Saturday, 27 January 2007

White van man

I've been a bit busy working to pay bills, so have not had a lot of time to update the blog. However things are still moving along, with some seaweed and straw delivered by yours truly.

Here you can see my friend pete (thanks pete!) chucking some straw about, the scissors is to cut the twine, it gets in the way of our furious forks. Old rotten straw like this is ideal for making "lasagne beds" more on those another time..
A few more loads of manure and i'll be all ready to start working. It's a 2 week wait for the polytunnel skin, so in the meantime i'm concentrating on the beds nearest to the fence..

Monday, 15 January 2007

wet wet wet

well the rain has returned, but we have heroically kept up the work. The final bits are now being put on the tunnel. Battens like this:
will hold the whole structure together, making for a solid but slightly bendy shape for the wind to play with.While it is wet, the ground does soak it up. it means I can't drive the car into the field with materials, if i did it would look something like this:

I've been talking to a canny cornish farmer today, he wouldn't part with any manure unless i paid him well for it, can't say i blame him, farming doesn't pay much these days. So i'll have to look elsewhere, the bulk of my fertility will come from seaweed, and seawater..what? yes but that's for later...
For now i'll look at this picture and wish the clouds away.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007


I've decided as part of this project to do a small comparison between t an intensive small scale garden, and a large scale, "conventional" system.
Here's a picture of my neighbours cauliflower field:

The bit you see is the turning circle for the tractors, giant gleaming machines with massive tyres. Very impressive, but also very messy. I've yet to measure it exactly, but the turning circle for this field is roughly the same size as my entire plot!
I've always read that convential large scale agriculture is the way to go, bigger yields, efficient and all that. The only problem is that this is more of an assumption than anything else. Any studies done seem to be a direct comparison between a large scale organic system and a non-organic one.
Now, when i look at this vast, empty field with it's churned up earth, discarded cauliflowers and areas of unused land I start to wonder...
Surely an intensive, forest garden, modeled on nature, will produce more than a vast monoculture. The thing that strikes me most are the vast amounts of waste inherent in this process.
I worked for 5 years in the "conventional" horticulture industry, and industry it is. The search for a perfect apple leaves out at the minimum 30% of the crop due to blemishes, shape and appearance.

So what's the alternative? Well I would think to put people back on the land, instead of vast acerage devoted to a single crop, have allotments. Which is more diverse, vital and interesting?
I'll leave that up to you to decide.
Another thing that strikes me is the "care per metre squared". simply put, how much care and attention is focused on a particular patch of ground?
Picture the old geezer looking after his prize marrows at the back of the house and a behemoth of a tractor, roaring around a field while the farmer listens to cds in the cab...

Doors of Perception

Despite inclement weather, the door frames are up, a bit shakey, but doing their job all the same. It gets a bit confusing looking at them, as they are on a hill. It's funny what looks straight but is actually slanted and vice versa, thank you to my good friend the spirit level!

You can see that a bit has being happening, I got the mini tractor out for the day and have nudged the tanks into position. The one uphill from the tunnel will supply irrigation water by gravity to the plants.
The downhill tank, which is bigger, will have the long blue hose whcih is currently stretched halfway around the field attached to it. This will then loop under the soil in the polytunnel. Once hooked up, it will have 20-30 tons of woodchips dumped on it.The warm water in the tank will circulate up into the tunnel and back down again.This will produce enough heat to keep the tunnel nice and warm.That's the plan anyway..

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Learning process

The weather has been pretty rough recently, so much so that not a lot of pictures were taken. I have made progress however, the frames are up and the heating tank and irrigation tank are in position, pictures to follow...
For now, I thought i'd show some pictures of the guy who inspired me to try this method of heating the polytunnel:

Jean pain was a frenchman who was faced with the problem of forest fires in the region where he lived in South West france. The underbrush in these forests had to be disposed of to lessen the risk of fires happening. He devised a way to make really potent compost from this waste product. After more experiments he realised that the amount of heat from a fermenting heap this big could be used for different purposes..he set to work.
What you see above is an inital prototype heap and a more refined round one, which extracted more heat from the piles.

His solution was simple, wind water filled plastic tubing around the pile and then send it to wherever you want it. Because of the huge mass: 50-120 tons, the piles stayed at 50-65 centigrade for up to 18 months..Free heat, and at the end of it, tons of compost..what a genius!

Of course on reading about this, I started to dream of real cornish bananas, coffee, tea, pineapples, the lot! and why not? The air freighting of pineapples, never mind apples, is a great way to go about destroying our planet, maybe this can be part of the solution..
This is is greenhouse, heated by a massive heap, sub-tropical conditions on the inside.Can we achieve the same here?