My name is claire. I manage singers. I’m a blogger virgin, but I’m involved in a new project that seems like it might be a rather good thing to write about. I have recently taken on a new client to manage in the shape of landscape gardener Mary Reynolds….she sings pretty badly, but she certainly knows her onions, her earth and her trees…. Myself and Mary have skirted around each others lives for a goodly few years…….as someone who uses an outside space to switch off in (don’t do it enough mind) and having always had a fascination with the natural world (my life could have taken a very different path if i’d chosen the biology degree over the art…), I’ve always been intrigued with the ideas that I’ve heard mary talk about.
over the past couple of years, mary has been writing a book – working title of ‘the wild way’ – which is amongst other things, a practical guide for an alternative way of gardening and our interaction with the land. it essentially talks about how to grow and build a forest garden. once up and running this garden will hopefully produce food, be a thing of beauty, work for the environment, be good for the soul and generally be a majical place to hang out in. once established it should also be somewhere that is not too labour intensive for the human element (i.e. me). i dont think ill have to be mowing any lawns with a mary garden anyways!
I’ve been able to read the book as mary is writing it, so, whilst talking about certain elements of the ultimate garden that it produces, we thought why not put it into practice and share what we discover and build through the website. it might raise pertinent questions both theoretical and practical, and generally get people talking and thinking….at the very least it should be an interesting experiment!
don’t be put off by thinking that this can only work on a biggish plot of land out in the middle of nowhere either – it should be achievable on small, medium or larger plots wherever they happen to be. there are a fair few different approaches to all the stages in making this garden, and they are all explored thoroughly in the book. without wanting to write the whole book here in explanation – I’m just going to be writing about the way that I’m doing it. an approach that will hopefully work for me and my family.
so – my house is in wexford, south east of ireland. i have a partner joe and we have 2 daughter units. the eldest has always been big into horses. she has just left home to go to college and i find myself with a fuller fridge, less laundry to do, no wet towels to pick up off the floor and an empty paddock doing nothing but getting all tussocky. its the perfect space for me to start from scratch with a forest garden.
i also boast two jack russells with 7 legs between them. they started to investigate the area for me when we were out measuring and plotting the curves of the land which is pretty much the first thing to do. measure. see where the cambers in the land lie. draw it to scale on a piece of paper. start to think about design. my particular plot is about 31x10x26m. its a blunt triangle shape roughly….we’ll need all these measurements and dips and peaks when we get a few stages ahead. where any ditches lie in relation to the land. the height and spread of any existing trees or planting that is going to remain any hedges that exist. basically as good a drawing that you can make so that you can design the elements as needed.
now, I’m also lucky in that i have one of these below to call on and come and hold my hand through this process. here she is having a bit of a think about design…you dont necessarily need a mary to do this – you can trust to your own ideas. the book has got various design ideas and guidelines for certain sizes of gardens that you could follow if you wanted to. although you do have to have an idea of what you want from your space (food, shelter, wishing space, fire pit, chickens, paths etc etc) but once you have thought all this through you can start to plan the build on paper at least..
so last week when we were ready to really go for it, instead of getting a digger in to scrape off the grass, or do any other very hard core way of getting the place ready for planting like chemical weedkillers (mary would hit my hand with a big stick if i reached for the glyphosate, and rightly so) – we decided to go the pig route. and why not. i like an animal about the place and pigs are rather good at snouting around and ripping roots asunder and generally clearing the land in a very eco friendly way, while fertilising at the same time. we found a very helpful local-ish pig keeper (an hour away) who was very keen to tell us all about the ways of the pig and what we would have to do to keep some. not too taxing, at this point anyways. food. water. shelter. bit of electric fencing. the odd show of affection (kind of like keeping a teenager really).
best time to get any trees into the ground is november apparently. this is a big enough space for just the two pigs to clear, so i dont know how much they’ll get done in the next 2 months, but sure, lets see. hopefully they’ll have got through a goodly amount of it. before joe heads off on tour in early october, we thought we’d better just do it or its going to be another few months that will slip by and we’ll be into 2015 before you know it…so joe built them a little den out of old shed scraps…..and went and got them up in wicklow and they traveled home in style in the back of the jeep.
of course, they were named immediately which is always the way of it when theres anyone around under the age of 10…and before you ask, no, i dont know at this point if we are going to slaughter them or just keep them around and about the place or sell them back to the farmer or lend them out to other folks that might want to do similar. we have to see how this goes…
here is susan checking out her new environment…..
…and here is missy the tripod dog welcoming margaret the quadruped pig into the field…neither knew quite what to make of the other but i have little doubt that they will find common ground in time.
margaret and susan check out their new pad..
susan smiles and grunts in a pig like fashion and says ‘right – lets get this show on the road!’