Friday, 4 February 2011

Smallholding Plans

It's been a while since I posted, but don't let that lead you to believe that nothing has been happening here. We have been gearing ourselves up for a very busy year on the smallholding, having meetings and making plans. Our pressing projects include planting 3000-ish trees, which will take place from mid February until mid April (there's a deadline which needs to be met as the tree-planting is being done with the help of a grant), installing alternative energy systems (including a wood-fueled boiler for hot water/heating, solar panels to generate electricity, and passive solar collectors to heat water), as well as digging a whole load of new vegetable beds and hopefully growing twice as much as last year.

There's a good deal of construction work to be done, chiefly by Phil and my dad. The wood boiler will be stationed in one of the outdoor sheds, and will need to be boxed in and insulated so that we don't waste any leaked heat. A trench will be dug from the shed to the house as a route for the pipes. An 'A' frame for the solar panels needs to be constructed on high slope behind the house (due to the large hill in front of us, the houses lose the sun for the four darkest months of the year - the slope, being higher, retains the sun for a little longer).

The sun (shining tantalisingly on the other side of the valley) has not yet returned to our houses

We are planning a cool (but not too cold!) storage area on a mezzanine floor (which doesn't yet exist) for dried goods and things like potatoes and onions. Phil will be adding a foot or so of insulating hempcrete to the gable end and rear exterior walls of our house, which is something which should be done in warmer weather to aid drying. Eventually we hope to construct a conservatory along the front of the houses, as a way of capturing heat as well as creating more space, but I don't think we'll have time for that this year.

My mum has been excellent at taking up the reins with regards to the tree planting project. She has sourced them from a local tree nursery, so they will be well prepared for life at 800ft. Our plan is to start coppicing them for our own fuel needs as soon as they are big enough. Overall we are trying to become as self-sufficient as we can in energy and food, so that we are not at the mercy of volatile market trends and big business. We want to be as self-reliant as possible, it seems to be the only thing that makes sense in an increasingly unpredictable world.

The oaks lining the lane are hundreds of years old

Hopefully I'll make time to blog more regularly again (though it does look like I might soon be rather occupied!), and I really want to share Meggie's developments too, as well as what I've been doing creatively... Just give me a few extra hours in the day, that's all I ask!

I found a Silver Cross pushchair in a local charity shop for £3,
which is a fun way to take Meg out and about :D


  1. Ah Emily I love this! I love all the cool stuff you're doing. I've jsut been made redundant so this year I am really hoping to plant more out at our allotment in the hope that we cna save money from fruit and veggies over the year. Good luck with all the energy efficiency and I love the idea of a grant for trees, although the idea of planting so many is a little off putting! I'd definitely leave that one to the men!!! Keep us posted! Do you liek what I did there!! he he

  2. I apologise for the spelling in that. I was hastily writing while in work.... Mummy brain means I can't do well two things at once!

  3. Oh Emily, if I didn't like you so much and feel so happy and excited for you, I would be bright green with envy right now!!

    Good luck with all the epic work, and if you need an extra pair of hands (with a baby pair thrown in for free) then I would love to come and help out a bit;-)

    Meg's looking lovely, by the way!

  4. Yes, you ought to have a tree-planting party!

  5. wow amazing stuff emily :D very jelous of all your plans! a dream come true im sure! iv been up your neck of the woods this week in Machynlleth visiting the Aberystwyth National Library and staying with my friend fran. I was excited to hear that Ember would be playing at the Tabernacle but due to the floods you couldnt make it! shame :( oh well, it was a good night all the same. Hope the planting of the new trees goes ok, good luck xxx

  6. Oh, what plans! It all sounds amazing. The tree planting is a wonderful thing - I have just joined the Woodland Trust, so I am particularly excited about the tree bit of your news. I'll look forward to seeing those pictures over the next few years! You have exactly the right attitude to everything, you guys in your smallholding. What I wouldn't give to be able to up sticks and live like that. I will make do with my makeshift planters for potatoes and peppers this year :)

    £3 for a Silver Cross pushchair?! Amazing :D

  7. Lovely to receive such encouraging comments, cheers guys! :D

    Gayle: sorry you're being made redundant (I hope you got a golden handshake?) but glad to hear you'll be doing more in the allotment - not just cheaper veg and fruit, but fresher and healthier too!

    Hannah and Bec: Yes, please do come and help, and anyone who fancies it - would be great to see you up here! Should I organise a specific day/weekend do you think? Rain permitting...

    Axel: when do you think you might get your bit of land now? Baby first though, of course! :D

    Caroline: Shame to have missed you in Mach, yes it would have been risky trying to get through rising floodwaters just to sing a couple of songs. Next time you're up, let me know, come and visit!

    Linda: You're sounding very motivated and inspired these days (nothing new there then, ha ha!), am looking forward to hearing about your veg growing on your blog! Well done for finishing NaNoWriMo, btw! That writing kit looks fun! X

  8. yeh would be, my friend fran had some damage done to her car coz of us thinking the Dyfi Bridge was passable....ummm turned out not to be! got a bit scary at one point :S i am back in mach on the 17th of march til the 20th (thursday to sunday)! if you want to meet up let me know, i can gurantee il be in the white lion on saturday afternoon watching the rugby, email me at or you can txt me 07846217728 if you like! obv your very busy planting trees and what not tho and bringing up beautiful baby! good luck with it all, hopefully il see you soon xxxx