IMG_3123we are now into february.  we have been busy and very lucky with the weather…. both myself and joe decided that we would try to do this forest garden without the use of any heavy machinery coming into the space which might wreck the good work that the pigs have done in turning over the ground and rooting out the grass.  keeps the costs down too but what we save on mini diggers we will probably spend on radox bath soak…..we have quite a big area to work so this initial stage is pretty back breaking at times.

we have had a hand from mary and a friend thjis who is a very handy neighbour.  myself and mary wouldn’t be the best at the digging and the lifting out of heavy sodden bits of grass.   the pigs did a great job at uprooting the couch grass, but, where we went wrong with this was it was too long for them to tackle on top in the first instance. i should have put a horse or a sheep on it first to graze it right down to the root or even just mowed it down.  we see the error of our ways and feel it more in our backs as we have lots and lots of this sort of stuff to get out of the way before we feel ready to really start marking out and planning.  if you end up doing this, then i can whole heartedly suggest getting the grass as short as possible before-hand, thus eliminating this heavy duty work the other end!! we live and learn…

so, we now have a blank canvas.  pigs have been moved to another area of land to get stuck in and are delighted with the bit of green to forage around in and bask in the sun when it pops out..

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FullSizeRender-1for the next stage i drafted in mary as i knew it would take her two seconds to do the marking out and it would take me two days…  it was worth the bowl of soup that i had to feed her to entice her down….she used some flour and some kindling sticks to mark out the paths and the hugglekulture and the spiral path that links the two main areas of the garden and put marks where we had to plant the trees.  i went around and cleared all the stones and rocks that i could from the area too. I’m sure we will be using the stones down the line in some shape or another.  then the fun bit could start…we got to order a bunch of trees and hedging that we needed to go around the edge of this garden. we get an awful lot of south westerly winds and we need at least one hedging belt to protect this garden.  we decided to order a few more plants and do another extra little belt just outside so it will have a double layer of protection and I’m sure will look lovely.

IMG_3161 IMG_3163 we got this mix of hedging from future forests in cork. they came packed in straw and bare rooted so we had to hope that the weather was going to be with us as they need to get into the earth as soon as possible.  it would not have been much fun slipping around a muddy field in the rain trying to do this planting job…  we watched the forecast, picked a weekend in mid january and got lucky.  we ordered the plants to arrive on the friday and went for it on the saturday.  great service from future forests, great plants too which is the main thing. this is what we went for – 50 % Hawthorn ( this being the back bone of the hedge ) and we made up the other 50 % with permaculture plants like Amelanchier, Elder, Rosa rugosa, Plum leafed Hawthorn, American scarlet Hawthorn with lesser amounts of Aronia, Crabapple, Hazel, Quince and a few wild Rose to plant through the Hawthorn. we had 210 hedging plants which came in at just over €200.

IMG_3223 IMG_3224to be honest, it was a bit overwhelming that saturday morning when i unwrapped all these hedging plants..there were 235 plants in total including the trees and there was only me and joe there. but, we got stuck in, joe did the hole making with a big sturdy pole-like thing he borrowed from the garage, and i went behind him planting the hedge and mulching (i knew we would need a lot of mulch so i ordered a very large bag to arrive the same day as the plants which cost me €100). mary came over later in the day on saturday (i think she could probably hear the pleading edge to my voice when i phone to tell her that there was a LOT of work to do) and she helped put the trees in and generally see that all was as it should be. i also roped in my youngest leopard who got stuck in with gusto!

FullSizeRender-4i have planted a lovely little scarlet hawthorn at the centre of my wishing space…a classic wishing tree… is planted on top of some bits and stuff that hold our intentions for this garden and will be our portal to the universe…  its surrounded by an ever decreasing circle of 10 silver birch trees…we have 3 trees planted around the hugelkulture which is the large raised circular structure on the right of this drawing below.  they were a greengage, a damson and a sambucus nigra if my memory serves me right.  we also have a morus nigra, mespilus germanicacus, a nottingham cob, a halls giant and a prunus morella which are dotted around the garden. give it about 7 – 10 years and it should go from this bare patch of earth to eventually look something like this…..wouldnt that be nice!

now the big job of making the paths and the hugelkultures starts..the ground has actually been too frozen to dig into easily so i think we are going to go with a less labour intensive method and lay down some hard core and put a thick layer of mulch on top of it. maybe see if we can get some bricks or stones or something to edge the pathways with to define the area a bit. we had started to dig down 5 inches into the ground but, i don’t think we need to. we need to get the paths in so that we can stop walking across the bare earth. we are sourcing local untreated wood to build the hugelkulture. that is the next big job after the paths, but one thing at a time….paths first!

as we have the paths marked out and i know roughly where they will fall, all around them in the totality of the garden i have sowed the dynamic accumalators that i bought i bought 1kg of landsberger mix at €21 per kg. i mixed it with sand and sowed that by hand. it attracted a little flock of either yellow wagtails or yellow hammers (couldn’t see without my glasses and they flew off by the time i went in and got them..lovely to see the birds but hopefully they all leave enough seed to grow! i might have to round up some of the kids fake snakes and leave them lying around, but maybe as this is ireland, the birds will be indifferent to the scary charms of a snake as they wouldn’t be that common in these parts!

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FullSizeRender-3 IMG_3225it is all basically exciting feels like we really achieved a lot this past few weeks, and i know that there is a tonne more work to do – but we are getting there bit by bit and seeing the garden take shape has been very satisfying indeed. over and out and back to the heavy wheelbarrow and the hot soaks…. wishing everyone a good and joyful spring…