Heavy Plant and Little Plants

This winter we have been working through our online Making Small Farms Work course run by Richard Perkins at Ridgedale in Sweeden.  One of the critical tasks that came out of our early design work was to assess the farm according to Scales of Permanence.

PA Yeomans‘ work both helps us to understand what can be changed and what can be done.  The Scale shows that at the top overall climate cannot be adapted, but at the other end soil is highly adaptable to change over a short time period.  This is great news for the damaged and disadvantaged land that we now curate.

Knowing that soil health can be changed then leads to how?  Again Yeomans work in Keyline design provided the backbone for our development.  Although founded in more arid areas, the principles of spreading water across the land applied to our wetter environment well.  Following topographic surveys and landform pattern identification we set-out a series of “keylines” to be subsoiled.  Heavy and intensive machinery usage is not part of our regenerative plan, but as a one-off catalyst is a good investment.  The Tayforth Machinery Ring provided the tractor, driver, subsoiler and we took the opportunity to follow-up with a power harrow to define the tree lanes for the silvopasture planting pattern to follow.

Coincidentally it was the same day that the Machinery Ring also supplied the heavy lifter to allow us to relocate the portacabin.  Previously a bakery and latterly a store the building is a great size for some of our future plans and so reusing the block by recycling the location was ideal.  A stable block, aptly blocking the way was removed prior to the JCB arrival and despite being at the very edge of lifting capacity the modular building (which may or may not be a Portakabin, but sure looks like one to the layperson) was lifted and dragged nestling into it’s new home creating new space and light.

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Now we are another couple of steps closer to our vision and future blogs will introduce the planting patterns and development of energy sources on the farm…

Edit 8/June/2018 – clarification that our “portacabin” referred to in the original text is a modular building, courtesy of the Intellectual Property Manager at Portakabin®.

Fencin’ & Hedgin’

Achray Farm is pretty small as smallholdings go, so we want to maximise our use of the land as well as the location and buildings. This means creating a planting plan that will return high-quality, low-input produce that is suitable for our soil and climate.  More on that detail in a future post.

Firstly though, the local environment has plenty of challenges to new planting and in particular deer.  So this March, before planting could begin and risk being chomped, was to deer-proof fence the farm perimeter.

The existing stock-fence had become so rotten in places that the pigs had taken to simply pushing under and heaving the old posts straight out of the ground.  So once they were grounded in the “naughty field” we could begin several hundred meters of dismantling wire and wood.

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We had considered the line of the new fence at length, as with the public path through the farm track we didn’t want to create “Fortress Achray” with 2m high boundaries encroaching on the public experience.  Fortunately the buildings create a natural division that we could use to secure the Northern proportion of our land and keep a natural feel to the landscape.

Integral to this approach was not just to have a boundary deer fence in isolation, but to use the fenceline as protection for native hedging along the boundary.  To do this we applied for a Loch Lomond & The Trossachs grant under their Natural Environment scheme and were successful in our application.  The program’s support meant the arrival in early April of 1000 bare root hedging plants of hazel, hawthorn, blackthorn, guelder rose, dog rose and crab apple.  In addition, 60 native trees have added to the riparian (river boundary) edge to enrich the character and environmental value of this area.

1000 plants is a daunting task and so we enlisted the help of the 30th Glasgow Scout Group.  On a cold and damp 10 March they arrived in force and set to (after a cuppa and a roll) in a veritable planting frenzy.  Sue from the Forestry Commission gave an introduction to the value of trees in the environment and taught us how to dig a T-Cut with a planting spade.

After lunch and warmed hands the team were at it again before a farm tour with egg collecting, goat milking and a walk/run with the goats down to Loch Achray. Everyone appeared to have a great day and all in good causes.

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Thank you again to the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park for their grant assistance and to the Glasgow 30th for literally digging in and getting the job done.  New shoots are showing already as we all take root for the spring.#

UPDATE:

Link to National Park Press Coverage.