THE AUTUMN FEDGEROW UPDATE

Before I get started on this subject, I have to tell you what a very , very strange, weird and exciting week we’ve had here at ‘The Willows’. We have been contacted by a major, international media company, based in London, wanting to run a story about our lives, and our way of living, because we are completely off the grid, with our own alternative energy, water supply and almost all our own food ( we are still sorting out the last one !). I had a really nice, hour long telephone conversation, with a lovely lady, just talking about life at ‘The Willows’. After a few days she contacted us again and said that even though there’d been a very good response from newspapers and magazines, and even though we are both British citizens, the papers would prefer to have had  UK based people. So, oh well, we can only wait and see if the newspapers come to their senses ! But, at the end of the day, thank you so much to Hannah and the publishing company for recognising our little story and making us both feel so proud of the acknowledgement.

Anyway, onwards and upwards.

Now, the willow fedgerow is one of our constant and favourite blog stories for the simple fact that it was this subject that started us off on our blog journey, when a couple of our friends visited us and took some photos for their own blog. www.fromacountrycottage.wordpress.com  and they received a good response to it.

Willow is so easy and versatile to use, it almost makes the perfect planting material and my goodness, it grows so quickly! With every year it grows, the more rods it produces, providing ever more planting opportunities. We have literally fenced our whole land with willow, which is why when I said that we had planted lots of trees, it really is quite impossible to count but it must be getting towards 1000, possibly more, but hey, who’s counting?

The only problem with willow is that Bowie and  Floyd, our donkeys, love to eat it, so in many areas we have had to put an exclusion zone with a wire fence as well.

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Wrapping the rods in this way holds them in place.

Willow really is so easy to use, you literally just push it into the ground, walk away and watch it grow. I would say that we have had around a 95% success rate with many sizes from 2 feet in length, pushed in to ground about 9 inches, to 12 feet that we wove into  archways ( hence our name!)

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Fallen arches. The wind will always catch anything that’s top heavy. This archway is about 6 years old and our willowarchway picture.

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This is it after a straighten up and a haircut !

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Weaving not only looks pleasing but strengthens the structure.

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This fedge is around 3 years old.020

This 100 metre long fedgerow is  6 years old and was the first fedge to be planted on our land. It goes from the house all the way down the driveway to the lane. This willow was originally sourced from the roadside and all other fedgerows on our land have been created from this  We have plans to lay another fedge on the other side of the driveway and in time we’ll join the two together to form a tunnel.

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Willow fedgeing being used to create a pathway through the garden.

Happy fedgeing, any questions and you know where we are.

Enjoy

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AUTUMN FEDGEROW SUMMER WATCH.

We are just taking another opportunity to bring subjects up to date and as you know last autumn we planted a willow hedgeway. This wasn’t just for the sake of it, but because all we really had was an empty field that I had strimmed and mowed. So, knowing how good and fast growing willow is, we thought that this was the best way to try and develop a garden structure, because like we said before, we bought 6 acres of empty grazing land and had to try to create an existance from this. We didn’t really have a lot of previous knowledge of alternative living, just snippets of information and glimpses of what could become possible from chance meetings of people from around the world, and then us trying to form an idea. Now, obviously the house had to be built first, we all need a roof over our heads, but trying to do everything all at the same time, build the house, sort out alternative energy, sort out a water supply, well, it all takes time.

Our land is also wet, not sodden but wet ( well this is Ireland!), so willow was an obvious choice as this plant helps to dry out the land and gives an instant structure.

Planted as bare rods in late October, these started producing catkins in late February, so after 8 months from planting  and 4 months from sprouting they laid root and have grown 2 feet.

This is the previous years growth which is 3.5 feet tall, which goes to show that once first planted it puts on a rapid spurt of growth, slows down for a year and then once again takes off at a massive rate.

This is 4 years growth and is at least 10 feet high and 6 feet thick. Because we coppiced this very heavily last autumn it has produced a very thick hedge. The cut rods were then used to create the fedgerows in the previous photos and any pieces that we didn’t think were long enough to cut were incorporated back into the hedge to carry on growing.

