It’s funny how ideas, or inspiration, comes into us. This one relates to my Chicken Scavenging System. I have been using a shredded Miscanthus product for chicken bedding. It is about the same price as a bale of chopped straw, but is grown without chemicals, is a perennial, and most importantly works well. My long term aim is to house a single flock of chickens, and possibly another of ducks, on a deep litter system, with the raw materials coming from on site. Probably a combination of Common Reed harvested from gray/brown water systems and Swale, along with tree and shrub prunings, straw from my grain growing, and bamboo. In the medium term, I have two deep litter systems, along with two conventional poultry houses, and another house due to be used soon.
Two years ago I was sent some willow cuttings from the research centre at Rothampstead, who keep the National willow collection. The cuttings were for me to use to see which were the earliest flowering willows. My interest is early bee forage. I have a lot of violet willow (Salix daphnoides), which is my earliest flowering willow and every year I’m relieved when I see my bees foraging on it, as I know that their lean period is over. From then on, there is a steady flow of nectar until early Summer, and only the weather.
Again, actual progress with my experimental polyculture has been slow, whilst my thinking has continued to evolve. In the vegetable beds, Broad beans have now been planted. These are a great example of the Permaculture principle ‘every element should perform more than one function’. They are a food crop, provide bee forage, fix nitrogen, yield a lot of biomass, and keep plants in the beds over Winter (green manure). As a food crop, you can eat the young shoots, the whole pods, the seeds young, or dry the seeds for storage. Not bad from a single crop.
I wanted to get some current pictures of the Forest garden posted, with a short account of where I’ve got to so far, and what’s next. For those who haven’t visited the blog before, it might be worth you checking out the Forest Garden paragraph of the Pictures, Designs, and Plans page, before continuing.
The first picture is a view from the top (North East) corner of the Forest Garden, which is about an acre in size.
The pink bands that you can see running across the picture are the swale banks, which are covered in Musk Mallow. This is a wonderful plant, perennial, edible leaves and flowers, great bee forage, deep rooted, and able to compete with grass. I planted most of these as self seeded plants from the vegetable garden,and they have started to self seed, and expand. The pictures below show a bit more detail.
The frozen ground has set my plans for the Autumn/Winter work back significantly, but much of the tree planting for the new Forest Garden is finished. The jobs that have slipped are the preparation of the Vegetable beds, and wood cutting.
I had hoped to get all of the tree planting done by the end of November/early December, but the snow interrupted work, and once the ground started to thaw, I was caught up in all of the family festivities and visits.I also had to do some remedial work to a beehive that was attacked by a woodpecker, and protect the remaining hives.