The year so far

This will be our first full year at the property. It's about one acre in size and is situated in South Kerry, Ireland with a five minute walk to the sea. The past three months have seen much planting. Our polytunnel has a lot of early season potatoes in it. We have the Cara potato variety in the tunnel and some Sharpe's Express outside in the deep beds. Always dig deep beds carefully on recently acquired land as you don't know what's under there. The mains water pipe, for instance, which the fork was stuck through whilst turning the soil. It's repaired it now but it was many hours of work on a very cold day.

The tunnel has eight tomato bush seedlings in old 16 litre paint drums. We are growing large Italian pasata tomatoes for making pasta and chile sauces. We never eat raw tomatoes so we won't be growing any salad varieties. Being close to the sea we have a good supply of those blue plastic 55 gallon drums that break free from nearby muscle farms. The barrels are anchored to the sea bed and the muscles attach themselves to the ropes below. It only takes a single storm for a couple of barrels to break free and miraculously end up in the workshop where they are cut in two and used for growing small vegetables like spring onions and carrots.

We also have young trees in the tunnel. Mostly alder, some cuttings from a golden willow, mountain ash, and from seed we have oak, horse chestnut, birch and sycamore. The land is quite rocky under the few inches of top soil so it will take some time to plant them all out. We have planted an apple tree and have some cider apple varieties, which we will also plant out during the year. In the years to come it is hoped to have a good crop of apples for cider production. The other trees will be felled for burning in the stove.

We are still researching stoves at the moment. We don't think we will get one with a boiler for the radiators. If we get a big enough one then it can heat the whole of the downstairs. We intend putting in a partition to stop warm air flowing upstairs and will use the oil boiler for those rooms above. Alternatively we might construct a warm air duct to supply the upstairs. It all depends on how many BTUs the stove can supply. The ones we are looking at are 50,000 BTU (14.5 kW), which should heat a substantial amount of floor space. The weather is very mild here. The winters are never as cold as in England and the warmer weather returns in April until the end of September obviating the need for any heating at all. Passive heating from the sun is good enough.

The property had a donkey house (prison, from the size of it) standing idle so one of the wooden walls was kicked out and it's now a very fine wood shed. It is filled with a steady supply of driftwood, dead wood from surrounding forests and anything trimmed from trees on our and, which are mostly holly and rhododendron (Hence the growing of other varieties in the tunnel).

We live on the northern shore of Kenmare sound and at least once a week our skiff is taken out to sea to forage for anything useful. The boat was made by a team of us last year. This really is a very quick and cheap way to get a boat. Twelve of us, with varying skills, took just four weekends to build twelve 14 feet long sailing skiffs. Ours is usually rowed around the little islets nearby but for longer expeditions a sail, made out of an old polytarp, is put up and when the mackerel are about a hundred or so can be caught in an hour. If not fishing or sailing for pleasure a bow saw or chainsaw is carried onboard and used to cut up logs and tree trunks on the beaches and brought home for storing. Seaweed is also collected for composting and mulching in the vegetable garden.

From a materialist former life we are always surprised at how we have learnt to make things for ourselves, often from things that other people have discarded. Be it drums for planting vegetables or a trailer (minus a single wheel) that someone couldn't be bothered to repair so dumped into a ditch. We gave it a month to see if anyone intended returning and taking it home but no. So, we took the boat trailer and placed the broken trailer on top of it. A new rubber suspension unit was ordered on the Internet to replace the old broken leaf suspension. We will replace the rusted metal sides of the trailer with treated plywood sheet and then we will have a fine trailer for transporting logs, seaweed and building materials from the local hardware store.

Next month will see us digging up some early potatoes. A few carrots might be ready too. In a few months all our vegetables will come from our own land and not from the supermarket. This is a concerted effort not to eat processed food where possible. Firstly, fresh produce tastes better. It's much cheaper as it was grown from seed. Every processing step adds to the cost. That is what they call "value add". If we were to sell excess produce of our own then we would want to add value to it by processing it. Selling raw material is not a good way to make a profit. But, if you are looking after the pennies, then buying raw meterials (or better still producing your own) is best.

We are still looking at each bit of our land and determing where to plant the bulk of our trees. We also want chickens, maybe a pig or two so they will need a place to roam. There is to be an orchard of six trees as well. Not to mention an observatory for a telescope. There is still time for a hobby when not exhausted from a day's work, which also involves a little computer repair and website building for some extra cash to pay for tools and projects for me and accountancy work for Rosie.

As far as this blog is concerned we will publish all our research and activities. So far we have added many links (on the right of this page) to useful magazines. We don't subscribe to any of them but they do have lots of good information on their websites, including free reprints of previous articles. we must have a few hundred links on many useful subjects and will order them, for you to look through, in the coming weeks.

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