Forest gardening…

We live in a very beautiful place. Familiarity breeds a certain level of complacency, but I only have to leave our little corner for a few days and I find myself missing it. Specifically, I miss the quiet shelter of the oak trees, through we glimpse the water in summer but whose branches become frames for silver light as soon as autumn fades.

Little moments hit me like blessings. The red squirrels that dance along the finest tracery. The mixed blessing of deer munching in the bushes. The stars who have no competition. These blessings seem totally undeserved. Even allowing for the fact that reality is always so much more nuanced than a view from distance, we seem to be living out a kind of middle-class fantasy that is simply unavailable and unatainable to most. How did we end up here?

I suppose part of the answer is that we decided that we wanted to live more simply, with less impact on the planet, and with more connection to the earth, which is why I find videos like this so inspiring;

Since we moved here three years ago, we have done very little to the inside of the house (although this might be about to change) but we have done lots to the outside;

New chicken run

Poly tunnels x2

dammed a stream to make a water cress pond.

We have also cleared massive amounts of buddlea and huge overgrown Leylandii hedges, and have planted about 20 fruit trees, 5 oak trees and 50 silver birch trees.

I have built some outdoor raised beds (the climate is so wet here that we need to improve drainage) but we need more of these, and they need a fence to keep the deer away from them.

What really interests me is how we can use a small (ish) parcel of land to produce significant amounts of food. Part of this is about recognising what is already there. Some of this is obvious, like the wild garlic.

We have also tapped birch trees for sap, used many flowers and plants in salads and picked berries and crab apples.

The next step is to start introducing more edible plants into our forest garden. I tried to plant Wild Mustard, but this does not seem to have survived, and the tea plants are looking rather ropey (more eperimenting to be done with different plants here.)

I have no confidence in my mushroom and funghi collecting skills, but have decided to sow my own spores so I can be sure what I am getting- so we have some oyster mushroom spores for next season.

We have a long way to go, but watching videos like the one above makes me think that what we are aiming for is entirely possible.

Two things occur to me as I write this.

1.We reap not only what we sow, but also much that has been given to us by grace.

2. We live the life we decide to live, even if by default.

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