Big plans for a small smallholding

We’ve been dreaming for 15 years of a move to communal living in the country. It all started on the BBC Religion & Ethics board back in 2002, in a big discussion with the Pagans there. It was just a pipedream really, but we had detailed plans of who would do what. Growing fruit and veg, keeping animals (not for meat), learning traditional crafts and managing the land sustainably. Well now it’s actually happening. Not quite a commune, although two other people will be joining us once we settle in. So, in no particular order, here is what we’re planning:

  • Growing vegetables, fruit and herbs organically in a large vegetable garden, polytunnel and greenhouse, using the Charles Dowding no-dig approach
  • Managing the orchard that’s already there – there are 30 kinds of heritage apples, plus pears, hazelnuts and figs. I want to add quince, crabapples and medlars
  • Food crafts – cider, fruit wine and cordials, jams, chutnies, preserving fruit and veg, and anything else we fancy. The 3-room outbuilding will be the craft centre
  • Rescuing cats – we currently have 15 housecats who will be moving with us, and a barn that could host properly feral rescues. I’m already involved with Cats Protection
  • Rescuing ex-commercial hens – they have a rotten life and are slaughtered once their egglaying drops off, so we’ll be working with the British Hen Welfare Trust to rescue some girlies. If they give us eggs, great; if not, they can live out the rest of their lives with the freedom and happiness that they’ve never known
  • Native hedgerows and woodland – this is Mike’s particular area of interest
  • Bio-sustainability – we want to be self-sufficientish in veg and fruit, and provide a decent natural habitat for British wildlife (while still keeping Reynardine away from the chooks)
  • We’re discussing other livestock although that will be for a future year once we’re established. I wanted donkeys or alpacas but we won’t have enough space on one acre. Pygmy goats are on the agenda as a possible, just because they’re crazy and fun. No piggies in the existing pigrun, but maybe geese or ducks if we put in a pond for them. Degus will be moving in with the people joining us
  • Getting involved in local community events
  • Having lots of guests to stay now that I will finally have a kitchen worthy of my cooking ambitions, and we’ll have a firepit for singing and talking under the stars
  • Researching the history of the place – our particular place is on a medieval trackway (a nearby pub is mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales), and there have been archaeological finds dating back to the Neolithic era
  • Possible luxuries – a hot tub on the verandah, and I’d love an indoor swimming pool and gym if we can make it happen
  • A traditional gypsy vardo for guests to stay in; also plenty of land for tents for overspilling guests

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