is new, it is an addicts lifestlye that leaves us all finally unfulfilled and jaded with society. As a society we've lost our spiritual connection with the land, in many cases we've lost those skills that would allow us to survive were we deprived of all our modern tools and gadgets, yet anyone that harks back to a simpler and more fulfilling way of life is at best seen as odd, and at worst criminalised by the state!

Given the chance I would love to take on 4 or 5 acres of varied land, containing a piece of woodland (that could be coppiced for building materials and for wood to provide both heat and a crop that could be bartered or sold to help provide those items we are unable to produce for ourselves!), a field or two that could be used for rearing animals and growing feed for their winter eating (chickens for both eggs and eating, a couple of pigs for bacon and pork, a few goats for milk, a housecow for both milk and beef, possibly some sheep for both wool and meat), an area where we could have a large veg patch (not only to feed ourselves, but also to provide income via a possible veg box scheme), an area for a small orchard that could house our bee hives and perhaps the chickens and pigs (another few possible sources of income) and a place where we could build our own low impact earth sheltered home.

Kind of like a River Cottage kind of life, but with the added attraction of a self built eco home, heated by wood from our own woods (with hot water from a back boiler and solar water heaters to augment one another depending on the season), cooking done on camp fire in the summer and in a solid fuel aga in the winter, solar panels, wind turbine and possibly a small waterwheel to provide electricity (for the few mod cons like computer, low voltage lighting, freezers to store produce, etc). Perhaps we'd even consider having a few Yurts that we could rent out for holidays to those who seek an escape into the wilderness, or even run a few courses for those interested in a similar type of life, or even a few pagan camps where likeminded folks can get together.

Sounds idyllic doesnt it? Yet I know that both Lee and I are no fools, we know just how hard work such a life would be, how unlikely it would be to gather enough income to support ourselves in a 'traditional way', but if we were able to succesfully harvest enough to live on, then the need for actual cash would be minimal (some clothes, a few things we cant produce for ourselves (sugar, salt, medicines, etc), a few luxuries, council tax etc) and could possibly be found from selling crops via a veg box scheme, renting out yurts, holding courses and possibly even a part time job or two!

If we were to sell up, get rid of all our possessions and our home, then we could probably net about £25K, enough to buy about 5 acres of agricultural land, kit it out with the livestock and tools we would require and allow us to build a house along the lines of the one in the picture at the top of this post (, allowing us to acchieve our dream and assume the lifestyle we want, living in a sustainable way with minimal impact to the environment! Sure it wouldnt always be a comfortable life, and certainly not an undertaking to be contemplated lightly, but certainly its something that we would both love to do!

"Great, problem solved, lets go and do it!", you may say, however, there's just one tiny problem!

In the UK even if you own the land, you cannot live on it unless you have planning permission, and although there is talk of sustainability at all levels within society at the moment, this does not fully apply to planning laws!

The problem is that the UK planning laws were put into place with laudable intentions of preventing the land being overly developed, in many places it is almost impossible to get residential planning permission, even if you have a case that shows that you need to live on the land to farm it efficiently. You can easily buy land without planning permission, but you cant live on it, which then means you have to either then also buy a place to live or rent somewhere, with the costs that are associated, meaning the plans for a low impact small holding become financially unsustainable!

'Ok, then why not buy somewhere with planning permission then?' I hear you ask? Great, we'd love to, but as the price for land with planning permission is extreme when compared to the price for agricultural land, then this becomes impossible with the current level of funds we could realise!

So, we find ourselves stuck in a catch 22 situation, we know what we would like to do about it, but cant currently proceed due to UK planning law, hence the reason I set up the petition on Number 10's website to create a new class of Low Impact Development Land to allow those of us who wish to live in a different manner to do so!

Please sign the petition at

To add some more food for thought, take a look at the links to the right under the Low Impact Living heading, definite food for thought, especially as peak oil, global warming and global population rise start to have an impact and global resources start to rise in price!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Update for 5th August 2009 - Mahoosive courgettes, bad back and swine flu!