Once these have grown to a suitable height they will be joined at the top to form a willow archway tunnel.

Creating a garden creation through the simple medium of willow.

Even though I was bought up next door to a plant nursery that my stepdad owned, and I’ve always been around plants, this sort of technique isn’t  new to me but I didn’t actually have a name for it until a good friend if ours Bridget www.arignagardener.wordpress.com called round one day and took some photos and called it a fedge. It was then that we decided to set up this blog, thanks Bridget!

We have found it strange that once we started to write this blog it has put the whole project into perspective as we really spread ourselves thinly with what felt like a million projects all at once. It can make your head spin, but then all of a sudden all of those little bits start to come together and show themselves individually and also as a whole collection. It’s a strange thought that as you are trying to do all of these different projects all at the same time, even though you try to give 100% to each thing, you don’t always appreciate what has been achieved at the time. Well, I think that writing about it on this blog puts things into perspective and makes one look at what has been achieved.

We would both like to take this opportunity to say a big hello and welcome to all our new followers. It’s not always possible to reply to you all at the moment but we really do appreciate you all and will try through our next blog meetings to do so. We hope that our site can be helpful and informative for everyone. Also, to our older constant followers, thankyou for staying with us, we are so glad that you are part of this with us and can witness the changes of life at’ The Willows’.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE ?

With everything else that’s going on at the moment, certain things have been neglected. Unfortunately this time  it was our poor roses. Sorry roses!

So, I thought that this was a good opportunity to show the effectiveness and ease of permaculture. Yes, I know that there are loads of sites out there on this subject and certain ones might criticise mine, but so what ? I just thought that this could show you how to mend a ‘broken bed’.

Obviously this rose bed can’t be dug over so this is our alternative. First we clipped the long grass down, and hand pulled some weeds. A dock plant had to be dug out but this was right on the edge.

Cardboard was laid down and soaked thouroughly.

Well broken down grass clippings are then placed on top. This should be quite a thick mulch as this  also feeds  the plants.

We also use our donkey ‘Poo Brew’ on the plants to give them all a good feed. All we do to get ‘PooBrew’ is to collect up a couple of buckets of donkey dung, put it into a big blue barrel, fill this with water, cover and leave it to completely break down. This is then diluted down for veg or used neat on the garden and gives us all our organic fertilizer. We call this ‘Permaganics’

A nice thick donkey ‘Poo Brew’ that’s been breaking down for about 6 months.

                                                                              Bowie and Floyd.

We’ve often been questioned as to why we have donkeys. Well, we have the land that they graze which keeps it down for us, they provide our fertilizer for our veg and garden and they are just lovely, lovely animals. Thanks lads !

One of the strange things though, is that permaculture is nothing new, my Grandad was gardening this way 50 years ago and he called it mulching. He’s now 83 and still grows his tomatoes in his greenhouse and waters them every day. Come on GRANDAD !

He didn’t feel like he had to copy other people he just did things his way. When we go over to see him, I still carry the watering can up to his greenhouse for him and it really brings back memories I have of being a child.

He is the person who really got me started on this course of life. We used to go into his shed and make things out of wood, nails, screws, and glue. I have since built my house out of wood, nails, screws and glue ! The knowledge that he has given to me is invaluable. One of the first books he gave to us was ‘The Family Smallholding’ by Katie Thear and it still has that old book smell. This was back in 2001 when I had started to settle down a bit after travelling for 9 years round the world and inspired me that this was the way forward.

So, with this sort of information being passed down, you come to realise that we all stand on the shoulders of giants, but, it all depends on whether we look out and see what’s there at the time. I’ve always tried to acknowledge those people who have inspired me along the way, even if just in memory. It can’t always be done in person, sometimes distance and time make it impossible.

