A catch up on the last two years 'down on the farm'
Its a cold March day, with winds in excess of 45 mph blowing furniture and pots across the patio accompanied by sleet, sun, rain and everything in-between so what better time to curl up indoors and write a long overdue update/blog on developments ‘down on the farm’.
Its been two and a half busy years since our last blog. With the woodland and orchard trees planted and establishing themselves it was time to get on with the garden, which took many man hours and hundreds of plants but now looks amazing. The main garden is based around four large island beds full to the brim with ornamental grasses for height and movement (and because we love them) and herbaceous plants such as rudbeckia, geums, verbena and many more. Preparing the beds ready for planting was a major and heavy undertaking given the ground was once covered in ram-shackle farm buildings and stone and rubble are still not far below the surface. The back breaking clearing of the hardcore took some time. We started with two ying yang shaped borders, the third followed last year and border #4 is only just completed. To each border we added heaps of home made compost and topped with soil conditioner (from a 15t delivery from Virador (a national recycling company who produce, amongst other things, soil conditioner and compost made from household domestic organic waste). After rotavating and mulching with woodchip, they were ready to plant with over 500 relatively tiny plants, which grew into magnificent specimens within a year.
The vegetable plot has become established, and is soon to be expanded. It has provided a bountiful supply of vegetables including peas, green beans, cucumber, butternut squash, broccoli, celeriac, leeks and much more. With more practice in successional planting and more freezer space created we should be able to make ourselves self sufficient veg wise.
A huge undertaking has been the extension and restoration of a dilapidated stone stable, which is now a two-bedroom cottage. With a double (kingsize) bedroom and a twin room together with an open plan living and kitchen area, it is decidedly cute and cosy and features flat floors and a good sized wet room. The Old Stable is now available to book and details can found here: https://chappelsfarm.wixsite.com/oldstable
Finally, we have managed to get the large wildlife pond (almost) completed. Having completed lining it last October, now in March it has filled itself with rainwater - it has been quite some project and we can’t wait to see what wildlife it draws in. Our first inhabitants spotted are two water Whirligig bugs - we have named them Chas and Dave. (Im not actually sure which is which). They have already been joined by some of their friends. The arrival of Chas and Dave caused great excitement. I will be doing actual cartwheels when we spot our first frog! More on the pond in future blogs.
After the last three busy years of working away much of the time, 2019 is definitely focused on the farm and one of our (many) priority tasks is to continue to tackle the grass around the young native woodland trees. Once fully established, the trees will need little care but for now it is a seemingly endless task. To illustrate the point, the silver birches planted in our cultivated island borders have thrived and stand 10-12ft tall with their beautifully silvery trunks looking sturdy and true. The silver birch in the woodland, from the same original batch, stand around 6-8ft tall and their girth is around half the size. (Interesting fact: according to the Woodland Trust, a silver birch provides food and habitat for over 300 insect species! :))
Hopefully 2019 will also see the arrival of the long awaited pair of rescue donkeys as well as the construction of a fruit cage and work on the White Garden, (inspired by that at Sissinghurst Castle (and also much closer to home at Barrington Court) - if you haven't visited either, I highly recommend. Both now owned by the National Trust).
This year already has seen extraordinary things happening climate-wise. February in the UK started with snow (even here in the mild south west) and finished with a heatwave that broke all records. Our plants and birds didn’t know what to do with themselves, especially when the temperatures fell downhill again. Things are changing, of that there is no doubt. The Woodland Trust are tracking the impact of these changes on the UK’s flora and fauna and are asking people to record their first sightings of over 70 plants plants, animals and fungi. Its quick and easy to take part by registering what you see here on ‘Nature’s Calendar’ https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/natures-calendar/
Finally, don’t forget our online shop for lovely gifts, all inspired by nature. New additions include Bees Wax Wraps - a fabulous and sustainable alternative to plastic bags and cling film made in Gloucestershire. Also the popular and gorgeous collection of notepads is growing as well as some special Somerset items. http://www.inspiredbynaturedirect.com/en/shop.php
Pic: Clockwise - A typical flash of colour from the island borders; a glimpse inside the Old Stable; first time planting in the wildlife pond; and Little Owl, who remains a regular visitor.