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

THERE’S MORE AT THE DOOR.

Hello and welcome to ‘The Willows’ and a big welcome to all our new Twitter followers.

Even though we have a very well insulated house with the floors, walls and roof all having 4 inches of insulation, there are always little problems with the wind through the side door especially when the wind blows from the east. All of the windows have insulation tape/draught excluder, so no draughts there, but the doors were difficult to sort out. Another problem was that all of our coats, boots, etc.  were hung up in the kitchen and when they got wet ( and knowing where we live, that’s often !), and were drying, it made the kitchen steam up and the floor wet meaning more heat was needed.

So, I solved this by building something so simple and easy, that has been used for exactly these reasons for hundreds of years, a porch.

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It was built onto a raised floor to stop damp, and the window was recycled from an old property.

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It was stained with a water based stain and then with linseed oil to waterproof it. The re cycled door and window are now ready for a lick of paint.

The difference it has made is amazing, no more draughts and all of our wet clothing hangs in there so no more dripping all over the kitchen floor, this has also given us more room in the kitchen and we’re not tripping up over boots !

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I decided to put this old door in so that we can fetch fuel/wood for the range or start the generator from inside the porch without getting wet, especially once the tin roof has been extended!

Obviously the porch itself has a few draughts, but once the coats etc have stopped dripping, they can come in for a nice warm and a dry but they have to go back out there. There’s a place for everything and everything in it’s place, as my Grandma used to say . And I bet yours did too !

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It would be virtually impossible to stop every draught but as long as they are only small I think they actually help with some ventilation.

So now the house needs less heating, less heating means less waste and so less of a carbon footprint, and so less money needed to be spent.

We would like to supply all of our own fuel here at ‘The Willows’, and we are trying as we have already planted lots of trees over the years,( too many to count,) and most of the willow has been woven into fedges ( I will post more about the fedges in a later blog). Each willow will produce hundreds of rods that can be mulched into briquettes for fuel. Some people say that willow isn’t good for the fire as it has a high water content, but we dried some out for a year and it burnt well, very well, but making a compact briquette makes it burn slower, but with a good heat.

So we’re off now to plant more trees that include Oak ,Beech, Birch, Alder and of course Willow for our Samhain celebration.

HAPPY SAMHAIN !

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Enjoy.

BLOCKHEADS

Now, this post was supposed to go out with yesterdays blog, but as with computers, it said NO halfway through and so we decided to have another go today. Computers eh? Last year one of our mutual bloggers www.earthandhearth.wordpress.com  put out a post where she had bought a Paper Log Briquette Maker. We were quite intriqued by this concept and so asked her where to buy one. Of course you can get these on line but last week we were wandering around our local thrift store and it was like a double take…. there it was waving at us, buy me ! Anyway, once home we started to rip the newspapers apart, soak them thoroughly and proceed to make briquettes. OH, I do like new gadgets !

The paper soaking.

Go on, give it a good squeeze.

Ta Da !

The start of our self sustainable fuel. They may not be perfect yet but we are adapting our technique, maybe shredding the paper so that it’s alot finer. We are also considering getting a shredder (run from our sustainable energy) so that we can use shredded willow leaves and bark from our willow wood which is being increased seasonally.

By the end of the day I had made about 40 logs, and it wasn’t a very long day at that. They are stacked up in the workshop to dry thoroughly, although a few were placed near to the range to dry quickly so that we could try them out and see if they were successful. They were.

We hope you all have a very Happy Samhain from ‘The Willows’.

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’.

‘BASKET CASE’

A few weeks ago our old woven basket that was used for holding our peat briquettes,( and we had actually rescued from a skip!),fell apart and couldn’t take being mended for an umpteenth time! LJ (hubby) decided on the spur of the moment, he would have a go at making another. We had some willow left over from our fedge-making last week and so, without further ado and absolutely no idea or previous experience of basket weaving, the task took place…..

I was pretty shocked to see that already the base was taking shape from a small idea he had.

And within a couple of hours already it was standing up.

Looking down into the base.

He was so engrossed in his work that even the rain couldn’t stop him and I had to clear the kitchen to enable continuation!

Look at the weft-work on that!

This wasn’t easy because the willow is supposed to be soaked for a couple of weeks prior to weaving to make it supple.

Because we have such interest in willow,( hence the house name and blog site!), it’s amazing the information that you find out such as willow is the traditional material used in basket-making and is also known as ‘osier’. It seems to grow best in an area that has a high content of water, which suits our land just fine! Each year the osiers are cut as coppice shoots that grow up as permanent ‘stools’. They are then cut by hand usually during winter months. We also found out that there are three types of rod, white, buff and brown.White rods have their bark removed manually with a V shaped tool. Buff rods are boiled so that the tannin in the bark stains the rods a buff colour and then they are peeled. Brown rods have the bark left on as in the case of what we used.

Taa Daa!! Not bad as a first attempt eh?

AUTUMN FEDGEROW

Because this is only our second posting, we were going to show you how we built The Willows, but with it being this time of year we thought we would plant a new fedge.

Thats me cutting last years willow growth ( thats a picture of my best side ). Some of the rods were 8 to 10 feet long.

There was alot !!! and the drive way is long !!!

We cut about 400 rods, and theres still more to cut.

The basic planted fedge.

By crossing the willow like this it makes it stronger and binds it together.

The finished fedge which is about 25 metres long, using about 70 rods of willow.

A few tips for anyone who wants to try this themselves,… make sure that the rods are pushed at least 9 to 12 inches into the ground, otherwise they could fall over or possibly not root. Once you’ve planted a hoop ( two rods planted 4 feet apart and woven together) your next hoop starts with a rod planted in the centre of the hoop.

HAPPY FEDGING FROM WILLOWARCHWAY !