Sunday, 8 June 2014

A visit to the Wolds Woodland Farming Project

A visit to the Wolds Woodland Farming Project

Yesterday we had a visit to Deano Martin's place which was arranged in conjunction with the Permaculture Design Course I am on. I've read all of Deano's blog posts and have found him to be very interesting and someone who stands out from the general Permaculture crowd so it was nice to put a face to the writing. 

Deano appears to be different from many people that blog about Permaculture and it is the differences that I find interesting. Many people sing from the Permaculture song sheet and it is clear that it would be difficult to discuss issues with them because they buy into Permaculture teachings with the exclusion of all other approaches. Deano clearly buys into it but also questions things, tests ideas and makes up his own mind rather than regurgitating the same old teachings. While I like the idea of Permaculture I don't accept it as being 100% correct all of the time and I am critical of many things and many people who simply trot out the teachings and what is written without question. It was nice to see someone trying to live within Permaculture ideas while at the same time testing, experimenting and modifying his approach.

The visit included a good old fashioned soaking as the rain came down hard as we were shown around 4 acres of his well thought out plot. Not only did I learn a few new things but the visit also reinforced some of my own thoughts and allowed me to see into the future of what our own field may be like in a few years time. 

One of the problems that many of us face is the feeling that we wish we had more land. I personally wish that I had 4 acres and not half an acre but one thing that the visit helped with was to end that feeling. I struggle with enough time to manage half an acre and I can now see how much time, money and effort is required to manage 4 acres and turn it into a forest garden. Feeling content with what we have and seeing that we can achieve most of what we want with half an acre was a nice feeling to come away with. What Deano has created with the thousands of trees he has planted was excellent but is a step further than I could possibly manage.

Having excluded 3 and a half acres of his plot from my mind the rest of his plot would therefore be the same size as we have and it was this half acre which interested me the most. Deano has packed a fair bit into the main area where he grows food and conducts his experiments. 

It was also nice to see that, just like many people, he suffers from the same basic day to day problems that I have been facing. Slugs and Couch Grass encroaching into the vegetable areas. He made a few throw away comments about these more in passing rather than addressing the issue but this was one area where the visit helped me focus on my own problem. His comments here were nothing new, I'd heard them before and even came up with the same comments myself but seeing his vegetable area look the same as mine and hear him say the same things I had thought helped to make up my mind as to what I will do to address this most basic day to day issue. It's sometimes the little things that make a visit to places like this worthwhile.

Deano's experiments with grains and Soya Beans has also sparked a few ideas in me. He pointed out that this is an area which is normally over looked and I must admit I have never thought about growing grains on a small scale and had discounted Soya after talking to a farmer about the possibility of growing this in the UK. Deano has shown that both of these are possible. Seeing them in the ground, taking up the kind of space that I have available was quite an eye opener. The main thought I have about grain is that it takes an entire field, but not any more.

It's impossible for me to look at other peoples plots without comparing to my own and while it is easy to think I wish I had this or that I also came away with an appreciation for our own little plot and how we are progressing with it.  In this regard I feel it is very important, mainly for my own mental health, to appreciate what I have. It's too easy to wish that you had what someone else has and feelings like this lead to you normally spending a lot of time thinking that the grass is greener else where. If you can't appreciate your own plot fully then you will constantly want something else and never be happy. Part of my lifestyle is about learning to enjoy the cheap little things in life that I already have and the two main things that I felt that Deano's plot lacked were a wildlife pond and a big strawberry bed. Our pond is a focal point in our plot and our strawberry bed, in fact the whole fruit garden, is one of our success stories.

The visit to Deano's has given me a fair bit to think about, it has reinforced a few of my own thoughts and ideas, it has laid to rest the idea of having much more land and perhaps more importantly helped to reinforce that we are moving in the right direction. Putting a face to the name and his blog has been very useful as I now have more understanding of what he is about. His blog reports about his experiments will now have more meaning to me and I'll be continuing to read his blog but with more interest.

I think that Deano is providing a very useful service to the rest of us with his experiments and there is clearly a lot to be learnt from him and his results. If you get a chance to visit his project I'm sure you won't be disappointed.      

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