Down working at the wood today. Spring is begrudgingly arriving after the longest winter in memory. Wildflowers and bluebells are out, and the soil is still wet and sodden from the spectacular storm we had yesterday that blew in from the Atlantic and caused mayhem on the land.
Walking around in the wood I'm overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to be done if I am to turn this into a working venture. Still, I won't be short of things to do.
But, with the sap rising, now is no time to be thinking of cutting wood and coppicing the hazels. The woodland is filled with the sound of birds, and everywhere I looked green shoots were bursting forth.
I like bracken quite a lot, but it's no good for the land. I'm considering getting some pigs and an electric fence … although I'd have to be there every day to look after them, and I'm not (at the moment).
Wildflowers have been popping up everywhere. It is a veritable flower garden. Here are just a few types that I took pictures of.
And of course, the carpet of bluebells …
Not quite as pretty as bluebells are the milk thistles that are springing up everywhere on the former pasture land. Like most people, my first thought was 'how do I destroy them?' But then I did a bit of research and found out that what I'm seeing here is the land healing itself.
This pasture will have had cows tramping around it for many years, compacting the soils and chewing the grass to within an inch of its life. Now, with the cows gone, deep-rooted thistles are breaking up the sub-soils for me and bringing vital nutrients to the surface. What's more, bees love thistles - and slugs hate them - so I'll let most of them remain this year.
I have dug a couple of experimental veg garden zones just to find out what the soil is like for growing stuff in. There's nothing special in them, just some peas, pumpkins, artichoke, sweetcorn and garlic - oh, and some strawberries for good measure. Of course, with all the rabbits around I've had to fence them off with chicken wire.
Things I've learned or figured out in the past week:
- The stiff prevailing winds mean I am going to have to plant a row of trees to make a windbreak. Without this my fruit trees will never flourish and the soil temperatures will be impaired. I'm probably going to go with Italian alder, which is recommended as a fast growing deciduous tree that also fixes nitrogen.
- Birds have moved into the two bird boxes I put up in the wood. I think they are finches of some type. My neighbour, the friendly old man, has huge boxes in his trees that he says owls live in.
- Speaking of whom, he told me that my wood was planted around thirty years ago by the wealthy local estate owner as a pheasant shooting wood. Alas, he was caught having an affair with his secretary, and in the divorce proceedings he had to sell off much of his land, including Fox Wood. He also almost killed himself in a tractor accident on the field that was there before the wood was created, but that's another story.
- Slugs have attacked my rhubarb which I planted. To deter them I have placed a 'ring of spikes' i.e. thistles, around it.
- I have started to dig a pond with my new azada (more on that soon). It's going to be quite large and will contain several different zones. It is hard work digging by hand, but better than going to a gym.
- I have found several large chunks of granite - gate posts - lying around the land.