Once again I find myself playing catchup with the blog, my sincerest apologies for the lack of recent updates, but in addition to the sciatica I've been suffering with (for which the accupuncture is doing wonders, especially since finding Dr Li, a fabulous and very experienced lady Dr at Dr & Herbs), I've had a skin flare up (after 2 weeks back at work), Lee has had both the flu and a chest infection (which he thankfully seems to be recovering from now) and I've also got/had a dose of the flu thats knocked me off my feet this week!

The piccies on show here were taken on Wednesday the 5th August, after my accupuncture session I felt great, so went to the plot to harvest some of the crops and to assist Pat and Colin with doing the bee inspections on the 3 hives, since then I've not had the chance or energy to process and upload them until today, I've still got the flu, but mercifully my health now seems to be improving and hopefully I'll be back at work for the weekend! Still feel completely drained in energy and with lots of congestion and a very sore throat, but breathing is much easier, my eyes dont hurt as much as they did and the headache seems to have lessened!

The first piccy shows plot 1, with more onions and broadies needing harvest and other things growing on really well! Unfortunately I did find that the large crop of pears we had ripening seem to have disappeared, there's no evidence of any bird or insect cause, so all I can assume is that they have been taken by someone else, the same fate fell on another couple of plotholders, one who lost a large crop of plums and the other who's lost all her gooseberries!

The second piccy shows plot 2, again lots growing on really well on here! We got notification the other day that once again our plots have not been deemed 'good enough' by the powers that be to even be granted a 'commended' in the allotment judging, so in the eyes of the council our efforts are not worthy of mention at all and of a similar standard to other plotholders who dont even seem to grow anything at all, but as our motivation for growing is the connection with the land, the fab crops we get, the peace and fulfilment that comes from working the land and the great taste of fresh organic food that we've grown ourselves, then it doesnt really matter that much to either of us!

Anyhows, onto the harvests! This pile of courgettes was one days worth of harvests from the 9 plants, some of the courgettes were almost 3' in length! Some have gone to friends, some eaten and some processed into sweet pickle along with some of our other harvested crops!

The first of the toms, chillies and peppers! Very tasty indeed!

Mange Tout and Turnips, both crops doing exceptionally well this year!

Salad, spring onions, lettuce and beetroot!

3 types of dwarf french bean and the first picking of the early planted runner beans!

Brassicas! 2 caulies, 1 romanesco broccolli and lots of other broccolli!

Once again the year is looking to be a reasonable one as far as our harvesting is going, further updates in the near future as we harvest more!
As for the bees, all 3 hives seem to be doing well, hive 2 is going great guns, hive 3 now has capped brood, so the new queen is laying properly, and hive 1 is still laying, if a bit slower than the other hives! More updates about the bees in the near future!
So, onto the balance sheet!

Total Costs 2009
Rent + subs for 2 plots £85
Debris Netting £70
Seed Spuds £20
Compost £20
Seed Compost £5
Seeds £20
Plant feeder / feed £12
Growbags (4 for £5) £15
2 Apple trees £30
Herbs and Flowers (for underplanting 3 beds of fruit trees) £40
Total costs so far £317
Harvests 2009
Rhubarb (£1 a stalk in Sainsburys) £50
Spring Onions (£0.99 a bunch for organic) £12
Lettuces £12
Peas £15
Broad Beans £60
French Beans £45
Runner Beans £10
Cabbages £8
Cucumber £10
Courgettes £70
Marrows £10
Broccolli £25
Caulieflower £10
Turnip £3
Strawberries £50
Raspberries £85
Blueberries £4
Potatoes £85
Tomatoes £20
Peppers £10
Chillies £5
Garlic £50
Onions £20
Apples £5
Plums £5
Mange Tout £5
Total Harvests 2009 £697
£380 more in crops than was spent in growing them, not a bad haul at all, especially as we've lost produce due to my bad back and the flu we've both had over the past 2 weeks!
Hope you are in good health and harvesting plenty of wonderful fresh tasty fruit and veg!