It's a funny thing to note that six months ago I was spending an unhealthy amount of time both reading and writing about peak oil, climate change and the catabolic collapse of industrial civilisation, and yet now that I've actually started to take some kind of action I barely have time for either.
Summer seems to have come in Cornwall, like someone flicking a switch. One day it was cold and wet, the next it was burning sun - and it has stayed that way for the last ten days. I have been spending my days lugging wheelbarrows full of rocks, digging holes, cutting wood and clearing brambles, to say the least.
I've been thinking a lot more deeply about how this patch of land can work as a permaculture project. It's evolving slowly, which is how it should do. My aim is to vastly improve the biodiversity and soil quality of this patch of land that has somehow fallen under the orbit of my control, and at the same time manage the surrounding woodland in a sustainable way. By synchronising with nature's rhythms and listening to the land I hope to be able to create a harmonious place that is a refuge from the industrially ravaged land that surrounds it, perhaps providing a place of resilience for my family and valued friends in the process.
Although I'm still doing some copywriting and translation work to keep financially afloat, I am able to spend at least three days a week working on the land. The last two weekends we have stayed in the caravan and the children are getting attuned to living without TVs, iPads and all the other things that 21st century kids are supposed to crave.
Here's a bit of an update of sorts of what is going on at Fox Wood.
|A friend with a 4WD camper van managed to drag our caravan up onto the land. He'd just spent the morning in public dressed in a biohazard suit and clenched in a giant metal fist as a protest against Monanto, so his help was doubly-appreciated.|
|Sofia demonstrates how the compost latrine works. It's a bit basic … but it's okay until I build a proper compost toilet.|
|I have cut an access path through them using a miniature hand-held scythe. I want to leave the roots intact - they make excellent channels for the roots of beneficial plant species as they rot down.|
|I also cleared a fairly dense patch of brambles, revealing four young chestnut trees. Plenty of scratches to show for my efforts!|
|One of the apple trees I planted. In total I have put in ten fruit trees this year and they are all doing well now the chill winds have died down.|
|The ground is now covered in buttercups. Beautiful, but also poisonous.|
|The enemy - creeping brambles coming up under the ground. I've been busy with the shears but may have to employ a pig or two in the long term.|
|The self-fertile almond tree. In the background you can see my rhubarb slug-protection teepee.|
|This is the inconspicuous entrance to the five-acre wood, which slopes down steeply towards a river bed.|
|Down in the wood, everything is in leaf. Some finches have taken residence in that box and there are chicks in there.|
|The bracken is … prolific.|
|This is an ash tree. Nobody knows how long it will take before ash dieback disease spreads to Cornwall, but for now the tree is in rude health.|
|Back out of the woods again, this pea is literally the first food I am likely to eat from this land.|
|The track leading onto the land needed a bit of upgrading. Rather than buying in gravel, I'm putting down barrows full of rocky solid from the potato farmer's field.|
|The track is rich in wildflowers.|
|A bit more domestic - I found this antique pewter tea pot in a junk shop in Copenhagen. The bottom is corroded and full of holes, making it an excellent place to grow a gaud.|
My new chainsaw arrives in the post tomorrow. Good job as the fridge is full of mushroom spores that need fresh hardwood logs to impregnate … I never thought I'd be into fungiculture, but here I am - life is strange.