Certain people do, certain people don’t, we just try, and trying is the first step to success. Some people just copy others because they have no path of their own, and these are the ones that try to pull others down so that they can make  themselves feel more important than they really are but with no real substance and are just insecure.

So Happy Litha ! We are now just off to the tunnel to dig up a few new potatoes to have with our home made mint sauce .

Enjoy.

A Strange Thing Happened.

In the past few weeks we have been replanting some of our Alder trees, they have just gone mad in our middle field over the past few years and they are starting to smother each other. We put this down to either the donkeys fertilizing them or the ‘wee people’. When we first moved here we heard the locals talk of the wee people. The main part of this was that Folklore has it that you must NEVER remove, cut down or tamper in any way with the whitethorn (Hawthorn) tree, as the wee people will not be happy. If you ignore this piece of advice then bad luck will surely come your way! We have heard of major road developments being halted because a large whitethorn tree has been directly in the way and the road workers wouldn’t continue to work! Needless to say any whitethorn on our land stays well and truly put!

This is our largest whitethorn tree which we call ‘The Fairy Tree’.

Now, after reading the brilliant ‘Magic of Findhorn’ by Paul Hawke (which is an actual place on the N.E. coast of Scotland), we came to think that surely the wee people were ‘Nature Spirits’, and that by working with them and not against them is something that we should try to adhere to. So, when our Alder trees started to spread we decided to move them to a better place but they just wouldn’t budge! We decided to ask them if they would allow us to lift them and place them in a better spot. After a few days we returned to try again and they just seemed to release their roots without us having to pull and tug! This is the truth! Now they can hopefully be happy in their new place and grow into a nice big screening hedge for us.

Some of the Alder trees that were to be moved.

This all brings me round to a strange thing that happened. About 4 years ago we started to plant some Willow in a very boggy part of the land to not just help with drainage but to also coppice in the future. There was a whitethorn hedge that seemed to be in the way so LJ decided to ask the wee people if it would be alright to move the hedge and to be given some kind of sign if it was ok. He had a thought in his head that for some reason he had to make a fool of himself! At this point he heard a rumbling sound behind him and turned to see our donkey (who was about a year old and full of testosterone!) racing towards him like a steam train! LJ thought at this stage it might be a good idea to get the hell out of the way and fell face down in the bog! The donkey stopped,,,Lj swore he heard giggling,,, the wee people! He trudged back to the house and after I’d finished laughing he told me what had happened. As he was telling the story we both noticed that there was a perfect circle of blood on the kitchen floor. We checked both dogs, cats, ourselves and not a scratch on any of us! Heres to say we took this as a sign and they were not moved!!

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BEES IN THE BORAGE

Well, here I am writing my first tentavive post! As you already know, when we moved onto our land 5 years ago, it was literally just fields, and very wet fields at that! What was going to grow in such conditions? Willow… perfect, but there had to be more. We wanted  herbs, so a way forward was the ‘no dig’ herb garden. This involved strimming an area of grass close to the house, removing the cuttings, laying thick wads of newspaper or cardboard, wetting them and laying the grass cuttings back over the wet paper. This creates a thick mulch that if left for just a few weeks will break down and give you the most gorgeous soil. I planted a few herbs and was astonished when I found worms already at home in the new soil! The worms come up to the surface of the soil to drag the rotting matter down … in effect I had created a wormery! We now have a decent selection of herbs of which we can use fresh during summer or, dry them in a warm place for storing for winter use. I love drying herbs in the kitchen and collecting seeds such as coriander and fennel.

Fennel

I also noticed today that there were still bees to be found in the nasturtium and whats left of the borage, not bad for October

A little fuzzy.....Or should that be buzzy?

Borage has often been planted by beekeepers as a forage crop for their hives and is also an excellent companion plant, as planting it close to tomato plants may repel whiteflies and tomato moths. As a herbal medicine, it has been suggested that Borage has a therapeutic value in treating dry itchy skin such as eczema and psoriasis. The leaves can be used as a poultice for sprains, bruises and inflammation……. but as far as I know, not bee stings!!