Friday, 5 March 2010

Moving back into the countryside.....stick land

Well here it is the view from the new house - I want to remind myself through the damp and the cold, the wind and the rain and the challenges that growing plants up here faces, how much I love the open space and the joy of living in such a beautiful peripheral area of the UK. Whilst Orkney is not the most northerly isles of the UK it is definately challenging and dynamic, beautiful and breathtaking, isolated but vibrant. The isles are a hub of activity and filled with such space and such peacefulness its a wonder anything every gets done. If I've heard these expressions once I've heard them a thousand times:

'It will get done when it gets done lass' AND 'It is what it is lass' - on these isles never a truer word spoken/

I've added the view at the top from the house to remind myself why I'm here, why I'm working to sustain my family and also to stop and look at the view occasionally and appreciate all that we've got. Big skies and muddy boots.....................................

Well I wanted to just post a wee reminder of what I'm embarking on with the new property we've just leased - this is the view of the house and the land in which is sits, beautiful but not many trees - a very open landscape. From the new place we can watch the birds, watch the landscape changing with the light and the weather. We can spy the ferry coming around St John's Head in Hoy and find ourselves just whiling away the time looking at the things that change by the minute....................I'm borrowing a telescope for a bit to just drink it all in.

There's not much in the way of sounds at the house, we're down our own track (2 houses on this track each a field away from each other), the road at the top of the track is a small one - the main road on the island is 2.5 miles from the house - so all you can really hear are the birds and the wind. No rustles from leaves or trees yet, that will have to be planted to be heard so that's a job for soon.

There are steadings with the house and a field which we might rent. I've measured up today for the perimeter of the garden's fence to put up some sheltered green netting and rabbit fencing to keep my puppy dog in the garden and create a bit of shelter for the large hedge I am about to plant. I'm putting in an 'energy hedge' with a mixture of dedicated energy willows, some native material and some different species which all have good qualities. This hedge will be managed each year to coppice and take the wood from the hedge we need for some of our household fuel. Its going to be fun, exciting and putting a few years of my own reasearch into practise. I'm sure with a bit of care and attention to detail there will be a way for the house and garden to provide a decent amount of fuel for us.

So having purchased my netting today the first job next weekend is to tackle sorting out the fence and begin the preparation for the energy hedge cuttings which will need to be planted over the next couple of months, I will probably put in a couple of thousand cuttings - the edge of the garden fence is approximately 150m in length - and I want to plant a hedge which is about 1m wide - so I've a fair bit of hedging to put in - mainly by cuttings - mainly willow, poplar, rowan, ash, alder, elder, and various other delights. I'm thinking that will need about 5 rows deep of cuttings 0.3m apart - so perhaps 2250- 3000 cuttings to put in for the hedge. Each plant can make about 0.5-1 kg wood a year - whilst establishing and upto about 3kg wood per plant after they get going - so that can give me a good couple of tonnes of fresh firewood a year once things are established which will be really helpful for me and also will add some habitat to the garden for birds and other wildlife.
Currently the garden has 2 shrubs and grass - the byres have some elder beside them - that's it for the biodiversity at the moment!!!!!

Other ongoing jobs are to consider what we might make if we rent the byres and the paddock by the house - pigs, chickens, sheep - a couple of cows - who know's I'm thinking hard this year to consider the options for next year. I don't eat factory produced meat, I'm happier eating home grown, well cared for meat and have no issue growing a 'crop' of pigs, sheep etc for consumption - we eat meat so I'm happy to try and produce some at home and sell some locally if I can make it work.



  1. Ooh, Fay, it's gorgeous! Absolutely gorgeous, I'm sure you'll love it there. I'm very impressed by your plans for hedges etc - you're so industrious! I'm amazed how much you get done :)

    (blog's looking lovely too by the way!) :)


  2. Good luck in the new place Fay, it looks absolutely lovely, and secluded :) You could fit oodles of chickens in there lol

  3. Thanks guys we were out at the house today and its a six minute meander to the beach from the back door - which is great. Saw lapwings dancing, oystercathers, 2 pheasants dottering through the field, a flock of curlews all calling and various gulls today. Must get the bird feeders up soon and try and tempt some other birdies into the garden.